The closure of the Cincinnati Bridge is hurting Kentucky’s economy

Not only will the Brent Spence Bridge closure affect commuters looking to travel between Kentucky and Ohio, but it will also increase costs for Bluegrass State companies that regularly cross the Ohio River to do business.

“It’s just total chaos,” said Paul Verst, CEO of Verst Logistics, a northern Kentucky-based company that focuses on storage, packaging, transportation and fulfillment. “It’s obviously a huge impact on our bottom line.”

The Brent Spence Bridge was closed indefinitely on Wednesday due to a violent crash between two trucks. Kentucky governor Andy Beshear said Thursday the bridge would remain closed for “weeks, maybe more than a month,” as crews assess damage and make repairs.

And this closure will affect the whole business.

Chris Bollinger, a University of Kentucky economist who calls the span a “major artery”, said the closure will “slow and thus increase the cost of goods shipped from either Kentucky or Kentucky.”

“You have to work around it somehow,” said Bollinger. “And these cost increases are borne in part by consumers and in part by businesses.”

Beshear on the Brent Spence Bridge:“At best, the bridge will be closed for several days.”

According to Verst, half of the company’s 100 or so truck drivers use the bridge, which takes Interstates 71 and 75 one to three times a day in each direction.

The longer journeys caused by the closure have increased fuel, maintenance and labor costs, he said. “It creates additional service failures” and the “time it takes us to either pick up or deliver and deliver from our customers”.

The company is considering ways to cover these additional costs, such as: B. the conversion to night shipping and deliveries or the addition of a short-term surcharge for freight invoices.

Meanwhile, Joe Nienaber, owner of Custom Cabinetry and Countertops Granite World, which is just a few miles from the bridge, said the closure would mean more overtime for his workers.

Although the company operates out of Park Hills, its raw material suppliers and the cabinet side of business operate across the Ohio River, and 20 to 30% of customers live in Buckeye state, he said.

It typically takes Nienaber a 30-minute round-trip drive to collect cabinets from the company’s warehouse in Cincinnati. But on Friday he needed three times as much.

He noticed many exits in northern Kentucky from the Interstate 275 loopare closed.

“Customer access to us is severely restricted,” said Nienaber, who is also Kenton County’s commissioner. “Our suppliers’ access to us is severely hindered. And our ability to get to our customers is severely hindered.”

Across the bridge:Who is Brent Spence anyway?

In a written statement sent to the Courier Journal on Friday evening, Kentucky Secretary of Transportation Jim Gray said, “My background in business shows me that such incidents can have a significant economic impact on local and national businesses, and so we are working hard on it Examine and repair the bridge safely and quickly.

“We understand this disrupted both regional trade and local travel,” said Gray. “Part of the project was creating detours to help people and goods cross the Ohio. We’ve spoken to haulage companies and the public about these detour routes. We recommend using them, and we urge everyone when traveling to plan ahead . “

Also, the John A. Roebling suspension bridge between Covington and Cincinnati was reopened to passenger vehicles on Friday night, and a lane of I-71/75 south from Covington to I-275 will be opened to local traffic, he said.

The Brent Spence is one of five major bridges that connect downtown Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. According to a traffic count from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, more than 163,000 vehicles per day crossed the Brent Spence in 2019.

When it closed, many drivers used the Roebling Bridge, which has a weight limit of 11 tons and cannot handle semi-trailers – a rule that some drivers ignored and resulted in this bridge being temporarily closed. The Roebling drives an average of 9,054 vehicles per day.

Together, Roebling and Brent Spence account for more than 57% of all traffic on the area’s five bridges.

Likewise: I-71 near I-75 in Boone County has been closed for several hours due to a truck fire

Nienaber said people were frustrated with the delays since the Brent Spence shutdown. “And I think if this thing lasts longer than a month it’s going to have real financial implications,” he said.

Bollinger said closing the bridge will have “different effects” on the entire northern Kentucky business community – while some businesses will be hurt, others, like a local grocery store, could see an increase in customers as people’s situation changes.

The Brent Spence shutdown has also renewed debates about its future.

In the 1990s, the Federal Motorway Administration declared the bridge to be inoperable. The bridge can handle more than twice the traffic load it was designed for in 1963 and is a regular congestion point.

However, funding a project to replace or repair it was a sticking point.

Beshear’s office said the plan for the Brent Spence is to build an additional bridge, not replace what is already there.

Bollinger, who released a 2014 report examining the financial impact of a toll on the length of time before Kentucky state lawmakers essentially banned the idea in 2016, said the recent shutdown “may be what finally makes us do it.” to fix them “.

“When you consider the significant cost of repairing it, it may be very, very wise to use this as an opportunity to really rebuild it to the way it needs to be to carry the economic traffic we need in both South Ohio and northern Kentucky as well as the rest of the country, “said Bollinger.

Kentuckians for Better Transportation, a nationwide transportation association, reiterated that assessment on Friday.

“For far too long, the Brent Spence Bridge and other major Kentucky roads have taken a back seat due to a lack of funding,” the group said. “As Kentuckians, we cannot stand idly by while our crumbling and inadequate infrastructure threatens the security of our citizens and the economic prosperity of our Commonwealth.”

“A damn mess”:Why the Brent Spence Bridge closure is more than a Cincinnati issue

The Cincinnati Enquirer contributed to this report.

Contact Ben Tobin at [email protected] and 502-377-5675 or follow @Ben__Tobin on Twitter.

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