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
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
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.