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Drones aid in Brent Spence Bridge inspection

Commercial trucks asked to stick to detours instead of continuing into downtown Covington
A screen grab from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Brent Spence Bridge drone video

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet deployed the use of drones on the Brent Spence Bridge to aid inspectors in collecting preliminary visual inspection images following the bridge closure on Nov. 11 after a truck crash and fire. Drones were brought in to aid inspection efforts before inspectors could access the bridge due to the large amounts of debris.

“The Cabinet has embraced the use of drones to provide another set of eyes to quickly and safely inspect structures for routine work and emergency events,” said Transportation Secretary Jim Gray.

KYTC drone pilots and drone teams from Palmer Engineering and Burgess and Niple were on site at the bridge to deploy drones to capture high-quality footage. Although only a portion of the bridge has fire damage, the entire bridge was inspected to check for any residual impacts. Drones flew the entire truss of the bridge to check for steel member alignment, including areas inside and outside the heat-affected zone. They provided up-close imaging as well as full views of the bridge.

A screen grab from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Brent Spence Bridge drone video

“Drones give us the ability to access difficult to reach areas, give us a way to initially assess the extent of damage, and help us see the structure as a whole. We’ve used drones in a variety of ways to supplement bridge inspection,” said KYTC Chief Bridge Inspector James Edmunds.

The use of drones will continue as repairs begin to document inspections conducted by rope, man lift, snooper and other inspection practices. Over the past two years, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) has expanded its drone use statewide to aid in inspection efforts.

Gray signed an order last week encouraging drivers of commercial trucks traveling north on Interstate 71/75 to stick to signed detours while the Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River is closed.

Northbound commercial vehicles heading to Ohio are directed to detour onto I-275 toward alternative crossings. However, some through-drivers continue north on I-71/75 into downtown Covington, creating gridlock on local streets.

“The intention is not to penalize drivers but to prohibit large trucks from clogging local streets, creating traffic hazards and congestion,” Gray said. “Diverting drivers onto our established detours will keep traffic flowing as smoothly as possible during this limited bridge closure.”

Gray’s order, which will remain in effect until the bridge is reopened, and which exempts trucks making local deliveries, empowers law enforcement officers to prohibit commercial vehicles from bypassing the detour. Violators can be ticketed.

However, “we’re not looking for penalties,” Secretary Gray said. “We’re looking for cooperation.”

The Brent Spence Bridge normally carries about 160,000 vehicles a day across the Ohio River.