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The Brent Spence Bridge

Brent Spence Bridge

Brent Spence Bridge Replacement/Rehabilitation Project

Although not directly mass-transit related, a major infrastructure project in Cincinnati involves the replacement and/or rehabilitation of the aging Brent Spence Bridge, which carries Interstates 71 and 75 across the Ohio River between Covington and Cincinnati. The bridge is severely limited in capacity, and is a major bottleneck for local traffic as well as interstate trucking.

More recently, planners seem to have settled on the idea of building a new bridge immediately to the west of the existing span, which would carry I-75. The existing span would then be rehabilitated and carry I-71. The two highways split just north of the river crossing; this plan would put the split in Covington. As you can imagine, this project will involve a major reconstruction of the highways on either side of the river.

In a recent series of public presentations about the project, it was made known that a right-of-way for a future light rail line would be preserved along the west side of I-75/I-71 in Covington, through the so-called “Cut in the Hill” where the highway steeply descends into the Ohio River valley from the south. This is an important corridor in any mass transit system, as it forms the most direct route between downtown Cincinnati and the airport.

The provision for future light rail through this corridor is in addition to a couple of other future light rail corridors (primarily along abandoned or lightly-used railroad rights-of-way) that are being reserved on the Ohio side of the river. While mass transit progress in Cincinnati has been painfully slow, it’s encouraging to now see some long-term thinking when major infrastructure projects are being planned.