Reports Show Ohio River Bridge Is Crumbling

Mon November 10, 2014 - Midwest Edition

CINCINNATI (AP) Years of inspection reports show that a high-traffic bridge over the Ohio River is showing its age after five decades.

The Brent Spence Bridge — which carries traffic on Interstate 75 between Cincinnati and Covington, Ky. — has received lower grades throughout the 10 years of inspection reports obtained through a public-records request by The Cincinnati Enquirer.

The bridge’s overall “sufficiency’’ rating, on a scale from 1 to 100, was 59 in last year’s report, graded as a “C-minus.’’ The bridge rated a 78 in 2006. It has gotten worsening scores in major categories of upkeep, maintenance and structural integrity.

The bridge has been deemed safe, but its deteriorating condition concerns some experts.

The problem continues to be lack of a funding plan or construction start date for the $2.4 billion replacement job. A proposal to use tolls to help cover the cost has run into political roadblocks on the Kentucky side. Kentucky owns the bridge that is a key transportation and commerce link in the region.

Records show the bridge hasn’t been painted since 1991, adding to rust and minor cracking; concrete has decayed to expose internal steel that could rust, and drains are often clogged, adding to water pooling on the bridge that drops in waves to the bottom deck during heavy rains.

The bridge years ago was deemed “functionally obsolete’’ because of design deficiencies such as narrow lanes and lack of emergency lanes on a bridge with high traffic volume.

Results from the latest inspection conducted in September by Kentucky and Ohio highway officials are due in January.

The continued deterioration is cause for concern, a bridge safety expert said.

“From reviewing the inspection reports, it appears that more things should be done to get the bridge back into shape,’’ said Abolhassan Astaneh, professor of structural and bridge engineering at the University of California-Berkeley. “If they keep waiting to fix it, the bridge’s condition will continue to worsen even more quickly.’’