Traffic and accidents increase on Ohio River bridge

Brent Spence Bridge
The 1960's built Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River that connects northern Kentucky with Cincinnati is shown, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011, from Covington, Ky. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

CINCINNATI (AP) — A bridge that carries highway traffic across the Ohio River near Cincinnati has been serving tens of thousands more vehicles a day than it was designed to handle.

Time and traffic are wearing on the Brent Spence Bridge, which is frequently cited as a location where major infrastructure upgrades are needed, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

It is increasingly showing rust and cracks, but maintenance officials maintain that it remains structurally sound.

“And we are committed to keeping it that way,” said Bob Yeager, chief engineer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s District Six, which oversees maintenance of the 53-year old bridge. “But you’ve got two interstates converging and diverging at one end and that creates issues and traffic patterns we just can’t fix overnight.

The Brent Spence was made to handle 80,000 vehicles in 1963, and the addition of a fourth lane in 1985 brought that capacity to 120,000. But the most recent data indicate the bridge had daily traffic of over 185,000 vehicles in 2015, nearing a record amount.

That has meant more crashes there, too — usually at least two per week.

Accidents reached an all-time high in 2015, when there were 121 collisions along the span. Crashes on the Brent Spence were up 52 percent between 2010 and 2015 in comparison with the previous six years.

Local transportation officials have yet to identify a long-term solution to correct the bridge’s safety and congestion issues. The newspaper reported that’s due in part to the ongoing dispute on how to pay for such a fix.

An initial proposal to remedy the Brent Spence’s woes estimated that it would cost approximately $2 billion to fix the existing bridge and build a new one alongside it.

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