Drivers describe traffic conditions on the Brent Spence Bridge that spans the Ohio River between Covington, Ky., and Cincinnati, Ohio as a “bottleneck,” a “choke point,” a “source of gridlock” and a variety of other less printable names.
The corridor where Interstates 71 and 75 converge in northern Kentucky and southern Ohio serves families, recreationists, a regional workforce and the north-south trucking industry from Michigan to Florida. As such, it has become a national infrastructure priority. However, daily traffic jams and an increased risk of collisions in the corridor have elevated the urgency to go beyond merely acknowledging the current infrastructure concerns.
Built in 1963, the bridge was designed to carry 80,000 vehicles per day. Today, the Brent Spence Bridge serves twice that amount of traffic. Thirty years ago, traffic flow was improved by narrowing driving lanes and removing four feet from each shoulder, thereby providing space for a fourth driving lane. However, the lack of shoulder space eliminates a lane for emergency responders and a pullover area for disabled vehicles, further exacerbating the traffic flow problem.
Congestion isn’t the only issue on the Brent Spence Bridge. Traffic from two interstates, I-71 and I-75, comes together there, creating a decision point for motorists that is difficult to navigate. Drivers on the bridge, changing between these interstates, have very little distance to merge safely. These conditions contribute to the high number of collisions that occur. Traffic analysis indicates that motorists are three to five times more likely to have a crash along this corridor than on any other portion of the interstate systems of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.
Solving the safety and congestion issues surrounding the Brent Spence Bridge extend beyond the regional interests of Bluegrass and Buckeye citizens. National mobility is a vital factor as well. Connecting 10 states from Florida to Michigan, and reaching up to Canada, I-75 alone is one of the busiest north-south freight routes in the Midwestern United States, carrying $417 billion in product annually. In fact, more than 3 percent of our nation’s gross domestic product crosses the Brent Spence Bridge each year.
Kentucky is currently taking historic strides to become the unparalleled center for engineering and manufacturing excellence in the United States. In the midst of this exciting renaissance, it is vital to ensure that companies can transport raw materials via reliable, efficient infrastructure and deliver their finished goods to markets across North America.
Currently, Kentucky is conducting a study to analyze traffic flow in this corridor and make recommendations for corridor reconstruction improvements. Whether that means constructing a bypass, building a new bridge or exploring other options and combinations, we must find a solution to solve the corridor’s long-term congestion problems. This study, to be finalized later this fall, will serve as a catalyst to help us find innovative ways for approaching the issues presented by a bridge that is structurally sound but functionally obsolete.
Every year, there are 3.6 million hours of delay for passenger cars and 1.6 million gallons of fuel wasted due to traffic congestion on the Brent Spence Bridge. This is unacceptable. I am confident we possess the ingenuity and resolve needed to find solutions for alleviating heavy congestion, enhancing safety and improving cross-river mobility in this rapidly growing region.
I am grateful to the Trump administration for its focus on improving the nation’s infrastructure and look forward to working with our counterparts in Ohio and Washington to keep America moving safely and swiftly into the 21st century.
• Matt Bevin, a Republican, is governor of Kentucky.