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Beshear, DeWine reveal Brent Spence contract winner as long-awaited project moves forward

By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday a major step in the $3.6 billion construction process of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project by awarding the design-build contract to a joint venture of two family-owned firms with experience in building bridges – the Walsh Group based in Chicago and Kokosing based in Westerville, Ohio.

Kokosing has recent experience with the Brent Spence bridge. The company received much praise for its quick work on the bridge when in the early morning hours of Nov. 11, 2020, a fiery accident involving two semi-trucks, one of which was carrying caustic chemicals, caused the bridge to be closed to traffic. Following the accident, the Brent Spence Bridge was closed for safety inspections.

The Brent Spence Bridge opened in 1963 to carry about 80,000 vehicles a day but the daily I-75 and I-71 traffic load has reached 160,000 vehicles in recent years. Slowdowns in traffic have been a problem.

Brent Spence Bridge (NKyTribune file photo from ODOT)

“This is a project that so many would say would never get done and has been dreamed about for years but we are getting it done,” said an ebullient Beshear at a news conference with DeWine at Drees Pavilion in Devou Park in Covington near the Ohio River, overlooking downtown Cincinnati.

The contract to Walsh Kokosing addresses six of the corridor’s eight total miles, including five miles of I-71/75 in Kentucky and one mile of I-75 in Ohio.. It also includes improvements to the Brent Spence Bridge and the construction of a new companion bridge to its immediate west. Work on the two northernmost miles of the corridor in Ohio will be done under separate contracts.

As prime contractor, the progressive design-build team will continue to recruit participant companies and workers for the $3.6 billion project, one of the most significant infrastructure megaprojects in the nation.

Walsh and Kokosing will drive the progressive design-build process, along with AECOM, Parsons and Jacobs, consisting of some of the most experienced bridge designers, transportation engineers and highway engineers in the United States. In its submission, the joint venture also identified WEB Ventures as the diversity, inclusion and outreach consultant.

Beshear, who is seeking re-election this year against Republican Daniel Cameron, reminded the audience that no tolls will be involved in the funding of the project.

Beshear and DeWine were joined by their state transportation officials and officials from the Federal Highway Administration for the announcement.

“Today shows what’s possible when folks from different political parties, different states and different levels of government all work together to do what’s right for our people,” Beshear said. “With the help of this new design-build team, we are one step closer to building the companion bridge without tolls and providing the many families, communities and businesses that rely on this vital commercial link with new and exciting growth and development opportunities.”

“For many years, leaders in southwest Ohio have consistently pointed to the Brent Spence Bridge as an issue that we need to address,” DeWine said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled that an Ohio-based company will play a pivotal role in getting this project done. Not only are we connecting two states and the nation, we’re strengthening the connection between downtown Cincinnati and neighborhoods to the west.”

Brent Spence Bridge (NKyTribune file)

Both Beshear and DeWine thanked the federal government for its more than $1.5 billion in funding and their state legislators for supporting the program. Beshear mentioned by name state Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel of Taylor Mill and John Schickel of Union and Democratic Rep. Rachel Roberts of Newport. He also thanked Covington Mayor Joe Meyer.

“A bridge isn’t red or blue. It is not Democrat or Republican,” said Beshear. “It is just absolutely critical for this region and the entire country.”

“We are thrilled to be selected as the design-build team for an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform this vital connector between Kentucky and Ohio,” said John Householder, president of Kokosing Construction Co. and a partner in the Walsh Kokosing design-build team. “Freight drives the nation’s economy. The Brent Spence Bridge Corridor plays a key role in the Greater Cincinnati region and throughout Ohio and Kentucky, while also connecting Michigan to Florida and New York to Los Angeles.”

“This is one of the largest highway construction projects ever undertaken in the U.S.,” said Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray.

“Working in concert with our local partners, we’ve heard loud and clear that they want to ensure this project is not only a benefit to traffic traversing the tri-state, but that it also has a positive impact on those who live here,” said Ohio Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks. “We’ve freed up nearly 10 acres of developable land and remain committed to minimizing the footprint of the project while maximizing the benefits to Cincinnati and the surrounding neighborhoods.”

The bi-state project team began the procurement process with a number of outreach events aimed at potential prime contractors. More than 300 companies registered for an industry forum last year, and six requested one-on-one meetings with the project team for a deeper review of the bidding requirements and process. The request for proposals to provide construction and design services was released in February. Responses were due April 14 followed by interviews and an in-depth review of bidder qualifications, which continued until just prior to Thursday’s announcement.

Primary goals of the project include improving safety and traffic flow; correcting geometric deficiencies; and maintaining connections to key regional and national transportation corridors.

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is moving critically needed projects forward – in Kentucky, Ohio and all across the country – that will make travel safer, move goods to market more quickly, and improve the daily lives of countless Americans,” said Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt.

“We are proud to invest in the success of this project and partner with Govs. Beshear and DeWine as they reach a key milestone on the road to delivering the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project on time, on task and on budget.”

The project consultant team for the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project is led by HNTB with support from HMB Professional Engineers Inc., American Structurepoint Inc. and Rasor.

A groundbreaking is expected for the project later this year and it’s scheduled for completion by 2029.

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One Comment

  1. Mike Heller says:

    That’s to President Biden. He got it done Trump got a picture

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