Brent Spence Bridge

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Brent Spence Bridge
The Brent Spence Bridge is the furthest bridge to the right as viewed from Downtown Cincinnati
Carries 8 lanes (4 upper, 4 lower) of I-71 / I-75
Crosses Ohio River
Locale Covington, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio
Design Cantilever bridge
Total length 1,736 feet (529 m)[1]
Longest span 830.5 feet (253.1 m)
Construction cost $10 million[2]
Opened 1963
Coordinates 39°05′27″N 84°31′22″W / 39.09087°N 84.52291°W / 39.09087; -84.52291

The Brent Spence Bridge is a double decker, cantilevered truss bridge that carries Interstates 71 and 75 across the Ohio River between Covington, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio. The top deck carries southbound traffic while the bottom deck carries northbound traffic.

The Brent Spence Bridge is in the foreground viewed from the Kentucky side.
View of the B & O Freight Terminal (Cincinnati, Ohio) and the Brent Spence Bridge


When the bridge opened in November 1963 it carried three lanes of traffic each way across the Ohio River. In 1986, the emergency shoulders were eliminated, and the bridge was restriped with four lanes in each direction. The bridge was designed to carry 85,000 vehicles per day, but in 2007 it carried 155,000 vehicles per day.[3] It is expected to carry 200,000 vehicles per day by 2013.[3] On June 21, 2011, chunks of concrete from the upper deck of the bridge fell onto the lower deck. Construction crews closed lanes on both decks of the bridge, causing traffic delays of two hours or more. All lanes of the bridge were reportedly re-opened by June 22, 2011, but local commuters were encouraged to eliminate the Brent Spence Bridge from their daily drive until at least July 1, 2011. This incident lead to the belief that the Brent Spence Bridge is in immediate need of replacement and in danger of collapse. Residents often believe the bridge to be structurally deficient, but it is actually functionally obsolete.

A study is currently underway to investigate the replacement and/or rehabilitation of the bridge. One proposal is building a new bridge for I-75 downstream. Others include building a new bridge, either at the current location or downstream. If the current bridge is not rehabilitated for interstate traffic, it will either be demolished or rehabilitated for local street traffic.

Cincinnati City Council currently supports alternative #4, which involves building a new bridge to carry I-75 at the current location, and demolishing the Brent Spence Bridge.[4] Alternative #4 would build a parallel bridge just west of the Brent Spence Bridge.[5] It would again be a two deck bridge, except the top deck would carry all I-75 traffic and the bottom deck would carry south I-71 and local traffic.[5] The I-75 deck would be a total of 6 lanes, with 3 lanes each for north and south traffic.[5] The I-71 deck would be a total of 5 lanes, divided into 3 lanes for south local traffic, and 2 lanes of south 71 traffic.[5] Additionally, Cincinnati City Council has expressed interest in using the bridge for a light rail system that would connect downtown Cincinnati to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.[4]


The bridge was named for Kentucky's longest serving congressman at the time, Brent Spence, who served in the U.S. Congress for over thirty years before retiring in 1962. The bridge, which opened a year after his retirement, was named in his honor by then Kentucky governor Bert T. Combs. Spence did not feel that he deserved the honor, and lobbied for the Bridge to be named for President Kennedy (who had been assassinated only three days before the bridge was supposed to open). Combs, however, resisted this effort at modesty by Spence and kept the name. Also, at the same time, Combs did name the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge in Louisville, Kentucky after the late president just days after Kennedy's assassination.

The approach from the Brent Spence Bridge, with the picture of the downtown Cincinnati skyline, was featured on the daytime soap The Edge of Night from 1967 to 1980.

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