The Brent Spence Bridge damaged after fire

The Brent Spence Bridge, which is the main interstate route between northern Kentucky and Cincinnati, was the site of a fiery crash involving hazardous chemicals early Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. (Courtesy of @KYTCDistrict6 on Twitter

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the "target date" for reopening the Brent Spence Bridge is Dec. 23, following repairs to replace damaged concrete and beams.

The double-decker span, which carries Interstates 71 and 75 between Covington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, was closed last week after two trucks collided on the lower, northbound roadway, causing a fire that scorched the bridge structure. 

Inspections and testing since then revealed that the bridge's structural integrity wasn't jeopardized, Beshear said during a press conference Monday. 

"We are going to ensure safety," he said. "Safety has not, is not and will not be compromised." 

Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray said the damage was limited to a roughly 200-foot section of the bridge, with the main impact to steel stringers, or beams that support the upper roadway.

Vertical steel beams were not compromised, Gray said, citing two experts that evaluated them.

Gray said the repairs involve removing and replacing a section of the lower deck with new concrete and adding new stringers to replace ones damaged during the fire beneath the upper deck. Other electrical and drainage work also will be done.

Kentucky officials were receiving and reviewing contractors' proposals on Monday and hope to award a contract for the work "soon," Gray said. 

While the cost of the repairs isn't yet known, Kentucky received $12 million in emergency federal funds last week toward the work. 

Over the weekend, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the U.S. Coast Guard closed the Ohio River below the bridge to boat and barge traffic. That closure was short-lived, and Kentucky officials don't expect that the river will be closed again during the repair work.

Built in 1963, the Brent Spence Bridge is the main route between northern Kentucky and downtown Cincinnati, with 165,000 vehicles a day using it, according to U.S. Department of Transportation estimates. Its future has been the subject of debate for years. 

Gray said last week's crash shows that "cleary a companion bridge is needed." 

For now, there is no formal proposal on how to improve traffic between the two states across the Ohio River. 

Beshear said he speaks regularly with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, and "we are both committed to trying to find a path to move forward. We want to make sure that that path is supported by the local communities that are impacted the most."

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