Biden, McConnell Announce $1.4 Billion Brent Spence Bridge Grant

President Joe Biden speaks about his infrastructure agenda
President Joe Biden speaks about his infrastructure agenda under the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge on Jan. 4 in Covington, Ky. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

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Efforts to improve the Brent Spence Bridge in northern Kentucky took a step forward on Jan. 4 when President Joe Biden announced a nearly $1.4 billion grant toward the Brent Spence Bridge project.

The project will separate I-75 traffic from local traffic as well as rehabilitate and reconfigure the bridge, and it was first announced last week by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Several local and federal leaders, including Biden, Beshear, Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine, McConnell and other politicians, were in attendance for Biden’s remarks on stage along the Ohio River to announce the grant. Virtually everyone who spoke shared the same feeling of excitement for the project.

“For decades, people have talked about the Brent Spence Bridge; but, folks, talking is over,” Biden said. “The bipartisan infrastructure law, we’re finally going to get it done.”

The speakers also expressed satisfaction in their ability to be bipartisan. Biden specifically thanked McConnell for his willingness to put differences aside to get the funding for this project.

“Leader McConnell and I don’t agree on everything; in fact, we disagree on a lot of things. But here’s what matters: He’s a man of his word,” Biden said. “When he gives you his word, you can take it to the bank, you can count on it and he’s willing to find common ground to get things done for the country.”

President Biden shakes hands with Mitch McConnell

President Biden shakes hands with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at the infrastructure event. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

McConnell said recently retired Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) was active in trying to acquire funding for the project. He also thanked the other officials involved in the project for being able to get it done.

“We all know these are really partisan times, but I always feel no matter who gets elected, once it’s all over, we ought to look for things we can agree on and try to do those, even while we have big differences on other things,” said McConnell, the longtime Republican senator who is from Louisville.

“This bridge I think symbolizes the coming together of both sides on something that both sides thought was important to try to get an outcome.”

Beshear was also excited about the project’s momentum and said he was happy with everyone’s ability to work together to advance the project.

“This amazing project shows it’s possible and what’s possible when we push partisanship aside,” Beshear said. “We did this as a team, Democrats and Republicans, from the White House to local government, and look what we accomplished. One of the largest infrastructure projects in U.S. history.”



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The Federal Highway Administration said earlier Jan. 4 that the investment in the bridge was “transformational.”

“This grant to improve Kentucky and Ohio’s Brent Spence Bridge demonstrates the transformational investments we are making to support President Biden’s commitment to rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure,” Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt said in a news release.

“We are pleased to partner with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and see work get underway to modernize the Brent Spence Bridge, which will have a real impact on the quality of life for thousands of residents and motorists traveling between Covington, Ky., and Cincinnati, Ohio, who will benefit from these improvements for decades to come.”

The Brent Spence Bridge is the second-worst truck bottleneck in the country and it carries more than $400 billion in freight per year over the Ohio River, according to a news release from the federal transportation department.

“Safe, modern bridges ensure that first responders can get to calls more quickly, shipments reach businesses on time, and drivers can get to where they need to go,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a news release.

The grant is part of the first installment of payments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s competitive Bridge Investment Program. Bridge projects with costs over $100 million are eligible for grants.

McConnell speaks at the event

McConnell speaks about the bipartisan infrastructure deal at the Covington, Ky. event. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

The first round of grants was awarded to projects ready to proceed to construction, in need of pre-construction funding and in need of a multiyear grant, according to a news release.

Biden said the project “means folks around here will actually be able to use the bridge again” to get to and from work and school, and use it for emergencies “without bumper to bumper traffic.”

The Brent Spence Bridge was constructed in the 1960s to carry around 80,000 vehicles a day, but now the daily traffic load on Interstate Highways 75 and 71 has reached 160,000 vehicles, according to a news release from Beshear’s office.

Portions of northern Kentucky near the bridge will also get a new storm sewer system to reduce flooding and improve local roads, as well as enhanced pedestrian and bicycle facilities in the area of the existing and new bridge, according to the release.

Herald-Leader reporter Austin Horn contributed to this report.

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