Even CNN Knows the Brent Spence Bridge Probably Will Never Get Better

The cable news channel used the second-worst bottleneck location in the entire country to frame an April 10 story about U.S. President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plans.

We already hate the Brent Spence Bridge. Now CNN does, too. - Photo: Anthony 22, Wikipedia
Photo: Anthony 22, Wikipedia
We already hate the Brent Spence Bridge. Now CNN does, too.

Will the congestion and maintenance issues on the Brent Spence Bridge ever truly get solved?

Here in Greater Cincinnati, we’re used to folks telling us that help is on the way, that new plans are being made, that budgets are increasing. And then when all of those promises evaporate with no relief in sight, we just kind of nod knowingly and mutter, “I knew it.”

But now, CNN is picking up on the resignation the region has about the infamous bridge that connects Ohio and Kentucky.

The cable news channel framed an April 10 story about U.S. President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plans around the folly of the Ohio River and the second-worst bottleneck location in the entire country.

In the story, CNN correspondent Jeff Zeleny explores the history of both Republicans and Democrats failing to address the Brent Spence Bridge’s longstanding issues and the parties disagreeing even on what constitutes an “infrastructure” project.

“We've been here before. We've had multiple presidents say, 'Hey, we're going to take care of major infrastructure needs,' and that did not happen,” Brent Cooper, president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, tells Zeleny. “We're very concerned and nervous about it. It's part of why we would like to see a bipartisan approach to this.”

Mark Policinski, the chief executive of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments, tells Zeleny that the coronavirus pandemic has made people aware of where their most necessary goods come from and how they’re delivered.

"We've been promised so many times that this is going to be pushed across the goal line, but I think it is different," Policinski says in the story. "People understand today, better than they ever had, how vulnerable an economy is."

Biden has said that 10 major bridges would get priority in his plans, Zeleny writes. Many regional leaders believe the Brent Spence Bridge would be among them.

In March, the Covington mayor and the city’s Board of Commissioners penned a scathing op-ed, saying that current expansion and improvement plans for the bridge are full of “fatal flaws.”

The lengthy open letter addressed 13 areas of concern about the project, which has been under discussion or development in some form for about two decades. The costly, expansive project calls for a second bridge, among other things, but the plan’s current setup would not ease congestion between Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, the board said last month.

“Kentuckians looking at spending $2.6+ billion to fix a problem whose solution has been discussed for decades have the right to expect that the problem will actually be fixed,” the board wrote.

The Brent Spence Bridge, a major connector between Cincinnati and Covington, has become less and less efficient for transportation over the years. A website for the bridge’s 2017 maintenance project states that the structure was originally built to carry 80,000-100,000 vehicles per day, but traffic in recent years has doubled to 160,000-180,000 vehicles each day.

In its 2021 “Top 100 Truck Bottlenecks” report, the American Transportation Research Institute finds that the I-71 and I-75 confluence at the Brent Spence Bridge is the second-worst in the entire country, three spots higher than in the 2020 ranking.

In November 2020, the Brent Spence Bridge was closed for about six weeks due to two semi-trucks crashing and causing a chemical spill and conflagration. The closure caused major disruptions for commuters across the region until it reopened on Dec. 22.

Portions of the Brent Spence Bridge will be closed again for most of 2021 as the bridge undergoes painting and maintenance. The project began in March.

Read CNN's full story.

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