(FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 24, 2012) – Gov. Steve Beshear hailed tomorrow's planned reopening of the U.S. 68/KY 80 Eggners Ferry Bridge – a full 2 ½ days ahead of schedule. Hall Contracting of Kentucky Inc. completed the emergency repairs on the bridge earlier than required, and the bridge is expected to reopen to traffic at 1 p.m. CDT Friday.
The Eggners Ferry Bridge, which carries U.S. 68/KY 80 across Kentucky Lake, has been closed since it was struck by a cargo ship, the Delta Mariner, on the night of Jan. 26. A 322-foot-long span of the 80-year-old bridge was torn away.
"When the bridge connection was severed, it was imperative to restore this critical tourism and commerce link in the Kentucky Lake-Lake Barkley region as fast as we could," said Gov. Beshear. "The plan to replace the missing span was aggressive. We are pleased the emergency repairs have finished ahead of schedule and especially by a Kentucky-based company."
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) crews will work late tonight to finalize preparations to reopen the bridge. A paint truck has striped lanes onto the bridge deck, and inspection teams will continue to examine the structure for safety.
KYTC crews will remove dozens of message boards and signs that have helped travelers and commuters negotiate a detour around the closure. The detour included an additional 42 miles of travel to a normal 22-mile trip from Aurora to Cadiz. The final step will be to remove concrete barricades that have kept motorists off the closed structure.
Before the bridge reopens to traffic, the public will be allowed to walk on the bridge, from 9 a.m. to noon Friday.
Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said restoring traffic to the bridge in 121 days took a phenomenal effort.
"We were very fortunate that there was no structural damage to the piers during the January 26 incident. This allowed us to focus on constructing a new span and getting it in place," Hancock said. "It took a lot of cooperation and hard work to make a lot happen in a very short time. Our state highway crews, along with Hall Contracting, deserve the credit in opening this bridge expeditiously."
Crews from Hall Contracting lifted a new truss span into place on Tuesday, May 15. After placing reinforcing steel and forms on the truss, a new concrete deck was poured last Sunday. This week workers concentrated on finishing curbs and removing forms from the structure.
The two-lane Eggners Ferry Bridge, which is the western gateway to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, opened to traffic crossing the Tennessee River in 1932. Its elevation was raised in 1943 when the Tennessee River was impounded to create Kentucky Lake. A KYTC traffic count conducted in 2009 showed 2,650 vehicles per day crossed the bridge.
The Transportation Cabinet is in the process of replacing the bridge, along with the nearby bridge over Lake Barkley on the eastern side of Land Between the Lakes. Preconstruction work, including geotechnical drilling, began months ago.
According to Kentucky's Western Waterland, a regional tourism promotion group, tourism dollars provide a direct annual contribution of $472 million to the region and a direct contribution of $7.4 billion to the Kentucky economy statewide.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet awarded Hall Contracting a $7 million, emergency contract to repair and reopen the bridge by Sunday, May 27 – the midpoint of Memorial Day weekend and the traditional start of the summer tourism season so vital to the Lakes Region of Western Kentucky.
Public invited to tour bridge
The public will be allowed to walk on the bridge from 9 a.m. to noon CDT on Friday, May 25. Officials will hold a brief news conference at noon near the middle of the new span.