A Vital Transportation Link
When moving traffic safely and efficiently, bridges rarely evoke public concern. They routinely do what they were designed to do, going largely unnoticed.
Then there’s the Brent Spence Bridge. Like many of the nation’s aging bridges, it has seen better days.
A vital link across the Ohio River, the BSB carries I-75 and I-71 traffic through the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region. It is also one of the busiest trucking routes in the U.S., moving more than $1B worth of freight every day.
And, with the passage of 2021’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, better days indeed are ahead for the overworked structure. Late last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $1.6B to Ohio and Kentucky toward the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project.
This local corridor is critical to the movement of people, goods and services. It is a nationally recognized stretch for freight and interstate travel, from the Ohio Western Hills Viaduct to just south of Dixie Highway in Kentucky.
New Bridge, New Future
When completed in 2029, the BSB Corridor Project will enhance about eight miles of I-71 and I-75, along both sides of the Ohio River. Its centerpiece will be a new companion bridge to the existing Brent Spence Bridge.
Groundbreaking is anticipated for late 2023.
The companion bridge will bring much-needed traffic relief. Drivers taking short trips will still use the current bridge, while those going farther distances will take the new span.
This new age will mean cleaner air; improved traffic flow and safety; and maintain key regional and national transportation corridors. It will also improve both quality of life and equitable access to employment hubs and other destinations for those who live and work in the region.
The BSB corridor initiative is coming at a crucial time for our region’s transportation network.
Problems of a Congested Artery
For many years, the Brent Spence Bridge served our region’s needs.
Opened in November 1963, the bridge was built to handle 80,000 vehicles – including 3,000 to 4,000 trucks – a day. Today, however, 155,000 vehicles, including 30,000 trucks, pass over the bridge, daily.
As a result, the Brent Spence Bridge was designated as functionally obsolete in the 1990s. While it is structurally sound, the bridge is unable to carry the amount of its daily traffic. Over the last two decades, experts have known it cannot be modified to meet today’s traffic and safety needs.
The situation is growing worse. Global economic demands are causing steep increases in interstate commerce, with more cars and trucks on the road every year. To provide perspective, more than $1 billion of freight crosses the bridge every day. Importantly, most of that freight is local in either origin or destination.
The Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project is critical for short-term relief and long-term forecasts of traffic. OKI’s traffic projections show increased demand over the next 20 years. OKI’s most recent forecasts show that overall daily vehicle traffic will increase to 217,400 and 228,300 by 2040 and 2050, respectively.
Growing Safety Concerns
Due to increased traffic flow, motorists are three to five times more likely to have a wreck along the Brent Spence Corridor than on any other part of the interstate systems in Ohio or Kentucky.
These concerns have led a new companion bridge to be a top priority of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI).
- Importance to Region Two million-plus people live in the OKI region, 60 percent within five miles of the I-75 corridor. Of the one million jobs in this region, 70 percent are within five miles of the I-75 corridor, and the BSB is the linchpin of that corridor. (Source: OKI)
- Importance to Nation One of the busiest trucking routes in US, carrying more than $1B worth of freight every day. More than $380B worth of freight every year – freight that travels throughout the world. (Source: OKI)
- Major Connector BSB leads to and from CVG (major hubs for DHL and Amazon). Movement of goods requires trucks to be able to run on time. A clear 75/71 corridor is absolutely critical to the health of regional, national and international economy.
- Major Bottleneck In 2021 and 2022, downtown Cincinnati’s I-71/I-75 intersection, just north of the BSB, was ranked as the second most congested area in the nation for truck bottlenecks, according to a report by the American Transportation Research Institute. In ATRI’s 2023 report, the bridge was ranked 15th worst bottleneck in the nation – an improvement – but still remains a perennial chokepoint for traffic.
- Shutdown in 2020 A fiery crash in November 2020 caused a six-week shutdown of the bridge, reminding the region and the nation of its importance as a major conduit for moving people, goods and services.
- Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project To sign up for updates on the project, or for more details on it design and timeline, please visit the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project.