Biden visit puts Covington in the national spotlight

President Biden speaks in Covington. (Photo by Carolann Baughman)

Nation's chief touts bipartisanship, Brent Spence funding;

1st president to speak in The Cov in 84 years

COVINGTON, Ky. – President Joe Biden stood on Covington soil – the first sitting president to do so in 84 years -- early this afternoon to preach the value of bipartisanship and strong leadership and carry out a promise no other president has been able to fulfill: federal funding for the construction of the long-awaited Brent Spence Bridge Corridor project.

With noise from truck and car traffic on the Brent Spence projecting a steady hum behind him, Biden began his 16-minute remarks by giving a shout-out to Covington Mayor Joe Meyer.

Then, speaking to hundreds of Kentucky and Ohio leaders – including governors, members of Congress, and myriad local officials (including several dozen from the City of Covington), as well as guests – he moved to the business at hand.

“We can work together. We can get things done,” Biden said. “For decades people have talked about the Brent Spence Bridge. But folks, the talking is over.”

The event attracted over 110 reporters from 50-something media organizations, plus members of the Washington, D.C.-based White House press corps.

Other officials who climbed on the stage in Covington to speak included Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear; his counterpart in Ohio, Mike DeWine; and members of the two states’ current and former federal delegations.

“I can’t say we’re in Ohio,” DeWine said. “But you can see Ohio.”

Meyer said he met one-on-one before the event with President Biden, during which they talked about Covington and its momentum, various issues, and the importance of career and technical schools.

“What a spectacularly pleasant day – Covington made a great impression,” Meyer said. “How could the day have been any better?”

City Manager Ken Smith had a similar reaction: “What an incredible day for Covington.”

Both Smith and Meyer praised the performance of City employees who had a hand in helping the White House pull off the event. The City learned about the possible visit on Friday, the day that state and federal officials announced that the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project would receive $1.635 billion in federal funding, clearing the way for construction.

The money was included in Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Bridge Investment Program.

The site of the event – the parking lot on the north side of the floodwall at the end of Bakewell Street/Pete Rose Pier, nearly underneath the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge – was confirmed on Sunday.

  • Crews from Covington’s Public Works and Fire departments rushed to the site Monday, the observed holiday of New Year’s Day, to hose off the site, pick up litter, and cut weeds, brush, and saplings that lined the bank.
  • Meanwhile, Covington Police officials helped support the Secret Service in planning for and providing security for the event. A Covington Police cruiser was among those in the motorcade carrying President Biden from CVG airport to the Covington riverfront.
  • And members of Covington’s communications staff helped direct media.

“Covington residents should know that our public safety and Public Works employees represented the City in a very professional manner and put The Cov in a good light,” Smith said. “And the riverfront looked wonderful, despite the debris washed up on the riverbanks by a rain-swollen Ohio River.”

About the project

Ground-breaking on the project could happen as early as late this year. A request for proposals (RFP) for the design-build project will be issued by the Ohio Department of Transportation on Jan. 13 of this year.

About the project

The long-discussed Brent Spence Bridge Project aims to improve safety and alleviate highway congestion on Interstates 71-75 as they cross the Ohio River on the double-decker Brent Spence. The bridge was built in 1963 to carry 80,000 vehicles a day but currently carries about double that. Backups affect not only commuters but also trucks carrying freight. Its tight lanes also contribute to numerous wrecks.

Details of the project can be found at Brent Spence Bridge Corridor. Generally, it involves:

  • Repairs to the existing bridge that will reduce the number of its lanes to three in each direction.
  • Construction of a new, companion bridge to the west that would include five lanes in each direction.
  • Separation of traffic based on destination, diverting local traffic to the existing bridge and through traffic to the new bridge.
  • Redesigning and upgrading 7.8 miles of I-71/75 from Fort Mitchell, Ky., to just north of the Western Hills viaduct in Cincinnati.
  • Three phases, two of which are entirely in Ohio. The Kentucky phase includes the bridges themselves and will follow a design-build process that begins in 2023.

Biden enumerated the bridge’s importance: “Truck traffic on I-75 alone carries $2 billion of freight, $2 billion of freight per day between Florida and Canada,” he said.

Built to carry 80,000 vehicles a day, the bridge actually carries about 160,000 vehicles across the river. He called it the second-most congested truck bottleneck in the United States and reminded the crowd what happened when a fiery truck wreck in late 2020 shut down the damaged bridge for six weeks, overwhelming Covington’s streets with interstate traffic: “Total chaos.”

Biden also touted the thousands of jobs that would be created during construction of the new bridge and the interstate approaches.

Gov. Beshear, who kicked off the day’s remarks, gave a similar message about the urgency of the project and the power of the collaborative effort that brought the project to this point.

“Heavy traffic delays and safety issues are real,” Beshear said.

´╗┐The Governor also thanked Mayor Meyer, saying “We did this as a team, Democrats and Republicans, from the federal government to local officials.”