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Thursday, November 12, 2020

Ohio River Reopened to Water Traffic; Brent Spence Remains Closed Indefinitely

Water traffic has reopened, but the Brent Spence Bridge will remain closed for weeks as inspection, assessment and repairs move ahead after Wednesday's crash and fire.

by Robin Gee

In an update on the Brent Spence Bridge closure caused by a two-vehicle accident early Wednesday morning, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced that, while the bridge remains closed, the Ohio River has been reopened for commercial and recreational water traffic.

Water traffic had been shut down along with the bridge after two semi-trailers, one carrying potassium hydroxide, crashed into each other on the bridge causing an intense fire that burned so hot crews were unable to perform inspections until later in the day Wednesday.

Beshear said investigation is ongoing by engineers and other experts from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Depart, contract engineers and others. He called for patience as the experts do their inspections and assessments, and as crews begin to clear debris from the site. Even in a best case scenario, the bridge will remain shut down for several weeks, he said.

As drivers sought other routes, the nearby historic Roebling Bridge was also shut down to traffic after several heavy commercial vehicles attempted to cross despite posted limits on heavy loads. The governor said the Roebling will be reopened to passenger traffic as soon as law enforcement is able to monitor the bridge on both sides of the river. 

Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray at the scene

He shared the update with Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray who was on the scene at the bridge. Gray reiterated that federal and state engineers from Ohio and Kentucky were on the scene with additional engineering consultants experienced in bridge safety issues.

"Considering the conditions, things could have been much worse and given these conditions, the debris clean up, inspection work underway now, we are looking at weeks, perhaps more than a month," he said.

River traffic was reopened with approval of state transportation departments and the U.S. Coast Guard also on the scene. "We are working on multiple tracks at once, working on the ground, full steam ahead but we are working safely," Gray said.

Have patience, plan ahead

He went on to thank local and state officials and work crews on the ground. He also thanked federal highway engineers and the Coast Guard. He said all involved are pushing ahead with plans for next steps. "We are taking vigorous steps with the most talented engineers to assess the damage, design repairs and get the bridge open for traffic."

Governor Beshear asked area residents on both sides of the river to have patience and to plan ahead if they need to cross the river. He added that he hoped, with the COVID situation, many who are able to will opt to work from home. He said he will provide an update as soon as more answers are available.

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