Fixing the Brent Spence Bridge

This grant provides funding to repair the Brent Spence Bridge between Kentucky and Ohio and to build a new companion bridge.

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President Joe Biden is seen at a podium in front of a river with a bridge in the background.
President Joe Biden speaks in front of the Brent Spence Bridge in Covington, Kentucky, on January 4, 2023. (Getty/MIchael Swensen)
  • Project name: Brent Spence Bridge Repairs

  • Program: Bridge Investment Program

  • Law: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

  • Recipient: Ohio Department of Transportation and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

  • Investment amount: $1,600,000,000

  • City: Cincinnati and Covington

  • State: Ohio and Kentucky

  • Congressional districts: 4 (KY) and 1 (OH)

  • Construction start date: 2024
  • Jobs created: TBD

This profile is part of a project that finds and tracks the public and private sector investments generated or supported by three of the Biden administration’s economic laws. These laws make investments in the American people, helping to grow the middle class, lowering the cost of living, and setting up America to better compete and cooperate in the world. Pulling directly from several sources, this catalog provides users with publicly available information such as the number of jobs created, workforce training partnerships, and storytellers benefiting from particular projects, among other detailed information. The profile below expands on the economic, practical, and climate impacts of just one of the 35,000 investments that can be found in the Biden Administration Investment Tracker. It may be updated to account for future project developments.

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Approximately $1.6 billion from the Bridge Investment Program in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will go toward repairing the Brent Spence Bridge and building a second bridge between Ohio and Kentucky. This investment comes after years of partisan gridlock and failed attempts at funding.

Historical context

  • This is a vital conduit, yet it has been functionally obsolete for years. “The Brent Spence Bridge, built in 1963, has been considered functionally obsolete for years, even though it’s crucial to commuters and the nation’s economy. About 160,000 vehicles and $2 billion in freight cross the bridge between Cincinnati and Covington every day.” – Cincinnati Enquirer, January 4, 2023
  • “For Biden, the visit was something of a victory lap. He vowed during a town hall here in July 2021 to ‘fix that damn bridge,’ despite several failed attempts by his Democratic and Republican predecessors to muster bipartisan support for the project.” – Cincinnati Enquirer, January 4, 2023
  • The bridge carries 160,000 vehicles per day. “The Brent Spence Bridge Corridor spans 8 miles from the Western Hills Viaduct in Ohio to Dixie Highway in Kentucky. Every day 160,000 vehicles and $2 billion in freight cross the corridor, twice as much traffic than it was designed to carry when it was built in the early 1960s.” – Cincinnati Enquirer, December 29, 2022
  • Past presidents did not follow through on their vows to fix the bridge. “President Donald Trump is vowing to fix one of the Tri-State’s toughest transportation problems: The Brent Spence Bridge. The president called the bridge ‘dangerous’ in an interview with Tricia Macke Monday. He was speaking at a rally in Louisville to build support for the GOP’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. ‘I’ve already heard about the bridge, I love the area,’ Trump said. ‘We’re going to get it fixed.’ … ‘It’s dangerous, OK. We have many bridges like that,’ Trump said. In 2011, former President Barack Obama delivered a speech underneath the bridge and promised job creation alongside rebuilding of one of the busiest trucking routes in America. Uncertainty about funding and complexity behind rebuilding the bridge stalled the project. But Trump says that will change under his administration. ‘We’re going to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure and we’re going to renew our country. We have no choice. The roads, the bridges, the airports, the schools,’ he told Macke. ‘We’re going to spend money on our country.’ Trump said the bridge could be funded through his infrastructure bill or ‘we do it separately,’ he told Macke.” – Fox 9, March 21, 2017

Project summary

  • After years of political gridlock, funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law will be used to repair the 70-year-old Brent Spence Bridge between Cincinnati and northern Kentucky: “The law will provide about $1.6 billion in federal grants to repair the Brent Spence Bridge and build a new bridge adjacent to it. The total cost of the project is expected to run about $3.6 billion, with Ohio and Kentucky providing a mix of state and federal money to cover the rest of the cost.” – Cincinnati Enquirer, January 4, 2023
  • The project will improve the current bridge and build a companion bridge to its immediate west: “It includes a new contract with two construction companies that will address six of the corridor’s total eight miles, including five miles of I-71/75 in Kentucky and one mile of I-75 in Ohio. It also includes improvements to the Brent Spence Bridge and the construction of a new companion bridge to its immediate west. Officials are now moving toward an early 2024 groundbreaking, with construction to run until 2032. It will start with the bridges themselves, reconfiguration of the existing Brent Spence Bridge and building the new companion bridge.” – Spectrum News 1, August 24, 2023

Outcomes, improvements, and practical impact

  • “Based on significant community engagement, as well as a thorough technical analysis, the footprint of the new bridge has been dramatically reduced from the alternative approved in 2012. Initial plans included two 14-foot shoulders on each deck of the new bridge and expanded shoulder widths on the existing bridge. The new bridge was planned to cover nearly 25 acres and span nearly 150 feet in width.” – Brent Spence Bridge Corridor, last accessed February 15, 2024
  • “Revised plans show the new bridge at almost half the size of the 2012 footprint – covering approximately 14 acres and 84 feet in width. Updated illustrations show widened emergency shoulders on the existing Brent Spence Bridge to safely stow stalled vehicles, and 12-foot shoulders on the new companion bridge. Additionally, interstate and local traffic are separated – the new companion structure will carry I-71/75 traffic; local traffic will use the existing Brent Spence Bridge.” – Brent Spence Bridge Corridor, last accessed February 15, 2024

Racial equity and justice impact

  • Unions will be present in the construction process: “Equally as important, we’re also on the verge of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to recruit a whole new generation of construction workers and sustain a workforce that is vital to our region’s continued growth. That’s why we at Local 265 have ramped up our efforts to attract members in preparation of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project.” – Cincinnati Enquirer, June 26, 2023
  • The project will create opportunities for union workers, as noted by Ohio Department of Transportation Press Secretary Matt Bruning and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Executive Director of Public Affairs Naitore Djigbenou: “It’s essentially a certainty that union workers will be used for parts of the project because federal regulations on all highway projects require prevailing wage. The states are also working with local labor unions to increase diversity and inclusion efforts. They want to make sure the project creates opportunities for everyone from large contractors to small, local, women- and minority-owned businesses.” – Cincinnati Enquirer, January 19, 2023 (reprinted by the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments)
  • “The BSBC [Brent Spence Bridge Corridor] Project will follow the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program and Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) requirements. These requirements are in place to promote fairness and equity in the awarding of government contracts and to provide opportunities for businesses owned by individuals who have traditionally been underrepresented in their industries.” – Brent Spence Bridge Corridor, last accessed February 15, 2024
    • “To make this happen, the project team has established a Diversity & Inclusion Outreach advisory committee to connect and engage with DBE and D&I-related companies.” – Brent Spence Bridge Corridor, last accessed February 15, 2024

Official supporting statements

  • President Joe Biden: “I believe it sends an important message, an important message to the entire country. … We can work together. We can get things done. We can move the nation forward.” – Cincinnati Enquirer, January 4, 2023
  • U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH): “Whether it’s a safer commute to work, or businesses safely and affordably transporting their products, this bridge will make life better for people in Ohio and Kentucky. … Today shows just what we can achieve for the region and for the country when everyone works together.” – Office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, January 4, 2023
  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R): “Ohio and Kentucky have been discussing the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project for almost two decades, and now, we can finally move beyond the talk and get to work. … This project will not only ease the traffic nightmare that drivers have suffered through for years, but it will also help ensure that the movement of the supply chain doesn’t stall on this nationally significant corridor. My administration vowed to press the federal government to fund this project, and we’re glad that they have recognized its significance. I’m grateful to the teams in both states who have worked so hard to make this project a reality.” –Kentucky Fried Politics, December 29, 2022
  • U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “For decades, inadequate capacity on the aging Brent Spence Bridge has created headaches for drivers traveling between Kentucky and Ohio. Today, we’re taking a major step toward fixing the problem. … Using my role as Senate Republican Leader, I stood with Sen. Rob Portman to break through gridlock and pass last year’s bipartisan infrastructure deal, delivering record funding for landmark infrastructure projects including today’s grant. Building a new companion bridge on the Brent Spence Bridge corridor will be one of the bill’s crowning accomplishments, bringing long-awaited safety improvements, traffic relief and rejuvenated commerce to Northern Kentucky and Southwestern Ohio.” – Kentucky Fried Politics, December 29, 2022
  • Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval (D): “This historic amount of support from President Biden and our federal partners means that we’re on pace to reshape our infrastructure and the economic growth of our region for generations to come. … They got it done, when for years, others could not.” – Cincinnati Enquirer, December 29, 2022
  • Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D): “I’m thrilled the time has finally come for us to get the companion bridge built. … Funding and constructing the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project is more than the fulfillment of my administration’s promise – it’s a dream fulfilled for the thousands of travelers who pass through the bustling region every day waiting eagerly for traffic relief to come on this nationally significant corridor. It also shows what’s possible when we prioritize people over politics. Once complete, drivers will have a more enjoyable and efficient drive and we’ll have the infrastructure in place to support the booming economy in this part of the state. Hats off to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Ohio Department of Transportation, and the countless partners and advocates who played a role in today’s monumental achievement, including the Kentucky General Assembly for the last budget allocation and Sen. McConnell for supporting the federal legislation. We appreciate President Biden and Secretary Buttigieg for this historic investment.” – Kentucky Fried Politics, December 29, 2022

Selected clips

  • “’We can get things done’: Biden praises bipartisanship and Brent Spence Bridge project” – Cincinnati Enquirer, January 4, 2023
  • “Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project Awarded More Than $1.6 Billion in Federal Grants” – Kentucky Fried Politics, December 29, 2022
  • “$1.6 billion federal grant announced for long-awaited Brent Spence companion bridge” – Cincinnati Enquirer, December 29, 2022

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