Suspension Bridge work to start Wednesday, should open by May 1

COVINGTON, Ky. - Barring complications, the Roebling Suspension Bridge will reopen to both motorists and pedestrians traveling between Covington and Cincinnati by May 1.
Emergency work to repair a vertical column damaged in a car accident last month is scheduled to begin Wednesday, officials with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Northern Kentucky office announced this morning.
The deadline for the work to be finished was set at May 1 under the bid awarded Friday to Cincinnati-based Evers Steel Construction, the Cabinet said.
Covington officials who have been talking on an ongoing basis with the state about the bridge’s repair praised the news.
“Ever since the accident, we’ve been pushing aggressively to have the bridge reopened,” Mayor Joe Meyer said. “It’s not only an important historic landmark but also a critical link for commuters, shoppers and visitors moving between Covington and Cincinnati.”
Meyer said the city appreciated the response of the state Transportation Cabinet, especially chief district engineer Bob Yeager and his staff at District 6, to Covington’s request for quick action.
The mayor also praised Kenton County Judge-Executive Kris Knochelmann for advocating for Covington during the discussions and lending the county’s support to the city’s request.
Businesses in downtown Covington have been especially eager to get the bridge reopened.
“This time of year, Covington’s businesses near the river rely heavily on pedestrian traffic over the bridge on the days that the Cincinnati Reds play,” City Manager David Johnston said. “That was part of our urgency in getting it repaired. Hopefully, with today’s news, the down time won’t hit our businesses as hard as we had feared.”
The 151-year-old structure was damaged when a car hit a primary vertical column on March 20, cracking and distorting it. The column was not part of the original structure but had been installed during a reconstruction project to strengthen the bridge in the 1890s.
The repair, which is estimated to cost $62,000, will require removing the damaged steel plate, heating and strengthening the original vertical member and reattaching a new, replacement plate, the Cabinet said.
Police closed the bridge to vehicles immediately after the single-car accident. After engineers inspected the damage, the Transportation Cabinet additionally closed the bridge’s walkways to pedestrians on March 23, given the increased foot traffic leading up to the Reds’ Opening Day events.
After an investigation into the accident, Covington police issued an arrest warrant March 29 for the Cincinnati man thought to have been driving the car that hit the bridge, charging him with driving on a suspended or revoked license and without insurance and with giving a false report of how the accident happened.
The bridge, which originally opened to vehicular traffic on New Year’s Day, 1867, was named a National Historic Landmark in 1975 and a National Historic Civic Engineering Landmark in 1982.
Given that designation, the process to get it repaired required more steps than usual, the Transportation Cabinet said, which said it pursued an expedited bidding process.
More than 8,000 cars a day travel the bridge, carrying commuters, shoppers and visitors between Covington and Cincinnati. It’s also an important crossing for pedestrians, with foot traffic particularly heavy on game days for the Reds and Cincinnati Bengals.
The Roebling bridge is named after the man who designed it and oversaw its construction, engineer John A. Roebling. Construction began on the bridge in 1856 and was delayed by the national economic turmoil leading up to the Civil War, according to The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky.
At the time it opened, the bridge was the first permanent bridge between Covington and Cincinnati and boasted the world’s largest span, with 1,057 feet between the midpoints of its towers, according to the Encyclopedia.
According to a 2003 engineers’ evaluation for the Kentucky Transportation Center, the towers are 240 feet tall and contain 400,000 cubic feet of masonry.
During the historic flood of 1937, the bridge was the only span that remained open across the Ohio River between Steubenville, Ohio, and Cairo, Ill, a distance of over 800 miles.