CINCINNATI (AP) -- Kentucky and Ohio will get more than $1.63 billion in federal grants to help build a new Ohio River bridge near Cincinnati and improve the existing overloaded span there, a heavily used freight route linking the Midwest and the South, officials announced Thursday.
Congestion at the Brent Spence Bridge on Interstates 75 and 71 has for years been a frustration for travelers, a bottleneck on a key shipping corridor and thus a symbol of the nation's growing infrastructure needs. Officials say the bridge was built in the 1960s to carry around 80,000 vehicles a day but has seen double that traffic load on its narrow lanes, leading the Federal Highway Administration to declare it functionally obsolete.
The planned project covers about 8 miles (12 kilometers) and includes improvements to the bridge and some connecting roads and construction of a companion span nearby. The two states coordinated to request funding under the bipartisan infrastructure deal signed last year by President Joe Biden, a Democrat who had touted the project while the legislation was under consideration.
The companion bridge "will be one of the bill's crowning accomplishments," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement Thursday.
Kentucky's Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear called the funding "one of the largest grants in U.S. history" and said it will help build the new bridge without tolls.
Officials anticipate breaking ground in late 2023 and hope to have much of the work done by 2029.
"Ohio and Kentucky have been discussing the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project for almost two decades, and now, we can finally move beyond the talk and get to work," said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, in a statement.
Ohio and Kentucky are also spending state dollars on the project. Its estimated total price tag has grown to about $3.6 billion because of inflation and rising construction costs, officials said.