As maintenance and repair work continues to progress on the U.S. 45 Ohio River "Brookport" Bridge at Paducah, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) has taken action to eliminate illegal truck traffic on the structure in the future.
New signs will be installed on approaches to the bridge indicating a 15-ton load limit, reiterating the strict 8-foot load width and a new 9.5-foot barrier is being designed for the end of the bridge to specifically exclude vehicles over that height.
The bridge has been closed since May 8 to allow a contractor to complete about $400,000 in maintenance and repair items, including three new concrete pier caps with a protective carbon fiber wrap. Work is on track to allow the bridge to reopen well before the Friday, Nov. 1 target completion date.
KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Kyle Poat noted trucks have commonly disregarded the maximum 8-foot load width restriction on the bridge and the existing 31-ton weight restriction. That has prompted a more aggressive approach to protect and preserve the bridge.
"When the bridge reopens, additional restrictions and barriers will be in place to eliminate all truck traffic," Poat said. "Our goal is to protect the bridge for the long-term and preserve it so that it safely serves the most people for the longest time possible."
KYTC engineers drew up the additional restrictions after conversations with law enforcement and with assistance from the Illinois Department of Transportation.
"As we reviewed issues with oversized and overweight vehicles on the bridge, we concluded the existing restrictions that should have automatically excluded most commercial trucks were violated daily," Poat said. "The new restrictions and height barricade are an enhanced effort to exclude all inappropriate traffic from the bridge."
Poat reiterated there is no process in place to replace the bridge, increasing the need for additional restrictions to maintain safety and serviceability of the structure for the long-haul.
While maintenance and repair work on the bridge continues, motorists traveling between Kentucky and Illinois continue to detour via the Interstate 24 Ohio River Bridge at Paducah.
"If your vehicle is more than eight feet wide, if you are pulling a trailer hauling much more than a riding lawn mower, you should probably use the I-24 Ohio River Bridge to cross between Illinois and Kentucky," Poat said. "We need for people who regularly commute across the Brookport Bridge to buy into this and help us preserve this bridge well into the future."
Many border bridges are jointly owned and funded by the connecting states. The Brookport Bridge came into the highway system prior to those agreements, so it is wholly owned and maintained by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The 10-span structure, also known as the Irvin Cobb Bridge, carries approximately 5000 vehicles across the Ohio River each day between Paducah and Brookport.
Judy C. Harp Company Inc. is the prime contractor on the $400,000 maintenance and repair project.