The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is seeking information about damage that occurred to the Brookport Bridge sometime last week.
The structural damage prompted engineers to restrict the bridge to a 20-ton load limit effective immediately.
Inspectors went to the bridge Wednesday to check on a report that a section of railing had been damaged. When they arrived they found something had hit a portion of the bridge superstructure.
“The Brookport Bridge was opened to traffic in 1929. For many years it has been restricted to vehicles no more than 8 feet wide due to the limited deck width,” said KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Mike McGregor. “We believe it is likely that a truck crossed the bridge with an oversized load and struck the bridge support beam.”
Based on the damage assessment, McGregor said the driver of the vehicle would have known he or she hit something.
“It is alarming that someone would hit the bridge structure and not report it to 911 immediately,” McGregor noted. “While several photos of the railing were posted to social media, there were no calls about the damage to McCracken 911 Dispatch or any of our facilities.”
The damaged beam is on the upstream side of the second span from the Kentucky shore. Several additional structural members along the northbound lane showed signs of being hit.
“This is part of a larger issue of truckers not obeying weight and load width restrictions,” McGregor said. “While most truckers are honest and try to follow the law, all it takes is a few who run overweight or travel routes where they aren’t supposed to be to cause major damage to our infrastructure.”
The damage occurred to a “compression member” of the structure. Had the damage been to a “tension member” of the structure it could have caused a failure of the span similar to the May 23, 2013, collapse of the Skagit River Bridge near Burlington, Wash.
With the 8-feet width restriction and 20-ton load limit on the Brookport Bridge traffic will be restricted to nothing larger than a small box truck.
“In addition to the posting of the 20-ton weight limit at the end of the bridge, we are asking for additional enforcement to assure that trucks stay off the bridge,” McGregor said. “We are also asking for anyone with information about the damage to come forward. This bridge has served this region well for 85 years, and this one incident could have forced the bridge to close or worse.”
The U.S. 45 Ohio River Bridge is scheduled to be closed for about a month this summer to allow the City of Paducah to construct a tunnel under U.S. 45 for the Greenway Trail. KYTC engineers plan to use that closure to further evaluate the damaged beam and plan any needed repairs.