© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Brent Spence Bridge project now has design-build contractors, a sign ‘we’re moving forward’

Ann Thompson

Ohio and Kentucky officials announced Thursday that The Walsh Group and Kokosing Construction Company will lead the work on the long-awaited Brent Spence Bridge Corridor project. The announcement marks the next major step in the decades-long effort to update one of the nation's busiest routes for commerce and commuter travel.

Workers completed the Brent Spence in the 1960s. It was designed to carry roughly 80,000 vehicles a day across the Ohio River on I-71 and I-75, but currently carries about twice that — as well as an estimated $2 billion in freight every day.

The project to revamp the bridge and surrounding highways received a major shot in the arm late last year when the federal government awarded it a $1.6 billion grant. Both Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said they were confident the project would be completed on time and on budget over the next several years.

"I think what today says is, 'We're moving forward,' " Beshear said during an event announcing the contractors. "We announced that giant infrastructure grant, but that's only securing the funding. Now we've got our major contractor. Now we know who is doing the work, and it's going to be a major company, a major presence in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky for the next decade."

Walsh and Kokosing will collaborate on the $3.1 billion contract for designing and building a companion bridge to the west of the Brent Spence Bridge and revamping six miles of roadway around it, including a number of highway interchanges. Kokosing led repair efforts on the bridge after the wreck of a truck in 2020 shut it down. President John Householder says work figuring out how to do it all is just getting started.

"Obviously it's very, very early on," he said. "We've done some preliminary looks at the plans and what we think we can do. I think we have assembled a fantastic design team. We know Walsh very well and we have confidence in their abilities. I think as a team we'll figure out a very efficient way to get this thing built."

Officials said diversity and inclusion goals are a big part of the effort. Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks says he's committed to making sure federal minimums are met — meaning minorities make up at least 9% of the design workforce and 7% of the construction workforce. Those efforts will include job training programs.

"This project can change lives," Marchbanks said.

A local group called Bridge Forward has pushed for an alternative design for the project reclaiming more land in downtown Cincinnati. When asked about the group, DeWine said he's spoken with Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval about the designs and believes the mayor is on board with the designs transportation officials have suggested.

"Bridge Forward congratulates the firms selected as the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project design and construction team," the group said in a news release after the announcement. "And we applaud the states of Ohio and Kentucky for embracing an innovative design-build approach to the project — a process that encourages the exact type of proposed refinements and public input Bridge Forward is practicing and promoting. Bridge Forward looks forward to engaging with these firms as we continue to meet with and inform local, state and federal officials, business owners and leaders, community councils, neighborhood organizations, environmental activists, transportation advocates and the people of Cincinnati to support the once-in-a-life opportunity that the Brent Spence Corridor project presents."

Nick has reported from a nuclear waste facility in the deserts of New Mexico, the White House press pool, a canoe on the Mill Creek, and even his desk one time.