Home » Covington’s ‘Texas Turnaround’ bridge ramp cuts wrecks 41.6%

Covington’s ‘Texas Turnaround’ bridge ramp cuts wrecks 41.6%

In first year, redesign of entrance ramp to Brent Spence delivered on safety promise
Two cars driving the Texas Turnaround’s new loop-shaped bridge amp emerge from under the interstate and prepare to take the entrance ramp near Pike Street, while a photo provided by KYTC (below) shows the required re-construction of the Fifth Street exit ramp in 2022.

COVINGTON, Ky. — Crash statistics show the “Texas Turnaround” is delivering as promised when it comes to improving safety on the Brent Spence Bridge entrance ramp, lowering an average of 36 crashes annually to 21 in its first  year.

The redesign of the Fourth Street entrance ramp onto northbound Interstates 71/75 in Covington was unveiled in December 2022. It uses a new U-shaped collector ramp to move the entrance south and give drivers significantly more time and distance to merge onto the interstate before getting to the narrow-laned, congested bridge.

In the Texas Turnaround’s first year of operation, crashes fell 41.6 percent from the previous year and 42.5 percent from the previous eight-year average, according to the Northern Kentucky office of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, which analyzed Kentucky State Police crash data available on KSP’s website.

KYTC’s analysis looked at northbound I-71/75 between Eighth Street and the Kentucky-Ohio state line. It found:

  • Dec. 6, 2022, to Dec. 6, 2023: 21 crashes (2 injuries).
  • Dec. 6, 2021, to Dec. 6, 2022: 36 crashes (3 injuries).
  • Dec. 6, 2020, to Dec. 6, 2021: 37 crashes (3 injuries).

Similarly, the eight-year average from Dec. 6, 2014, to Dec. 3, 2022, was 36.5 crashes. That time period even included several months in which the bridge was shut down after being damaged in a fiery crash in November 2020 and months in which traffic was slowed and reduced for repainting.

“With safety as our driving force, the Texas Turnaround was an innovative engineering solution that has proven to be effective in both increasing safety and reducing traffic congestion along a high-traffic corridor,” said Bob Yeager, Chief District Engineer of KYTC District 6. “We are grateful for the collaboration and support from our great neighbors at the City of Covington to get the project done.”

KYTC announced the start of construction in March 2022 after awarding a $8.8 million contract to Sunesis Construction. Besides construction of the U-shaped collector ramp that cut under the interstate at Pike Street and looped back to the existing entrance ramp, the new design restriped the travel lanes on I-71/75 northbound to provide an additional travel lane from Pike Street to the Brent Spence Bridge.

Covington Mayor Joe Meyer said the crash statistics after one year are even better than the City hoped when it began lobbying highway officials with the idea in late 2018. Meyer credited the idea for the redesign to homebuilder Greg Fischer, a supporter of Bridge Forward, the advocacy group that has been working for years to mitigate the impact of the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor project on local communities.

“When Greg came to me with the idea as a practical, feasible, cost-effective way to increase safety on the bridge, it just seemed to make a lot of sense,” Meyer said. “These numbers prove the value of the investment, and we think the Turnaround will continue to save lives and property and reduce backups. We appreciate KYTC’s work on making this happen.”

Why the ‘turnaround’?

Under the old design, many of the rear-end crashes and sideswipes on the Brent Spence Bridge happened because drivers entering northbound at Fourth Street who wished to continue on I-75 had little more than the length of the bridge to cut across two lanes of traffic. The sudden weaving action led to slowed traffic, quick stops, backups, and increased likelihood of rear-end collisions.

The Texas Turnaround increased the time and space drivers had to change lanes by shutting the current ramp from Fourth Street to northbound I-71/I-75 and directing drivers to enter the highway at a location further south via a long, continuous (i.e. no stop signs or stoplights) U-shaped ramp.

The future

Meanwhile, the bridge and its approaches on both sides of the river will be dramatically redesigned as part of a $3.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project. The project has multiple parts, including updates to the existing bridge, which was designed to carry 80,000 vehicles a day but carries about twice that … construction of a new companion bridge to the west that will carry regional and national travelers … improvements to 3 miles of roadway in Ohio and 5 miles in Kentucky … plus new amenities such as pedestrian and bike paths along nearby surface streets. Updates to the existing bridge will include reducing the numbers of lanes from four to three in each direction and the restoration of shoulders.

Kentucky and Ohio transportation officials are hoping for a ceremonial groundbreaking this fall, with major construction expected to begin in 2025, at the earliest.

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