COVINGTON, Ky. (FOX19) - Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear says the Brent Spence Bridge will be closed for several days at least.
“We ought to be prepared for more disruption than that. We are fully committed to getting it back into service. We are going to need your patience,” he said.
Every reopening estimate at this time is purely speculative, Beshear said.
A truck carrying potassium hydroxide crashed into a jackknifed truck around 2:45 a.m, the governor said. Neither driver was hurt.
Police say the potassium hydroxide contributed to the heat and duration of the ensuing fire which took more than two hours to extinguish.
Due to the temperature and the duration of the fire, the upper deck on the bridge along the southbound lanes was also damaged.
Initially, the bridge wasn’t safe for inspectors because the fire and chemical leak was too hot. Beshear says that is no longer an issue but debris is now an obstacle.
He says the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is, "utilizing unmanned aerial systems equipment to aid in the inspection of the structure so we can do that safely, determine the amount of damage and start to get to work on repairs.
Inspectors will determine the extent of damage and any structural damage. Initially, officials know that there is visible damage to the bridge and its concrete decking.
“In addition, all river traffic in the downtown area has been shut down. It will take some time for inspectors to determine any damage to the structure of the bridge, to have crews clear the wreckage and then repair any damage to the bridge itself,” Covington police wrote in a news release.
Beshear is encouraging employers to have employees who aren’t already working from home due to the pandemic to begin doing so. He also suggested having employees work different shifts to lessen the impact on traffic.
The bridge is closed to traffic. Drivers are being routed off I-75/71 northbound at the Kyles Lane exit until further notice.
Besides Kyles Lane, you can detour onto I-471, I-71, I-74 and I-275 and U.S. 50.
Southbound traffic on I-75 is being routed to Ft. Washington Way and to I-71 north or I-471 to I-275 in Kentucky, according to the Cincinnati Police Department. To avoid delays altogether just use I-275.
They say access to I-75 southbound has been blocked and are imploring drivers not to go around the barricades.
In addition, police are asking all commercial traffic headed to Kentucky to use I-275 and warned them not to use the Roebling Suspension Bridge as an alternate route.
The closure has caused an increase in traffic on the alternate routes. Police are asking drivers to avoid the area, or if they have to travel through, to allow extra time for travel and be patient.
“The Brent Spence Bridge is a vital component of our national highway system," Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks said. "A closure of any length will have a huge impact on the people who live and work in this region.
"The Ohio Department of Transportation is working closely with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Federal Highway Administration to keep people and goods moving in the region and we will assist Kentucky in any way we can in order to get the bridge repaired and reopened quickly and safely.'
The impact on traffic will be significant while the bridge remains closed. It is a major artery connection downtown Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky over the Ohio River.
The Brent Spence Bridge carries about 160,000 vehicles per day, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Brent Spence Bridge Corridor project website.
Beshear says officials are continuing to look at various options for the bridge long-term.
“It is fair to say this underscores where we need to a place with full community buy-in on both sides of the river,” Beshear said.
Gov. Mike DeWine said the Brent Spence Bridge is critical for both the economy and transportation infrastructure in Ohio and Kentucky.
“I am committed to working with the Ohio Department of Transportation, Gov. Beshear and federal partners to reopen the bridge safely and quickly,” he said.
Accident investigators from Covington Police and the Kenton County S.T.A.R. (Serious Traffic Accident Reconstruction) Team are reviewing the incident.
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