After finding it would have “no significant" environmental impact, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration signed off on the $3.6-billion Brent Spence Bridge Corridor for a crossing over the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The design of the bridge portion of the corridor improvement project, intended to reduce congestion on the existing Brent Spence Bridge, is not finalized, though construction is set to start next year.  

“The project will address one of the worst truck bottlenecks in the nation by improving safety and travel on an Interstate connection that carries more than $400 billion worth of freight every year,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement. 

While the existing Brent Spence Bridge was designed to accommodate 80,000 vehicles per day, in 2020, it averaged more than 132,000 vehicles per day, according to KYTC data. 

Last July, officials in the two states selected Walsh Kokosing Design-Build Team as the contractor for the first of the scheme's three phases, which is the largest piece. It includes the $3.1-billion bridge itself plus road improvements along five miles of I-71/75 in Kentucky and one mile of I-75 in Ohio. The joint venture team includes designers AECOM, Parsons and Jacobs.

The Ohio Dept. of Transportation (ODOT) and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) are jointly planning to build either an arch or cable-stayed bridge west of the existing bridge to carry Interstate 71 and I-75. The double-decker span will have five lanes per deck.

The plan also calls for widening 7.8 miles of highway, rebuilding various highway bridges and interchanges along the route and adding collector-distributor roads aimed at improving the flow of traffic.

The existing bridge, which currently carries the Interstates, will be reconfigured for local traffic, reducing the number of lanes on both decks from four to three to add shoulders. 

The plan is based on an earlier version approved in 2012 but not built for lack of funding. The current project is being funded in part with $1.6 billion from 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act via the Federal Highway Administration. 

The refined plan reduces the project footprint from 53.38 acres to 51.18 acres, state officials say. Phase two and three contracts have not been awarded. Both would cover road improvements along the Ohio section of I-75. ODOT expects they would each cost more than $200 million. Construction of one phase would start in 2026; the other in 2029.  

“This bridge is a vital connector of goods to thousands of people in Kentucky and Ohio, and the investment in the Brent Spence Bridge will ensure the surrounding communities, and communities across the entire country, benefit from these improvements for decades to come,” said Shailen Bhatt, the federal highway administrator, in a statement.