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Bridge Integrity "Not Compromised", Gov. Says; Hopes for Dec. 23 Reopening

The Brent Spence Bridge could reopen by December 23, Governor Andy Beshear and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray said Monday afternoon.

The bridge has been closed since a fiery crash involving two semis last Wednesday morning, diverting traffic through Covington and around the surrounding area.

"Based on our inspections and based on testing, the crash and fire early last Wednesday did not compromise the integrity of the bridge," Beshear said. "The bridge as a structure is still safe and sound and sturdy."

The governor acknowledged that the damage could have been worse, but the inspection results returned Monday are supported by laboratory analysis, he said.

"The challenge with the Brent Spence for years has been its capacity, not its strength," said Gray, who has been working at the site in Covington since last week. "It was sturdy and safe before the crash and fire, it is sturdy and safe now."

Gray said that the damage was contained to a 200-ft. linear section of the bridge. Contractors available to perform the repair work visited the site over the weekend and Gray said that the transportation cabinet is reviewing their proposals for repair work.

Update: Later Monday, Gray announced that a $3.1 million bid was awarded to an Ohio-based company.

"We are hopeful we will be able to make an award soon," Gray said.

Gray added that the scope of the work involves removing and replacing a section of the upper concrete deck on the double-decker bridge. "The lower deck damage does not require a full removal," Gray said. "We will mill out damaged concrete and fill it in with new material," he said.

Additionally, some steel beams below the upper deck will be replaced to support the damaged section of the upper deck. There will also be some electrical work and drainage work, and some lighting work.

"The bottom line is that the bridge remains safe and sound and sturdy," Gray said. "The project will return the bridge to service in a safe and sound condition."

The Brent Spence Bridge and its corridor along Interstates 71 and 75 have long been targeted for improvements, estimated at a cost north of $2.5 billion, with some plans suggesting the construction of a second bridge, though the Brent Spence would remain.

"Clearly, a companion bridge is needed," Gray said. "Even if we got funding tomorrow for a new bridge, this bridge isn't going anywhere."

The federal government has promised $12 million in support for the bridge work taking place now.

This story may be updated.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: Brent Spence Bridge as seen from the Radisson Hotel in Covington (RCN file)