Rendering of re-imagined Brent Spence Bridge shows what project could be

Seven submissions received, work awarded to Kokosing and The Walsh Group.

CINCINNATI — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear in an announcement with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine offering an update on the massive Brent Spence Bridge project said, “I hope that people see this is real.”

“For so long it’s been a whisper, maybe even a promise. But never a reality,” Beshear said, also announcing the companies that will be at the helm of the Brent Spence Bridge redesign.

That is Kokosing and The Walsh Group.

WEB Ventures, a Cincinnati-based management and consulting firm with a specialty in diversity, equity and inclusion solutions, will also consult on the project, according to Beshear.

What specific kind of design the Brent Spence Bridge’s planned companion bridge will embody is not yet known. Jack Marchbanks, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, said seven submissions were received, with the Kokosing/Walsh team winning the bid.

“Our goal is to have this contract legally executed in the next 30 days,” said Marchbanks.

Kokosing is not a stranger to the Brent Spence Bridge. In 2020, two semitrailers crashed at about 2:45 a.m. in the northbound lanes on the lower deck of the bridge. One of the semis was carrying potassium hydroxide, which caused the fire to burn hotter and longer, sending thick, black smoke billowing over the top deck. It took crews about two hours to put the fire out.

“Kokosing has a long history of working with the state of Ohio, building our roads,” said DeWine. “They have a long history, also, with this bridge. They were the team that made emergency repairs after a truck fire severely damaged the Brent Spence Bridge in November 2020. They did that in record time.”

In January, President Joe Biden stood on the banks of the Ohio River in Covington, Ky. to announce the funding that would allow improvements on the Brent Spence corridor to begin.

After years of debate, the project finally received $1.635 billion in funding from the federal Infrastructure Law, signed by Biden on Nov. 15, 2021.

From there, Kentucky and Ohio began collecting proposals from companies in February, with the deadline set for the end of March. The more than 600-page request for proposals describes the project as stretching from just south of Dixie Highway in Kentucky to Linn Street in Ohio.

The contract will entail improvements made to the existing Brent Spence Bridge, alongside its future companion bridge to the west.

In April, however, a proposal was put forward by Bridge Forward, challenging the project to take on a form that would focus on the roads and land on the Ohio side of the river that would be impacted by the immense project.

Bridge Forward’s vision for the project focused on improved walkability and enhanced public safety.

An ODOT spokesperson said Bridge Forward’s proposal will be treated as one of the hundreds of public comments that have been received. They said the team will consider it and determine if aspects of the proposal for the final design.

Bridge Forward released a statement that said in part, “Bridge Forward looks forward to engaging with these firms as we continue to meet with and inform local, state and federal officials, business owners and leaders, community councils, neighborhood organizations, environmental activists, transportation advocates and the people of Cincinnati to support the once-in-a-life opportunity that the Brent Spence Corridor project presents.”

The original request for proposals called for the highway to be widened by one additional lane in each direction throughout the corridor, in addition to the improvements to the Brent Spence Bridge and the construction of the companion bridge.

The design of the new companion bridge, as highlighted in the request, could be proposed by the companies submitting, but officials said they were looking for an arch bridge design or a cable-stayed bridge design.

The redesign of the existing Brent Spence Bridge is slated to also reduce the number of lanes on each deck from four to three, while increasing the inside and outside shoulders.

Officials said the plan remains to finish the project in 2029. A schedule with a groundbreaking date will be announced soon, they said.

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