It’s Old, It’s Treacherous
New Brent Spence Bridge Long Overdue

In the middle of a recent Friday morning rush hour, Abdoulaye Yattara did the unthinkable — he ran out of gas on the southbound deck of the Brent Spence Bridge.

Without an emergency lane available on the bridge for stopping, the 42-year-old Yattara began pushing his car across the span. A Good Samaritan pulled up behind Yattara’s car and, trying to shelter him from oncoming traffic, turned on his emergency flashers. Just as Yattara approached the Samaritan’s car to thank the driver, a third car slammed into both of them.

The impact from the collision tossed Abdoulaye Yattara off the bridge. He fell 80 feet to his death in the Ohio River.

The accident presented a shocking visual to local commuters who use the bridge on a regular basis. The unspeakable horror was felt by every person who has dodged a car or a falling piece of concrete on the Brent Spence Bridge.

Politicians were quick to react. Kentucky’s gubernatorial candidates sprang into action and immediately called for an investigation into traffic backups at the NASCAR race in Sparta.

President Barack Obama stood in front of the bridge and cracked jokes about Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Sadly, Abdoulaye Yattara was not the first person killed on the Brent Spence Bridge.

There have been several others who died because of the lack of emergency lanes.

The death that has remained in my memory is that of Gentry Aubrey, a 24-year-old student at Chase Law School. Aubrey died on the bridge in February 2004 in an accident days before the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce went to Washington to lobby for the funds necessary to build a new bridge. I was on that trip.

On the day we spoke to our federal officials about funding bridge replacement, the Aubrey family buried their son.

“That’s the kind of life that’s snuffed out on an old bridge,” says Gentry’s stepfather. “They can tell that story in Washington.”

We did … but I apologize. It didn’t work. The bridge still hasn’t been built.

Because of our failure you can add the name of Abdoulaye Yattara to the list of the “kind of life that’s snuffed out on an old bridge.”

Northern Kentuckians need to draw a line in the sand. It’s time we insist that the federal government stand by its obligation to maintain our interstate road system. Appropriate the funds and cut the bureaucratic red tape necessary for approval. The original Brent Spence Bridge was built in less than four years.

Today, it takes twice that long just to do the studies necessary to start the actual approval process.

The time for talking is over.

In fact, the next time a politician wants to talk about replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge, let’s hold the press conference during morning rush hour in the always-busy right-hand, northbound lane.

We’ll put the lectern right in front of a disabled vehicle.