With Bridge Closed, Truck Complaints Pile Up; City Hopes to Help
Every since the fiery crash involving a pair of two semi trucks forced an ongoing closure of the Brent Spence Bridge on Interstates 71 and 75 between Covington and Cincinnati, trucks continue to plague city streets, looking for an alternate route through town despite recommended detours along I-275 and a restriction on non-local traffic exiting the interstate in Covington.
On Tuesday night, the Covington city commission discussed new efforts to mitigate the traffic impact.
Residents have watched for weeks now as large commercial vehicles clog state routes in the city by approaching an underpass feared to be too low or damage infrastructure. One resident reported that a semi struck a building at the corner of Pike and Eighth streets, and another said that a large truck struck and dragged a large boulder that had been placed on the sidewalk near Riverside Drive and Shelby Street, moving it all the way Garrard Street between 4th and 5th streets.
Other residents witnessed a semi drive across the sidewalk of the cul-de-sac that dead-ends Banklick Street at Eighth and Pike.
On Wednesday, traffic was backed up on Highway Avenue when a large truck was unsure whether to proceed towards Ludlow at an underpass.
In multiple cases, like the Banklick Street and Garrard Street incidents, Covington Police told The River City News that by the time officers had arrived, the drivers had left the scene.
In an update about the Brent Spence Bridge on Wednesday, Kentucky Secretary of Transportation Jim Gray said that the state would continue to route tractor-trailers not bound for a local destination around the I-275 loop.
However, when pressed by Covington Police Chief Rob Nader, state transportation officials said that the state was not banning trucks from leaving I-71/75 to use U.S. 25/42 (Dixie Highway/Pike Street and Main Street)– a state-managed highway – to cross the Ohio River via the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge, where traffic has also been much heavier than usual.
In Covington, that means trucks can enter Covington from Park Hills on Dixie Highway and use Pike Street and Main Street to access the Clay Wade Bailey.
Residents and businesses in the MainStrasse Village area in particular have complained that large trucks using that route have contributed to backups there, especially when drivers of large trucks have deviated from that state-maintained route and gotten stuck on side streets.
The city decided to rent at its own expense two 13-ft. digital sign trailers to be placed on Pike Street to alert truck drivers to turn left on Main Street rom Pike Street to avoid getting stuck on smaller streets.
The city said that it would seek reimbursement for the sign rentals.
It also installed height limitation signs warning truck drivers who fail to make that turn about the low railroad underpasses that lead to downtown Covington.
Thirdly, Chief Nader received permission from the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety to use an existing federal highway safety grant to pay for enforcement details to enforce Secretary Gray's restrictions on thru-traffic. The grant requires officers who pull over violators to write citations, not just issue warnings, while also directing them back onto I-275, Covington City Manager David Johnston said.
“Given that the rules for the U.S. 25/42 corridor are set by the state and thus our enforcement power is limited, we continue to search for ways to limit the disruption caused by trucks in our neighborhoods,” Johnston said.
Meanwhile, Gray continued to stress the need for patience as work continues on the repairs to the Brent Spence Bridge, which is not expected to reopen until closer to Christmas.
Gray announced that the first of the new steel beams needed to replace those damaged in the crash had been delivered at that crews from Kokosing Construction Company would be working around the clock through the holiday and the weekend to fix the bridge.
The targeted reopening date remains December 23.
“There will be no cutting corners on this project,” Gray said.
-Michael Monks, editor & publisher (with additional details from the City of Covington)