Friday, July 11, 2014

New Spence Bridge could heavily impact Fort Thomas, area economy

G. Michael Graham Photo. The four lanes on the Brent Spence Bridge (above) currently stand 11 feet wide. A new bridge may bring more businesses to places in the area such as Fort Thomas.
By G. MICHAEL GRAHAM
Fort Thomas Matters Reporter

The Ohio and Kentucky state governments may not agree on certain aspects in the replacement of the nearly 51-year old bridge.

But many representatives on both sides of the Ohio River do agree on one huge aspect of it. Replacing the Brent Spence Bridge that carries traffic from Interstates 71 and 75 will have a huge economic impact on the area, especially Fort Thomas. The bridge opened in November, 1963 and has been estimated at $2.6 billion to replace on several web sites.

“The flow of commerce is slowed by bottlenecks at the BSB,” said Don Martin, Fort Thomas City Administrative Officer. “If congestion continues to increase, deliveries of goods to local businesses could be delayed. This could negatively impact the ability of local businesses to sell their products or services to their customers.”

Estimates show that about 175,000 vehicles cross the Spence Bridge on a daily basis. But transportation officials have labeled the bridge “functionally obsolete” partially because each of the four lanes is 11 feet wide.

The web site of www.blockedbythe bridge said Federal Highway Adminstation regulations have a minimum of 12 feet wide in travel lanes and 10 feet in emergency lanes on both sides of the travel lanes. The bridge opened with three traffic lanes and an emergency lane on both decks. But traffic increased when I-71 opened years later. The site also estimated that about 50 accidents per year occur on the bridge.

“Northern Kentucky’s proximity to downtown Cincinnati, the Ohio River and CVG (Airport) all help to attract new business and industry,” Martin said. “Traffic congestion could possibly negatively impact the efforts to attract quality business and industry.”

Kentucky owns the majority of the Spence Bridge. Some Kentucky lawmakers do not want to implement tolls to pay for the project among other reasons for not pushing along the project.

“KDOT engineers regularly inspect the BSB,” Martin said. “While the BSB has been designated as ‘functionally obsolete,’ these engineers have determined the bridge is structurally sound.”
Ohio Governer John Kasich recently signed legislation to use tolls to fund the bridge. Many are hoping Kentucky legislators follow soon.

Luckily for residents of Fort Thomas and surrounding suburbs who work in Cincinnati and the Ohio suburbs, there is an alternative to crossing the Spence Bridge in the meantime. They cross the Ohio River on Interstate 471 on the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge. It opened in 1976.

The only negative to the bridge is the morning commute. Traffic slows down going northbound into Cincinnati at various times in the morning. Martin said the Kentucky Department of Transportation has not said anything to the city about expanding I-471 anytime soon.

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