The six-week expedited repair effort for the fire-damaged Brent Spence Bridge is nearly completed, with the key Ohio River crossing on track to reopen by Dec. 23.
According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, which oversees maintenance of the 1,736-ft-long, double-deck, cantilevered truss bridge carrying Interstates 71 and 75 between Covington, Ky, and Cincinnati, Ohio, crews from prime contractor Kokosing Construction Co., of Westerville, Ohio, placed the final replacement concrete sections on the bridge’s lower-level on Friday, Dec., 18. That leaves final inspections and worksite clean-up as the only tasks remaining under Kokosing’s $3.1 million repair contract with the cabinet.
The bridge has been closed since the early morning hours of Nov. 11, when a truck hauling potassium hydroxide crashed into another truck that jackknifed on the bridge’s lower deck. The impact ignited 400 gallons of diesel fuel, which the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says burned for several hours at temperatures as high as 1,500 degrees.
Although the bridge’s structural integrity was not compromised by the incident, sustained heat necessitated replacement of a 6,900-sq-ft section of the upper-level concrete deck and underlying steel stringer beams. Kokosing also repair damaged deck and barrier walls on the lower level.
Within hours of the accident, the U.S. Department of Transportation authorized $12 million in emergency funding to help get work underway. How much, if any, of those funds have been applied to the repairs has not been disclosed.
The cabinet and the Ohio Dept. of Transportation have also taken advantage of the closure to perform scheduled maintenance work on the 60-year-old structure, such as repairing drains, cleaning of overhead signs and repaving the northbound I-71/I-75 approach.
Designed to carry up to 100,000 vehicles per day, the Brent Spence Bridge now handles twice that volume, according to the cabinet. Longstanding plans to build a parallel structure that would complement or replace the original span have been stymied by opposition among some Kentucky leaders over the proposed use of tolls.