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Brent Spence 1874-1967


Brent Spence, United States Congressman, was born in Newport, Kentucky, on December 24, 1874, the son of Philip and Virginia (Berry) Spence. He received a law degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1894 and was admitted to the bar the same year. Active in local and state politics, Spence served in the Kentucky State Senate from 1904 to 1908. In 1930 he was elected on the Democratic ticket to the United States House of Representatives from the 6th District, serving from March 4, 1931, until January 3, 1963, when failing health forced him to retire. At that time Spence was one of the oldest members to serve in the House. Spence was chairman of the powerful House Banking and Currency Committee from 1943-1964, except for four years when Republicans controlled Congress.

Spence was a strong supporter of the New Deal and the Fair Deal and voted for legislation such as the Agricultural Adjustment Act, the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Social Security Act, and authorization of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. In 1944 he was selected to attend the Bretton Woods conference, which established the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Spence sponsored and successfully led the fight that established the Bretton Woods proposals. Although suffering from poor hearing and eyesight, he provided strong but impartial leadership on the Banking and Currency Committee. A former banker, Spence sponsored legislation that charted the Export-Import Federal Deposit Insurance Act, which doubled insured savings from $5,000 to $10,000.

Spence married Ida Bitterman on September 6, 1919. After leaving Congress, he lived in Fort Thomas until his death on September 18, 1967, and was buried in the Evergreen Cemetery at Southgate, Kentucky.

 

Brent Spence Bridge

The Brent Spence Bridge opened in 1963 as the Ohio River crossing for I-75, the first of four bridges in the Cincinnati area built as part of the Interstate Highway System. The bridge is a typical example of the cantilever truss design, with a main span of 830.5 ft. and two approach spans each measuring 453ft. It was originally built with 6 lanes divided between two 3 lane decks, however the emergency shoulders were eliminated in 1986 and the decks rebuilt with 4 lanes each. Traffic has overwhelmed the bridge for decades and planning is currently underway for its replacement, which will be built sometime after 2010, and is estimated to cost as much as $500 million.

Originally a tunnel was proposed for the river crossing in this spot, as part of the expressway network that Cincinnati designed in 1947 and planned to build with state and local funds before the Federal Interstate Highway Act was passed in 1956. Had the tunnel been built it would likely have been no more than 4 total lanes divided between 2 tubes and the expressway itself would have been built to crude pre-interstate standards. Had it later been designated as interstate 71/75 it would have become quickly overloaded in a similar fashion to Boston's I-93. Had it not been designated an interstate, the tunnel and its primitive expressway would have become a pre-interstate relic in the Cincinnati road network like the Western Hills Viaduct or Columbia Parkway and the city's interstate layout would surely be quite different in the downtown area.