By KIM BELLARD
We had a bridge fire here in Cincinnati last week. Two semis collided in the overnight hours. The collision ignited a blaze that burned at up to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit and took hours to quell. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured, but the bridge remains closed while investigators determine how much damage was done. It is expected to remain closed for at least another month.
Unfortunately, the bridge in question is the Brent Spence Bridge, which is the focal point for I-71 and I-75 between Ohio and Kentucky. It normally carries over 160,000 vehicles daily, and is one of the busiest trucking routes in the U.S. Over $1 billion of freight crosses each day. There are other bridges nearby, but each requires significant detouring, and none were designed for that traffic load.
What makes this all so galling is that it has been recognized for over 25 years that the bridge has been, to quote the Federal Highway Administration, “functionally obsolete” – yet no action was taken to replace it. This most recent disaster was a disaster hiding in plain sight.
Just like, as the coronavirus pandemic has illustrated, we have in health care.
The Brent Spence Bridge was opened in 1963, intended to carry a maximum of 80,000 vehicles daily. That had been surpassed by the 1990’s, causing calls to replace it with a newer, bigger bridge. At one time, Rep. John Boehner, from the Cincinnati area, was Speaker of the House and Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell was Senate Majority leader, yet were not able to obtain funding for the replacement, despite strong support from then President Obama and, in turn, President Trump.
Money is the problem, of course. The federal gasoline tax, intended to fund interstate highways and bridges hasn’t been raised since 1993. There was talk about funding