Brent Spence Bridge Emergency Repairs

Covington, Kentucky, to Cincinnati, Ohio

The double-deck, eight-lane cantilevered Brent Spence truss bridge plays a vital role in the nation's infrastructure. With approximately 160,000 crossings per day, the span between Cincinnati and Covington ranks as America's third busiest.

In November 2020, a truck accident and subsequent fire occurred in the Ohio-bound lower deck of the bridge. The collision resulted in a chemical fire with temperatures reaching more than 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit causing damage to the upper deck floor system steel, drainage, concrete and electrical components.

The project team was laser-focused on restoring a vital interstate connection under challenging circumstances, including a global pandemic, winter weather, the holiday season and a major interruption to one of the most commercially important river crossings in the eastern United States.

Michael Baker International performed an emergency inspection on the Brent Spence Bridge to determine the extent of damage after the collision. Michael Baker helped safely return the bridge to service by providing engineering services, including data collection, inspection, inspection report preparation and fast-paced design to deliver the contract package for repairs within five days. After the project was awarded to a contractor, Michael Baker continued to support KYTC through design reviews and construction inspection.

The team's efforts allowed the project to come in at less than half of the $12 million that the U.S. Department of Transportation allotted, including costs for inspection, design, public awareness, maintenance of traffic and construction. The repair project was the epitome of teamwork, expertise, experience and technology innovation.

Michael Baker's team gathered intelligence as quickly as possible to make sure the configuration of the bridge and potential impacts of the fire were well understood.

The Michael Baker team quickly decided that the most efficient way to repair the bridge would be to replace all damaged components in-kind when possible or design them to be equal or better than the current bridge.

All areas of the project were developed in parallel to ensure the quick reopening of the bridge. Real-time information from inspection and testing personnel was relayed to the design team. Materal was procured prior to selecting a contractor. The maintenance of all traffic and public involvement campaigns were kept informed of project progress and developments in real-time to ensure everyone was making the best decisions possible.

This significant project has been recognized for several industry awards, including being named the Public Works Project of the Year for 2020 by the American Public Works Association. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear praised the team for "turning a crisis into an accomplishment."

The bridge reopened on Dec. 22, 2020, just 41 days after the initial incident. The project finished under budget, ahead of schedule and with overwhelming positive support from the community. The Brent Spence Bridge fire and rehabilitation serves as a model for departments of transportation on how to effectively respond to an emergency closure of a critical infrastructure asset.


"The expert repairs not only led to the quick reopening of an economically significant corridor during a bustling holiday season, but it preserved the safe condition of a bridge that will remain in service for decades to come."

Andy Beshear
Kentucky Governor

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