Brent Spence Bridge

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Brent Spence Bridge
Brent Spence Bridge 2018.jpg
The Brent Spence Bridge viewed from Covington, Kentucky
Coordinates39°05′27″N 84°31′22″W / 39.09087°N 84.52291°W / 39.09087; -84.52291
Carries8 lanes (4 upper, 4 lower) of I-71 / I-75
CrossesOhio River
LocaleCovington, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio
DesignCantilever bridge
Total length1,736 feet (529 m)[1]
Longest span830.5 feet (253.1 m)
Construction cost$10 million[2] (equivalent to $66 million in 2020 dollars)
OpenedNovember 25, 1963; 58 years ago (November 25, 1963)
ClosedTo HAZMAT placard vehicles and vehicles carrying explosives

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 Kentucky-bound traffic while the bottom deck carries Ohio-bound traffic.

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


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 January 1963. 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 as modesty by Spence and kept the name, though Combs would name the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge in Louisville, Kentucky (which opened two weeks after the Spence) after the late president just days after Kennedy's assassination.

When the bridge opened in November 1963, it carried only three lanes of traffic each way across the Ohio River. In 1985, the emergency shoulders were eliminated, and the bridge was re-striped with four lanes in each direction, increasing the traffic capacity by 33%, earning the bridge the determination of being 'functionally obsolete' due to carrying more traffic than it was originally designed to carry.[3] The bridge was designed to carry 85,000 vehicles per day, but in 2006 it carried 150,000 vehicles per day.[4] Recent reports show that contrary to previous traffic expectations, traffic on the Brent Spence Bridge has actually decreased by 9 percent between 2009 and 2015.[5]

On September 15, 2011, chunks of concrete from the Ohio side ramp connected to the bridge fell onto a vehicle.[6] This incident prompted fears that the bridge might be in danger of collapse, but the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet later declared the bridge safe.[7]

In the early morning hours of November 11, 2020, a fiery accident involving two semi-trucks, one of which was carrying caustic chemicals, caused the bridge to be closed to traffic.[8][9]

Following the accident, the Brent Spence Bridge was closed for safety inspections. Traffic on Interstates 71 and 75 that normally used the bridge to cross the Ohio River, was rerouted to other auxiliary interstates.[9] The U.S. Coast Guard also temporarily closed the Ohio River to all traffic while the bridge inspections were underway.[10]

On November 16, 2020, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced that the accident and subsequent fire did not compromise the integrity of the bridge. Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray stated that the damage was confined to a 200 ft (61 m) section of the bridge.[citation needed]

The Brent Spence Bridge reopened on December 22, 2020, one day ahead of schedule.[11]


In 2008, the Cincinnati City Council supported a plan called Alternative #4, which involves building a new bridge to carry I-75 at the current location, and demolishing the Brent Spence Bridge.[12] Alternative #4 would build a parallel bridge just west of the Brent Spence Bridge.[13] 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.[13] The I-75 deck would have a total of 6 lanes, with 3 lanes each for north and south traffic.[13] 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.[13] 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.[12]

The Selected Alternative, as described in the Finding of No Significant Impact[14] is Alternative I, which would build a new double deck bridge just west of the existing Brent Spence Bridge to carry three lanes each way for I-75, two lanes for southbound I-71, and three lanes for southbound local traffic. The existing Brent Spence Bridge would be rehabilitated to carry two lanes for northbound I-71 and three lanes for northbound local traffic.[15]

In Spring 2021, a potential upgrade or replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge was prioritized in the American Jobs Act [16] but continues to be a subject of partisan debate.[17]

In popular culture[edit]

The approach from the Brent Spence Bridge, with the picture of the downtown Cincinnati skyline representing the fictional city of Monticello, was featured on the daytime soap The Edge of Night (a program sponsored by the locally based Procter & Gamble) from 1967 to 1980. A bridge similar to the Brent Spence Bridge appears in Need for Speed:Most Wanted but with a toll plaza added.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About". Brent Spence Bridge.
  2. ^ Tortora, Andrea (May 3, 2007). "Bridge forces push forward, pull together". Cincinnati Business Courier.
  3. ^ "Guide to Bridge Condition Terms". The National Bridge Inventory Database. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  4. ^ "Existing and Future Conditions" (PDF). Brent Spence Bridge Replacement/Rehabilitation Project. February 2006.
  5. ^ Wetterich, Chris (March 3, 2016). "Cincinnati's Brent Spence Bridge traffic decreasing; new bridge still needed, planners say". Cincinnati Business Courier. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  6. ^ Hutson, Lisa (September 15, 2014). "Concrete beam falls on car near Paul Brown Stadium, ODOT investigates". WXIX.
  7. ^ LeMaster, Kevin (March 28, 2008). "Despite decreasing Brent Spence traffic, planners say new bridge is necessary". Building Cincinnati. Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  8. ^ "Brent Spence Bridge to be closed for several days after fiery semitruck crash, officials say". WLWT News. November 11, 2020. Retrieved 2020-11-11.
  9. ^ a b "Brent Spence Bridge to be closed for several days after fiery semitruck crash, officials say". WLWT News. November 11, 2020. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  10. ^ Rosenstiel, Sam (November 13, 2020). "Ohio River closed to water traffic after Brent Spence Bridge inspection". WCPO News. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  11. ^ Sparling, Hannah K.; Knight, Cameron (December 22, 2020). "Cincinnati's Brent Spence Bridge is back open". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved January 12, 2021.
  12. ^ a b LeMaster, Kevin (March 28, 2008). "Cincinnati council resolves to save Queensgate businesses, light rail options". Building Cincinnati.
  13. ^ a b c d "Brent Spence Bridge Conceptual Alternatives Study" (PDF). Brent Spence Bridge Replacement/Rehabilitation Project. April 2009.
  14. ^ Leffler, Laura (August 9, 2012). "Finding of No Significant Impact" (PDF). Federal Highway Administration.
  15. ^ "Environmental Assessment" (PDF). Brent Spence Bridge Replacement/Rehabilitation Project. March 2012. p. 14.
  16. ^ Rojas, Rick (April 2, 2021). "Seven Infrastructure Problems in Urgent Need of Fixing". The New York Times. Retrieved 2021-12-08.
  17. ^ Robertson, Campbell; Fandos, Nicholas (May 1, 2021). "Biden's Expansive Infrastructure Plan Hits Close to Home for McConnell". New York Times.

External links[edit]