LOUISVILLE (AP) — A damaged bridge linking Ohio and Kentucky is scheduled to reopen Dec. 23, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said in a virtual briefing Monday.

The announcement comes days after the Brent Spence Bridge was closed after two trucks collided last Wednesday, resulting in a blaze that damaged a 200-foot (61-meter) section of the structure. No injuries were reported.

Beshear, a Democrat, said the fire did not impact the overall integrity of the bridge, and that he anticipated the repair work would begin quickly once a contractor is selected.

“This damage could have been far worse,” he added. “We had a sturdy bridge before the crash on Wednesday, and we will have one again."

Twelve million dollars in federal emergency funds will go toward removing and replacing damaged concrete in the bridge's upper deck, as well as installing new steel beams, said Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray.

Gray also noted the primary issue with the Brent Spence Bridge is not the structural damage sustained by last week's accident, but the amount of traffic that exceeds what the 56-year-old bridge was originally built to support.

“Clearly, a companion bridge is needed,” Gray said. “The bridge was designed to carry (80,000) to 100,000 vehicles a day; it now carries twice that amount.”

Both Kentucky officials urged motorists to have patience with long detours and increased traffic. The bridge’s closure has forced many to find alternative routes to travel to and from downtown Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.

“This was a major accident, with an incredibly hot fire,” Beshear said. “You’re going to have to go through longer commutes — plan for it, prepare for it.”

Hudspeth Blackburn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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