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Cincinnati: Brent Spence Bridge

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One key point is that the new bridge is under 2012 dollars (I believe) and the MetroMoves project was considered under 2002 dollars. Also, building new foundations/piers under a wide, deep riverbed with constant traffic is really expensive.

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^ So instead of the cable simply resting on top of the towers, able to slip a little bit with changes in loading and expansion/contraction, they've basically become locked to the towers? 

 

Yes.  It's the original cable saddles from the 1860s, not the "newer" ones from the 1890s.  I believe Rob Hans said that the ball bearings were iron, not steel, or perhaps some sort of low-grade steel, and that they were crushed at the time of construction.  Otherwise the towers are insanely overbuilt.  So the bridge company unknowingly wasted a huge amount of money building such ridiculous towers. 

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A question: We have seen that Kentucky is adamantly opposed to tolling the new bridge, while Ohio is at least resigned to the idea if not excited.  What's to stop the tolling facilities from only being in Ohio?

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The bridge is owned by the state of Kentucky, so tolling it in Ohio (in Cincinnati) wouldn't pay down the debt for the new crossing unless an agreement was worked out between the state of Kentucky and Ohio - which looks unlikely at the present moment

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The tolls are not just for the bridge but everything leading up to the bridge. The bridge itself costs 700 million. But all the added things from the cut in the hill to the western hills viaduct skyrockets the price to almost 3 billion.

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Right - but the tolls would need to be levied as a collective. You can't have two toll plazas so that Ohio can build their approach and for Kentucky to build their bridge. They are collected in a lump and then distributed based on the percentage that each state applied to their portion of the project. Kentucky obviously has more invested with a bridge and a revised approach; Ohio has a new I-75 approach and modifications to the downtown ramp system.

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The best case scenario is that Kentucky remains adamantly opposed to the tolls and this entire project just dies.

 

We'll need to overcome the "They can spend millions on project X, but can't build a new bridge" meme somehow then.


www.cincinnatiideas.com

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The bridge is owned by the state of Kentucky, so tolling it in Ohio (in Cincinnati) wouldn't pay down the debt for the new crossing unless an agreement was worked out between the state of Kentucky and Ohio - which looks unlikely at the present moment

 

So could ohio toll it's side and collect the money, while Kentucky pays for the bridge with taxes?

 

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The best case scenario is that Kentucky remains adamantly opposed to the tolls and this entire project just dies.

 

Agreed. I've had mixed emotions about lots of it, like the veto of the anti-toll bill. That would have banned tolling the current bridge, which is what should happen. But the longer they delay this bridgedoggle the better.

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I live in mainstrasse and I pray the whole thing dies. Traffic will continue to suck regardless of bridge width as long as a 400' vertical climb immediately proceeds/follows it. Whether it is morning commute or 2am people either needlessly hit the brakes going downhill or cant seem to make it uphill, both of which cause slow downs no matter the time of day.

 

In respect to getting rid of the fifth street exit in Covington, part of me thinks that would be horrible for business and downtown Covington especially the hotels. The other part thinks that if all the gas stations, fast food and parking lots went out of business due to lack of traffic flow then a nice walkable neighborhood could be extended north of mainstrasse in its place.

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So it seams there was a crash on the bridge that sent another vehicle off the upper deck.  The whole bridge is closed.  With I-71 closed southbound. The region will feel the effects all day.

 

I hope no one was killed.

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This is the exact sort of incident that could grow into myth.  The vehicle didn't flip off the "bridge", it flipped off the top deck of the south approach into the lower deck northbound approach.  In fact if it had flipped off the other side, the fall would have been much higher and anyone in the car almost certainly would have been killed.  It's four hours on and we still have almost no information about this crash, but WCPO is reporting that the driver of the vehicle that fell walked away from the wreck. 

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I think it went like this:

 

1. Driver of car X was stopped for some reason going southbound (backup in Kentucky, presumably). Truck going too fast did not see the stopped vehicle due to the rise in the bridge's midspan and hit car X in the rear, knocking it onto the lower deck below.

2. To avoid hitting car X, traffic going northbound piles up. One vehicle nearly goes over the barrier - and was pictured hanging over the edge with two wheels.

 

No major injuries - surprisingly.

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someone over at cincinnati.com said car x was crossing lanes when the collision with the truck occurred.

No idea where he's getting his information from or if he's just making stuff up as people over there are wont to do.

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Won't the new bridge configuration be even more "dangerous" than the current bridge configuration, since there will be an even larger tangle of ramps bring cars to and from EACH of the two double-decker bridges...at an even higher speed?

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FWIW, some of the Delaware River bridges in Philadelphia use one-way tolling. I think they mostly toll coming into Philly. There could be a mix of tolling of, perhaps Brent Spence tolls southbound traffic and Big Mac northbound or vice versa. It would capture most folks just once a day then.

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^ That is the way the Hudson River crossings work. They only toll going into Manhattan. (Definitely true of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, and I believe also true of the others.)

 

With the camera tolling method, though, it shouldn't really matter -- might as well toll both ways.

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Have you ever been driving on I-71 south in Cincinnati and saw a sign that said "International Airport: I-471 South to I-275"? If so, did you wonder why they don't just say "I-71 South to I-275" instead? The Enquirer looked into it.

 

"A joint decision was made by ODOT, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the city of Cincinnati and the airport to reroute traffic around the Brent Spence Bridge, which even then was a nightmare during rush hour."

 

A bit interesting that we are willing to send people headed to the airport on a detour that adds 5 miles onto their trip. And yet we are concerned about routing long-haul truckers around I-275.

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Have you ever been driving on I-71 south in Cincinnati and saw a sign that said "International Airport: I-471 South to I-275"? If so, did you wonder why they don't just say "I-71 South to I-275" instead? The Enquirer looked into it.

 

"A joint decision was made by ODOT, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the city of Cincinnati and the airport to reroute traffic around the Brent Spence Bridge, which even then was a nightmare during rush hour."

 

A bit interesting that we are willing to send people headed to the airport on a detour that adds 5 miles onto their trip. And yet we are concerned about routing long-haul truckers around I-275.

 

Probably because it's more than 5 miles to reroute the trucks around I-275.

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Unusualfire: They are financed with tolls through a partnership between Kentucky and Indiana - the Kentucky-Indiana Joint Board.

 

http://eastendcrossing.com/joint-board/

http://bridgestunnels.com/bridges/ohio-river/east-end-bridge-interstate-265/ (see financing)

http://bridgestunnels.com/bridges/ohio-river/downtown-bridge-interstate-65/

 

The project has considerable federal and state funding, and open-road tolls will be used to pay down the debt. A draft financial statement for the I-69 bridge in Hendersonville, Ky. - Evansville, In. calls for tolling as well. It's not unusual for new, expensive projects to have tolls. All of Kentucky's parkways (such as the Bluegrass and Western Kentucky) were tolled, along with the original Kentucky Turnpike (I-65). The state is not blind to tolls.

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It seems like they've been talking about the need to replace the bridge for a long long time, but nothing is happening.  The majority of parties involved don't seem to think it's all that urgent.

 

How long before trucks are banned from the bridge?  What is the longest that they can keep patching and repairing the bridge before it has to be completely shut down?  Five years?  Ten?

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The current bridge does not have any major structural issues and it not in danger of falling into the river, as the Build Our Bridge Now group would like you to believe. The reason that there are issues with chunks of concrete falling from the bridge is because KY refuses to do routine maintenance like painting it. Then, they can point to the falling chunks of concrete and say, "Build us a new bridge now!" I could see politicians calling for the bridge to be shut down the bridge after some minor incident as a political stunt, but there is almost zero chance that anyone will look at alternatives like banning truck traffic from the bridge.

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It is funny to look back at the first page of this thread, though. We were discussing this literally 10 years ago, and the cost was estimated at $750 million at the time. Now it's expected to be around $3 billion with all of the associated work to widen and rebuild I-75 for miles leading up to the bridge.

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It doesn't need painting -immediately-. What you are seeing is the primer showing through, but recent inspections that was shared with me from a friend at KYTC shows that all of the fracture critical components are in fine condition. Those are bearings and joints. As for the chunks of concrete falling - that's an issue on many bridges, not just Brent Spence. Water gets inside some of the joints, freezes in the winter and causes the concrete to pop. Salt doesn't help matters and only exaggerates the loss of concrete. If the water penetrates deeper into the deck, similar issues will occur on the underside.

 

It's functionally obsolete, not structurally. While I still believe a new bridge is needed, it's not an immediate issue - that the Build Our Bridge Now group will lead someone to believe. It's also overblown by the counter-protesters as well.

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I heard some 700 WLW host yelling at, was it Stephen Frank, for about 15 minutes yesterday about the BSB.  Who is Stephen Frank, mayor of Covington?

 

Anyways, the host was hammering him about how dangerous the BSB is, how it will fall in the next 5 years, how so many people die on it, etc.  Honestly I thought I was listening to election night special on Fox, where they were declaring winners of races for Republicans with <1% of the vote in, and they were so giddy I thought my head was going to explode.  Did anyone notice that, anyways?

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He friended me on Facebook, but I'm not sure what our common interests are. I think I had commented something positive about Covington, but we are polar opposites on the Brent Spence Bridge. His whole platform just seems to be dedicated to that bridge and nothing else.

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^ Stephen Frank is absolutely anti-toll and is going to fight them 'til the end. He frequently comments on any article about the bridge saying so.

 

I just don't understand what these anti-toll people think is going to happen. We're not suddenly going to get $3 billion from the federal government to build the bridge. Ohio and Kentucky could probably afford to just build it now if they didn't spend so much money on unnecessary projects like the Portsmouth Bypass and Eastern Corridor, and directed that money to the bridge instead... but that's also unlikely to happen.

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let the damn thing  crumble and turn that tangled mess of expensive elevated exits ramps on both side of downtown back into residential streets. and boulevard conversions on 71 and 75 make traffic go around 275. if the feds want an urban highway to stay make them pay for it or else we get queens gate, avondale, walnut hills andthe fairmounts back in working order.

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Well, taestell[/member], even the Portsmouth bypass is a private-public venture, although it won't be tolled. But if Louisville and Evansville-Henderson is tolling their respective spans, what makes Cincinnati so unique that it can't? Then again, Stephen still posts photos of toll booths, even though it will be high speed tolling. It's not as if they can't get to Cincinnati via two other bridges in their city alone.

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Wow. Not only does he oppose tolls, he's a complete dick: http://rcnky.com/articles/2014/11/23/white-house-chatter-about-brent-spence-leads-confrontation-radio

 

Not only did he support a new bridge and flip flopped, but now he wants to ram a new interstate from I-471 south to I-71/75's southern junction, even though that idea was shot down long ago. And where would funding come from a new interstate?

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I LOVE the top comment on that article:

 

Christopher Gastright ·  Top Commenter · Covington, Kentucky

 

As always when this topic arises it is important to remember the context of the debate…..

 

1- When the bridge project was initially presented to the region it was presented as a federal project with a small possibility of tolling. We were shown very pretty plans and sketches at a large and expensive sales pitch at the convention center. Of course local politicians were on board, development is a good thing for the region. Steve Frank and others responded to the initial sales pitch the way they did because there were no details attached, just plans and pros. When the Federal Funding was ruled out , probably by design because these PPP operations have lobbyists and friends in the Dept of Transportation, the full tolling details were released. You could compare the sales pitch to a condominium time share, they wanted the region sold on the concept before they brought out the lifetime maintenance fee contract. This context is easy to find if you just talk to people, it really needs to be added to the RCN piece as a whole, not just as a sound byte from very early in the debate to frame Steve's current position as a flip flop.

 

2- The Brent Spence Bridge is cleared by the DOT to remain standing for another 50 years. When and if it is de-certified the Federal Highway Trust will be responsible for replacing it. The current discussion, and this cannot be emphasized highly enough, is about adding a second locally funded bridge to the crossing. That is why Tolling is on the table. If we are talking about replacing the bridge….then it becomes a Federal matter. If we are talking about a second bridge to boost local development, then it is a local matter and we need to pay for it ourselves. If we agree to pay for the second bridge however, we face a dilemma in the future when the Brent Spence itself needs to be replaced, because we will have another bridge already and that will give slimy politicians an excuse to deny funding for the replacement of the Brent Spence on schedule. We will be stuck paying for another bridge project eventually if we agree to pay for this first one.

 

3- The bridge project is heavily weighted in Cincinnati and Ohio's favor. Most of the local tolls will be paid by NKY drivers commuting to work. Most of the re-development contained in the project happens on the northern side of the crossing. To be clear, NKY will pay the lions share of the bill while Cincinnati reaps the lion's share of the profits. To make matters worse, as Steve has pointed out, Ohio has changed their law to state that tolls collected on their end can be taken out of the area and used elsewhere. That means the money that is supposed to pay for the bridge that comes from Ohio is going to be stolen away to other projects. We will be left holding the bill for a spending binge by Ohio politicians. The bridge is only half the project, the other half is a massive re-development of Cincinnati's 75 corridor and the major roads that connect to it north of the river. In Ky the work stops by the time you reach Kyles Lane, with little if any redevelopment to occur. In fact we mainly lose another chunk of the west Covington Neighborhoods and get our exits messed with so that our businesses are impacted negatively when traffic patterns change. So it is even worse than a time share, it borders on outright shenanigans.

 

4- The physical design of the bridge practically guarantees that NKY drivers will divert through Covington to Cincinnati and then back through Covington towards home. And do not forget that we are facing a ten year long construction schedule during which Covington will be the alternate route of choice. Covington gets slighted in three ways…. a) we lose traffic that would normally stop at 4th street to spend money b) We lose more of our West Covington Neighborhoods and access to Devou Park. c) We get the brunt of the diverted traffic through the construction phase and the brunt of the toll diversion traffic which every study says will occur. As conceived this is a bad project for Covington, the riverfront downtown of Northern Kentucky. That means it is yet another present for Cincinnati….making their real estate more valuable as ours becomes more difficult to reach and more isolated from the interstate.

 

5- Frank is correct in stating that the public departments responsible for maintaining the bridge are failing their duty. They have a responsibility to manage their budgets in a way that allows for ongoing maintenance of the span. That means painting it, repairing the rust, repairing the decking, managing the signage and lane markings, and making periodic improvements to the traffic patterns based on use. If the bridge looks like it is falling down, then it is easier for people trying to sell us a lame horse to claim that it is dangerous. In reality it has been certified as structurally safe. The determination of 'Functionally Obsolete' is a common finding with bridges and roadways across the nation. It simply means that the road or bridge no longer meets the modern requirements for the traffic that crosses it. Nothing has changed about the bridge….but the codes for building new bridges has changed since it was built.

 

6- Finally the bridge project as currently imagined is not the only possible configuration or solution to the traffic issue. It is simply the project designed by the people who want to sell us a payment plan for something that gives them an income and a free re-development of their business district. Be still my beating heart, can we get a free blender just for attending a sales pitch? The alternatives are as numerous as the designers hired to create them. a) We could divert some cross river traffic onto other bridges like I-471. b) We could build a new bridge at a different crossing and divert traffic across it to solve the problem of too many expressways and too much traffic trying to cross one span. c) We could tear down the Brent Spence and replace it with a much less expensive but larger bridge and reconnect it to the existing approaches, then leave future re-development on each end to the respective states. d) We could re-develop south Kenton and Campbell counties with a cross county highway to take traffic to 471, re-developing the south end of both counties in the process….creating more tax revenues and increasing our ability to fund future projects. e) Or we can simply vote no and get back to business, confident that at some point the same entities who have pushed the toll plan this far will realize they cant get a bridge built without Federal Funds….meaning their lobbyists and friends at the DOT will suddenly find 260 million dollars per year in the 4 Trillion dollar federal budget for the project.

 

260 Million? But doesn’t the bridge cost 2.6 Billion? Well yes, but the construction project will take at least 10 years….meaning that before cost over-runs the annual cost of the bridge project is just 260 million. Meaning that in the entire Federal Budget of 4 Trillion dollars we only need 0.000065% per year as an earmark for this project. A project to improve a crossing which carries about 5% of the national GDP across the Ohio River every year. The GDP is 17 Trillion….so 5% represents about $850,000,000,000 worth of economic activity which crosses that span every single year. We only need $260,000,000 per year to fund the project….. which is just 3% of the cost of the activity that crosses the bridge every year. That seems like a pittance compared to the 50 year Tolling plan we are expected to pay for locally to benefit Ohio and Cincinnati and keep that 850 billion dollars in activity moving……And only the Federal Government can attach that 850 Billion with a 3% expense. If we try it locally we are paying Tolls….which again means most of the local money for the project will flow from NKY into Cincinnati and beyond.

 

Literally …. They have a bridge they want to sell us.

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The problem with the "5% of GDP" argument is that amount is getting double, triple, quadruple counted. A load of freight going from Detroit to Atlanta will be counted at the Brent Spence Bridge, going through Dayton, Toledo, Lexington, etc. 

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The problem with the "5% of GDP" argument is that amount is getting double, triple, quadruple counted. A load of freight going from Detroit to Atlanta will be counted at the Brent Spence Bridge, going through Dayton, Toledo, Lexington, etc. 

 

Try and find a stat illustrating what percentage of the bridge's traffic is long-haul freight.  The answer is that it's a very small percentage, I'd wager much less than 10% and closer to 1%.  Most of the freight crossing the bridge originates and is delivered in this area.  Half of the delivery trucks crossing the bridge are empty or almost empty.  My company sends two box trucks and one semi across the river each day, each of them come back completely empty unless they pick up one or two things from customers. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It's more accurate to just differentiate between the average annual daily traffic and the percentage of that of which are trucks. The traffic counters break down that easy. But there is no way to quantify how much of what percentage of goods flow through the Brent Spence.

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They marked off the extra lane through Mitchell ave interchange Northbound. I guess it will be 3-4 years before that becomes available. You Now get a full 4 lanes from I-74 to Mitchell northbound. A ramp meter is installed northbound at Mitchell.

 

The Hopple street interchange looks massive. Will they fill most of that in? The pillars looks awful from that vantage point

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They marked off the extra lane through Mitchell ave interchange Northbound. I guess it will be 3-4 years before that becomes available. You Now get a full 4 lanes from I-74 to Mitchell northbound. A ramp meter is installed northbound at Mitchell.

 

The Hopple street interchange looks massive. Will they fill most of that in? The pillars looks awful from that vantage point

 

I thought it was hilarious when I saw that the other day. After all of the time and money that was spent on the overpass, we don't actually get to use that new lane until the entire highway widening project is complete. Until then, we just have an obnoxiously wide shoulder. Jake warned of us this back in August 2013:

 

"The $53 million Phase 1 makes provisions for widening I-75 to four lanes in each direction, but the expressway will not actually be widened until Phase 5 rebuilds the I-74/75 interchange near Cincinnati State Technical & Community College."

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What else would you do with it in the meantime though? 

 

There are probably some places along I-75 where they could use the new lane as an auxiliary lane until they are able to connect everything together and make it a through lane. Maybe they are already planning on doing that in certain cases and in this particular case it wasn't feasible.

 

I just think it's worth pointing out that Phase 5 won't be complete until August 2020. So this new overpass will already have six years of wear and tear on it before anyone even gets the benefit of driving in that new lane.

 

Yes, I understand that they can't just shut down I-75 and rebuilt it all at once.

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They did make it an auxiliary lane from I-74 EB/Central Parkway to Mitchell Avenue, so the lane is only striped off over the bridge.  I guess it's all wasted southbound though?  I assume they'll do another auxiliary lane from Mitchell to the Norwood Lateral after they get the railroad bridge rebuilt. 

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