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FHWA Awards $1.3B Large Bridge Grant to the Brent Spence Bridge Project, a Critical Link Between Kentucky and Ohio

by: Jessica Hoover
Conceptual rendering of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor, looking northeast from Kentucky
Conceptual rendering of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor, looking northeast from Kentucky
Conceptual rendering of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor looking northwest from Kentucky
Conceptual rendering of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor looking northwest from Kentucky
Conceptual rendering of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor looking north near Ezzard Charles Drive in Ohio
Conceptual rendering of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor looking north near Ezzard Charles Drive in Ohio
Conceptual rendering of Goebel Park in Kentucky
Conceptual rendering of Goebel Park in Kentucky
Conceptual rendering of Firefighters Memorial in Ohio
Conceptual rendering of Firefighters Memorial in Ohio
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has awarded a $1.385 billion Large Bridge Grant to a project that will rehabilitate and reconfigure the Brent Spence Bridge, which spans across the Ohio River to connect communities in Kentucky and Ohio. The grant is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Bridge Investment Program, which is contributing to the Biden-Harris Administration’s largest dedicated investment in highway bridges since the construction of the Interstate highway system.

“Safe, modern bridges ensure that first responders can get to calls more quickly, shipments reach businesses on time, and drivers can get to where they need to go,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “The Biden-Harris Administration is proud to award this historic funding to modernize large bridges that are not only pillars of our economy, but also iconic symbols of their states’ past and future.”

The grant, awarded to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), will fund improvements that will increase capacity for interstate and local traffic on the Brent Spence Bridge, which is currently the second worst truck bottleneck in the nation. The bridge was originally designed to carry approximately 80,000 vehicles per day, but today that number has doubled to around 160,000 vehicles. Improvements to the Brent Spence Bridge will also address delays in the movement of freight, with the bridge currently carrying more than $400 billion in freight per year.

“The bridge, itself, is in excellent structural condition so that's not the issue. The issue is capacity, and the issue is the volume of traffic that the bridge is carrying today,” said KYTC Secretary Jim Gray. “It's been a needed project for more than 20 years. It's been considered for that length of time, and with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passing, it's able to materialize now. We can't express thanks enough for the bipartisan nature of this legislation and for how good it is for America and for America's infrastructure.”

The estimated $3.6 billion project will construct a new companion bridge immediately west of the existing bridge to accommodate interstate through traffic on two bridge decks. According to Gray, both Kentucky and Ohio also have plans to improve bicycle and pedestrian access in the neighborhoods and communities on both sides of the river.

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In addition, the project will reconstruct an eight-mile corridor from the Western Hills Viaduct in Ohio to Dixie Highway in Kentucky, which will include the replacement of 54 additional bridges. To make commutes quicker and improve freight passage along the corridor, the project will separate I-75 traffic from local traffic. This separation will also improve safety and support better access to the business districts in Covington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio.

“This grant to improve Kentucky and Ohio’s Brent Spence Bridge demonstrates the transformational investments we are making to support President Biden’s commitment to rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure,” said FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt. “We are pleased to partner with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and see work get underway to modernize the Brent Spence Bridge, which will have a real impact on the quality of life for thousands of residents and motorists traveling between Covington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio, who will benefit from these improvements for decades to come.”

The project has a groundbreaking planned for the fall of 2023, and construction is expected to last between four and six years. The project cost will be shared by Kentucky and Ohio, with the cost of the companion bridge being split 50/50 and each state paying for the approach work on their respective end of the bridge.

“The Brent Spence Bridge has really been the poster child for aging infrastructure in America now for decades,” Gray said. “Three presidents had committed to supporting the project. President Biden, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, actually was able to make it a reality. The bipartisan support that the project received was really remarkable and as several said at the announcement, ‘Nothing short of a miracle.’”

The Brent Spence Bridge was also recently awarded a $250 million grant from the new National Infrastructure Project Assistance (Mega) discretionary grant program, made possible by the Biden-Harris Administration's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

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