Brent Spence Bridge inspection underway; Kenton Co. declares state of emergency

Brent Spence Bridge inspection underway; Kenton Co. declares state of emergency
Debris has been removed from the bridge and Kentucky state transportation officials say inspectors are on it now for a walkthrough. An inspection will begin soon, they said in a tweet. (Source: Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Twitter account)

COVINGTON, Ky. (FOX19) - Gov. Andy Beshear acknowledged on Thursday the importance of the Brent Spence Bridge and his desire to open it quickly but not at the expense of safety.

“We know how important this bridge is to the region and to the commerce of our nation. Our commitment is to open it as quickly as we can, but we will only do that if it is safe to cross. I will not open it, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will not open it, until I would drive my family across it.”

Beshear said the detailed inspection is likely to take several days.

Gov. Mike DeWine echoed Beshear’s statement telling FOX19 NOW that “safety is most important" when it comes to reopening the bridge.

Debris from the crash was removed Thursday morning and an inspection of the bridge is now underway, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials said in a tweet.

A local state of emergency has been declared in Kenton County with the Brent Spence Bridge indefinitely closed.

The bridge is one of two connecting Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati that are now shut down for after a fiery crash on the Brent Spence Bridge Wednesday morning.

It’s created a traffic nightmare in both states that could last several days or weeks.

Kenton County Judge Executive Kris Knochelmann signed the executive order on the emergency declaration.

“The Brent Spence Bridge is a vital link across the Ohio River waterway, carrying daily traffic of both Interstate 71 and 75 between Kentucky and Ohio,” it reads. “The damage to the Brent Spence Bridge has rendered the bridge temporarily unstable and dangerous to the traveling public.”

The declaration also says the collision between two trucks on the lower deck of the northbound lanes “has adversely impacted the movement of goods and commodities within the Interstate commerce...and the duration of this disruption will continue into the foreseeable future until the damaged portion of the Brent Spence Bridge is replaced and/or repaired.”

The order instructs all agencies in Kenton County to cooperate “to the fullest extent with Kenton County Office of Homeland Security Emergency Management and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and shall provide such assistance as may be required for response to this emergency.”

Under the state of emergency, the judge-executive can waive procedures and formalities otherwise required related to performance of public work, entering into contracts, incurring obligations, employment of permanent and temporary workers, using volunteer ones, equipment rental and appropriation and expenditure of public funds."

Meantime, one of the detours drivers were taking to avoid the Brent Spence, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in Covington, also now is blocked.

Covington police shut it down late Wednesday until further notice after too many semis used it, violating weight limits.

Pedestrians can still walk across it, they said.

This left the Big Mac Bridge and Taylor Southgate Bridge as alternatives across the Ohio River.

That resulted in heavy traffic and delays all around the downtown Cincinnati area and northern Kentucky.

Making matters worse, a third Ohio River bridge between Ohio and Kentucky closed at 9 a.m.

The Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge in Maysville closed so engineers could inspect cables and other structural components, according to Allen Blair, a spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

“The Simon Kenton would not be a suitable detour for connecting to Ohio - it is a narrow, 15-ton weight limit bridge in downtown Maysville,” Allen noted. “The newer US 68 bridge (William Harsha Bridge) is 3-4 miles north of the Simon Kenton and can serve all types of traffic and would be a better detour route - connecting US 62/68 and the AA Highway in Kentucky to US 52 and other routes in Ohio.”

You’ll want to make sure you allow yourself plenty of extra time when you head out and for the drive back home tonight.

You can detour onto I-471, I-71, I-74 and U.S. 50 but expect heavier than normal traffic, officials say.

Here are several options to help you plan.

Southbound Alternative Routes

For drivers headed south, especially north of the Norwood Lateral and Ronald Reagan Highway, I-71 would be a good option.

Take I-71 to I-471 southbound, then I-275 southbound, and finally back to I-71/75 south.

I-75 southbound is being detoured to I-275 westbound.

Drivers coming to downtown via I-75 can get off on the Freeman Avenue exit (1F), take that to Mehring Way, then Third Street and hop on the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge southbound.

Brent Spence Bridge closure causes headaches for drivers

Northbound Alternative Routes

I-75/71 northbound from Kentucky is being detoured at I-275 westbound to I-75 northbound, and I-275 eastbound to I-471 northbound and I-71 northbound.

Drivers coming from Florence, Erlanger, Union, and Fort Mitchell can take I-275 eastbound to the Big Mac Bridge and I-471.

Another possible option is to take the Dixie Highway northbound. From there, drivers can get onto Pike Street and then Third Street through Covington to hop on the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.

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