City to be briefed on state’s plans for 4th St. bridge

The Fourth Street (Veterans Memorial) Bridge carries Ky. 8 across the Licking River between Covington (left) and Newport, near the Licking’s confluence with the larger Ohio River. (Photo used courtesy of Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, District 6.)

Goals: ‘Signature’ look, bike and pedestrian lanes

COVINGTON, Ky. – Having briefed Newport’s elected officials recently, state highway officials will soon give the Covington Board of Commissioners an update on the planned new bridge over the Licking River connecting the two cities.

Covington Mayor Joe Meyer said that two members of the project management team from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s District 6 office – project manager Cory Wilson and KYTC design lead Mike Bezold – will give a presentation at the board’s July 18 meeting on the Ky. 8 bridge, also known as the Fourth Street Bridge because of its Covington terminus.

City officials say they look forward to receiving an up-to-date briefing about aspects of the project – including its cost, design, timeline, and goals – from those responsible for it. That’s especially critical given the intense public interest.

“Like the rest of the elected officials, my e-mail (in-box) has been blowing up with a petition for us to take some type of action with the state of Kentucky on the Fourth Street Bridge,” Covington Vice Mayor Ron Washington told his colleagues recently. “I’ve said before that we have limited ability to do anything with that project – it belongs to the state of Kentucky. They make the decisions on it.”

Added Commissioner Tim Downing: “I think it would be helpful for the public to fully understand who they should be communicating with in order to be able to make certain that their voice is heard and their voice has impact.”

Details of the project can be seen on the KY 8 Licking River Bridge webpage. KYTC has also released a Ky. 8 video about the project.

According to the state:

Why a new bridge?

Built in 1936, the truss bridge carries traffic along a state route, Ky. 8, but doesn’t meet today’s modern standards for design and accessibility.

A 2016 traffic study found the current three lanes would be sufficient at that time, but that study didn’t account for future growth in the urban core related to development of the Ovation site in Newport and the 23-acre former IRS site several blocks west in Covington, nor did it allow room for flexibility should transportation uses evolve in the future.


  • Safe, efficient crossing for cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians, to accommodate both current and future growth.
  • A “signature design” … one “that is not only functional but also visually appealing.”
  • Access during construction for bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Responsible use of public funds, falling within a $68 million budget.

“We’re excited to be working closely with city and county leaders as we develop the concepts that will eventually become the KY 8 Licking River replacement bridge,” said Bob Yeager, Chief District Engineer for KYTC District 6. “Our relationships with the local agencies, through previous public input, has made it clear that pedestrian and bicyclist safety is critical. We’re looking forward to making that a key aspect in the design.”

Public engagement

KYTC has overseen over two years of public engagement, including a virtual public meeting in April 2021, an in-person public meeting in March 2022, an on-line survey in March 2022, and an Aesthetics Committee formed in May 2023 with local officials.

Public input is still being gathered via the project’s Contact Us form. Both Covington and KYTC leaders say residents who want to give feedback should use that form.

Aesthetics Committee

Covington Mayor Joe Meyer, who is a member of the Aesthetics Committee along with the City’s historic preservation staff, recently gave his fellow Commission members a report on the committee’s first meeting.

Meyer said the project has to fall within the $68 million total cost and the goal is to announce a bridge type by fall.

He noted that no land north of Fourth Street in Covington would be affected, with the expanded bridge taking up land to the south that is now a state-owned parking lot. He noted that the approaches to the bridge would have to accommodate the existing floodwall on the Newport side, which was built after the bridge.

‘Structural art’

The project is what’s called a design-build project, meaning the contractor (PCL Construction) works throughout the process with a design engineer (Stantec) and bridge architect (Rosales + Partners Inc., led by principal Miguel Rosales). They work side-by-side to ensure that designs are feasible from an engineering cost and construction perspective.

Meyer noted that the tagline on the design company’s website,, reads “Bridges as structural art.”

“During the aesthetics committee meeting, Mr. Rosales was able to present images from a dozen bridges he had been engaged in that completely fell within parameters of our expectations, so our hope for a really decent bridge is very high,” he said.

Given the focus on creating a “signature design” (including a possible viewing area “bump out” on the north side of the bridge), and the commitment to safety (which includes separate bike and pedestrian lanes), Meyer said it’s readily apparent that KYTC has been listening to intense local lobbying.

“For our bicycle friends and other advocates, I think we can tell them that this project is going on with full agreement with their wishes,” he said.

‘Bike friendly’

Drivers coming from Newport across the bridge are directed onto Fourth Street in Covington, a one-way street that carries traffic west.

Earlier this year, the City revealed that it had been working with KYTC behind the scenes to study ways to reconfigure Fourth Street from three lanes to two lanes to make way for a dedicated bike lane and wider, more pedestrian-friendly sidewalks.

“Fourth Street is a state route that cuts through the heart of downtown, but it’s perceived as a physical and mental barrier for pedestrians, bicyclists, and others, essentially walling off part of Covington from itself,” City Manager Ken Smith said at the time. “As we reintegrate the 23-acre former IRS site back into the neighborhoods and business districts that surround it, it’s critical that we redesign the look, feel, and function of Fourth Street in order to make that happen.”

For details, see the City’s March 2023 release: “State, City’s vision for 4th Street: More friendly to bikes, pedestrians.”

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