Design Options for $2.7B Brent Spence Bridge Project Narrowed

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) for the $2.7 billion Brent Spence Bridge Replacement & Rehabilitation project last August.

The finding means that the project can move forward to its next phase of work with the current proposed alignment, which is not expected to change much from this point. The alignment included in the FONSI includes a number of interesting features different from what exists on the site today.

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Consolidated Footprint:
One of the most notable pieces of the plan is a consolidated footprint. While it still includes a web of ramps at the southwestern edge of the central business district, the project does eliminate a flyover ramp currently not in use, and consolidates the existing footprint of ramps leading to the new and existing bridge, and Fort Washington Way.

The approved alignment also preserves the existing dunnhumbyUSA building that was thought to be in the way for the rebuilt interstate network.

A final, and perhaps the most significant, result of the consolidated footprint is additional land along Central Avenue in between Fourth Street and Sixth Street.

This land could be used for one of a number of things, but there is currently the Cincinnati Fire Fighters Memorial at the corner of Fifth Street and Central Avenue, which could be moved south one block across the street from the Company 14 and Fire Headquarters building, and allow for the long-desired expansion of the Duke Energy Convention Center.

Leadership at the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau declined to comment on any plans to expand the convention center until plans are finalized for the Brent Spence Bridge project, and the agency has time to review them.

The alternatives moving forward also call for a portion of historic Longworth Hall to be demolished to make room for the new bridge. Additionally, the existing Duke Energy Substation will need to be relocated, which project officials say has already been discussed with the energy provider.

Brent Spence Bridge Design Alternative 1 Brent Spence Bridge Design Alternative 2
Design Alternative 1 [LEFT] would appear similar to the ‘Big Mac’ Bridge upriver, while Design Alternative 2 [RIGHT] would introduce a two-tower, cable-stayed bridge to the Cincinnati waterfront. Renderings provided.

Architectural Design:
While separate from the issued FONSI, project officials have also narrowed down the design options for the bridge itself. Perhaps the most eye-catching of the options, the single-tower cable-stayed bridge ($646 million), has been eliminated due to its higher safety and engineering risks.

What is left is the arch bridge design ($571 million), similar to the Daniel Carter Beard ‘Big Mac’ Bridge, and the double-tower cable-stayed bridge ($669 million). Both, officials say, would have fewer risks involved and would allow the project to move forward on a more predictable schedule.

Next Stages:
Project officials are currently finalizing action plans based on the Began Value for Money (VfM) study, and hope to begin the necessary right-of-way acquisition process this year.

Should the States of Ohio and Kentucky choose to pursue a public-private partnership (P3) financing model; officials say that they will issue an RFP for that sometime next year. Construction could begin as early as 2015 if the current schedule continues to be met.

  • jasomm

    Too Bad about the single-tower cable-stayed bridge, I was rooting for that one.

    There really isnt too much more you can hope for with the alignment. The last 80 years of rerouting really presented the city with few good options for untangling the mess they made. An enormous monetary windfall and surge of motivation is the only thing that could overhaul the interstate system to something city-friendly.

    • I too was bummed to hear about the elimination of the single-tower cable-stayed bridge design from consideration. I really thought that was the most profound design and would truly become a landmark structure for the region.

    • Eric

      Eisenhower memo from 1960 stressing his disappointment that the interstate highway system had become an intracity highway system- see paragraph 3. Maybe tolling it will take some of the intracity aspect of it away, though at this point you’re obviously going to a different state.

    • jasomm

      Very true, but I think that is mostly because he envisioned the system for quick deployment of military equipment and personnel across the country, not due to any urban planning foresight. If the US were fighting off invasions (like 1940s Germany, the inspiration for the system) the urban portions of the system would be blocked with rubble and combatants

    • Eric

      The system was sold and developed to this day on a lie. Eisenhower’s Secretary of Defense, Charles Wilson, was president of GM. Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense, beginning in 1960, Robert McNamara, was president of Ford.

  • Wow, what a huge difference in the ramp space! I wasn’t expecting that at all. It would certainly be cool if the convention center / Central Business District could be expanded westward a bit.

    • It’s not a lot of land, but you can certainly do something with it. Maybe a small infill structure in between 4th/5th, then a convention center expansion or some other larger infill structure between 5th/6th.

    • jasomm

      It might be possible to put a sort of cap, or elevated developable platform, between 6th and 7th on that plan as well.

    • This kind of a thing has been done in other cities (I can think of Denver and Kansas City off the top of my head). In fact, some cities have even cantilevered structures over their highways…including Cincinnati’s original proposal for the convention center expansion.

  • I’m hopeful this ramp design improves traffic flow. Try getting from Price Hill to Brent Spence some time. First of all, the W. 6th viaduct is closed, so you have to take W. 8th. You have to take 3 or 4 different detours and 6 or 7 different on/off ramps. For some of the ramps, the signage isn’t visible until about 100 ft. before the exit.

  • zschmiez

    SO…. Is ODOT/Fed still giving $$$ to Dunn Humby for their relocation now that the building will stay inctact??? I may have those details totally wrong.

    I shutter just thinking about what traffic will be like for the 5+ years this whole thing will take (prolly more like 9).

  • Matt Jacob

    First, just wanted to say that this was a very well written article.

    I like the two-tower design with the way that it almost shadows the current BSB design where it peaks. I’m really against a second arched design because it would detract from the current Big Mac bridge and be confusing for out-of-towners and those new to the city. I also think there is a risk in eroding the iconic status of the Roebling bridge if every river shot of the city now has an arched bridge in it.

    I think it would be very fitting for the old original suspension bridge being at the heart of our city to show our proud history, yet have a new modernly designed cable-stayed bridge to signal the current rebirth/revival taking place.

    I also hope money isn’t the deciding factor in their choice.

  • Matt Glaser

    It’s a shame the single-tower option was removed. It would have made a huge statement and visual impact to all north-bound traffic traveling on the main artery to the Great Lakes Region. I think we missed a great opportunity to remind all of those drivers that they are entering OHIO! I’m not saying it is on the same level with the Arch in St. Louis, but why couldn’t it have a similar role as the gateway to the North? Not only that it could have been a true statement to the revitalization of our great city, the urban core and the overall region! Now, the 2 remaining options look like run-of-the-mill bridges everyone crosses on a weekend road-trip in Anywhere, USA.