Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s quick response to a major transportation disruption helped keep people safe and the local economy moving.
“Nothing ever good comes up at 3:15 in the morning.” Thus Bob Yeager, chief district engineer for Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 6 in northern Kentucky, summed up the phone call in the wee hours of Nov. 11. A truck crash and fire on the Brent Spence Bridge had closed the structure that carries Interstates 71 and 75 – and 160,000 vehicles a day – across the Ohio River between Covington, Ky., and Cincinnati. All traffic – commuters, freight carriers, emergency responders – had to be immediately detoured while KYTC personnel scrambled to pull off an emergency repair project.
Closing a major bridge is more than a traffic headache. It disrupts life. It can prolong access to life-saving medical care when seconds count. And it hits the bottom line for businesses. “That is a very important bridge for us,” said Susan Elkington, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky. “We had to reroute our trucks. We have about 160 different routes that cross that bridge – about 300 trucks a day.”
With the clock ticking, KYTC assembled a team that assessed the damage, designed repairs, procured supplies and services, had an executed contract in just five days and reopened a safe, sturdy bridge in 6 weeks – a day ahead of schedule and under budget. Social media overflowed with expressions of newfound appreciation for the Brent Spence Bridge and recognition of its importance. But the crisis also spotlighted the long-standing need for a second bridge. The Brent Spence carries twice the traffic volume for which it was designed, and a project for a second bridge has been stalled for years over funding. “It was in one sense a Pyrrhic victory,” KYTC Secretary Jim Gray said. “Our ‘victory celebration’ is sadly the result of decades of avoidance of dealing with our infrastructure needs.”
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