The Bridge to Everywhere


At last, now that the “once in a lifetime chance” for funding came together for the Brent Spence Bridge with the bipartisan approval of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill last November, it is time to get to work. Construction could start as early as 2023. The package will deliver $550 billion of new federal investments in America’s infrastructure over five years, touching everything from bridges and roads to the nation's broadband, water, and energy systems. Though the package signed into law was less than proposed by President Joe Biden, its passing has been met with great optimism in our area.


Most importantly, it included $40 billion for bridge repair, replacement, and rehabilitation – the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of our interstate highway system, which started in the 1950s. Experts say the money is sorely needed to ensure safe travel, and the efficient transport of goods and produce across the country – all areas of concern for the Brent Spence Bridge. Our nation’s infrastructure system earned a C- score from the American Society of Civil Engineers earlier this year.


It’s worth noting that the legislation includes a multitude of measures to pay for the proposal, none of which would raise taxes. But, while lawmakers claim the infrastructure bill will pay for itself, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) – which predicts the potential impact a piece of legislation will have, found it would add billions of dollars to the deficit over 10 years.


We last wrote about the importance of the Brent Spence Bridge, and the sense of urgency to repair and replace it, in late 2014. Since then, a lot has changed in our world, and the need to move this project forward has become greater. The following is a compilation from various sources on the history and status today of the Brent Spence Bridge.


OVERVIEW


The Brent Spence Bridge was originally built to connect our regions and to create jobs and economic opportunity. Now, it is hurting our ability to continue growing.


The Brent Spence Bridge is a major thoroughfare for both local and national traffic and the single most important piece of transportation infrastructure in our region. It connects two states that are critical to the movement of people (225,000 cross it daily), goods, and services. The double decker, cantilevered truss bridge carries I-71 and I-75 traffic – both major freight corridors, over the Ohio River and has four lanes of traffic on each of the upper and lower decks. The top deck carries Kentucky-bound traffic while the bottom deck carries Ohio-bound traffic. It is the second most traveled bridge in the U.S.


Its main thoroughfare, I-75 – one of the longest and heaviest traveled interstates in the U.S., runs from the northern tip of Michigan through six states to the southern edge of Florida – a 2,160-mile corridor of commerce moving goods for distribution to the world by all modes of transportation. I-75 serves as a freight conveyor belt for the eastern U.S. The Brent Spence Bridge is at the convergence of I-75, I-71, and I-74 at the Ohio River.


Its location is critical to north–south movements in the eastern U.S. while also connecting the upper midwest with the ports and trade corridors of the southwest and southeast. The Brent Spence Bridge is the lynchpin to the nation’s busiest fright corridor. Congestion levels are growing exponentially. It is becoming more ineffective for the movement of goods and people.


The Brent Spence Bridge is a grinding local and national traffic chokepoint. It is rated as the #2 bottleneck in the U.S. – #1 is the I-95 corridor which leads across the George Washington Bridge in New York.


If delays continue, the damage to America’s competitiveness will be significant. This is not simply freight moving through our region; it involves items manufactured anywhere in the U.S. to be transported to businesses and consumers around the world. The yearly economic value of commerce that travels the Brent Spence Bridge is $400 billion. By 2030 in real dollars this amount is projected to grow to $815 billion. It is a fatal flaw in our regional infrastructure affecting our nation.