Report: Brookport Bridge to reopen

MICHELE LONGWORTH | Metropolis Planet

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Public Information Officer Keith Todd points out to Massac Emergency Management Agency representative Chris Thompson where contractors have added additional concrete to one of the bridge's piers.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KTC) reports the contractor making repairs to the U.S. 45 Ohio River "Brookport" Bridge, is making good progress on maintenance and repair items. With the maintenance and repair project just past the halfway point, a substantial number of items are completed.

Earlier this summer when work began there were 12 days of rain and KTC Public Information Officer Keith Todd says in spite of that, KTC believes the contractors are ahead of schedule, as he explained during a press conference the afternoon of Aug. 15 held on the Brookport Bridge.

KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Kyle Poat noted that, in spite of some delays due to weather and floodwaters on the Ohio River, the project remains on track for the bridge to reopen in early November - weather permitting.

"Our engineers have continued to work closely with the contractor to work through items on the maintenance and repair list," Poat said, adding, "The contractor has completed repairs to the metal-grated decking, several bridge bearings, and has completed concrete work on pier 13. Even with the rain and high water hampering progress at times, we believe we are well ahead of schedule at this point and may be able to reopen the bridge ahead of the November target date."

Among the main remaining maintenance items is a carbon-fiber wrap to further protect and strengthen new concrete on the piers that were repaired.

Todd explained the Kentucky Transportation Center, which is the research arm of KTC, came up with the process of using carbon fiber wrap to both reinforce and strengthen the concrete on bridge piers. The carbon fiber wrap also serves to protect the pier for the long term.

Todd explains some carbon fiber wrap was installed many years ago on U.S. 60 Cumberland River bridge at Smithland, Kentucky.

Todd said the carbon fiber wrap is the last big item contractors have to work on and weather permitting, the bridge should reopen no later than the Nov. 1 target date.

"It's been here since 1929. It's served us well. The taxpayers have gotten their moneys-worth out of it. It's hard to think that up until the I-24 Bridge was built that this was the only link through here between Kentucky and Illinois. That's kind of hard to imagine now in this day and age," said Todd.

When the bridge reopens, blasting will continue on the former Brookport Dam 52. Todd says KTC has had no communication from U.S. Army Corp of engineers about any potential impact to traffic needing to be stopped during blasting on the dam.

"I've had no communication from them whatsoever indicating that's the case," said Todd.

During the extended closure of the bridge, Poat said the KYTC District 1 bridge engineering staff continues to work on ways to protect the bridge from overweight trucks.

"The bridge is restricted to vehicles no more than 8 ft. wide which primarily limits semi truck traffic and all but a few commercial trucks," Poat noted. "Lowering the weight limit once the bridge reopens is something we are evaluating in an effort to extend the life of the bridge."

KYTC engineers are speaking with area law enforcement agencies about increasing enforcement efforts for restrictions already on the bridge and any restrictions that may be added.

The 90-year old structure was initially closed to vehicles on May 8 when illegal truck traffic created safety issues for workers. The closure was extended when the contractor and inspectors determined that some additional maintenance items were needed, including concrete on three additional piers and a number of steel repair items.

"We're pleased with the progress at this point," Poat said. "We realize that this extended closure for maintenance and repairs has been an inconvenience for our commuters and businesses at each end of the bridge. However, the repairs are necessary to maintain the viability of this river crossing for the long term."

Poat said, at this time, there is no process in place to replace the U.S. 45 Ohio River "Brookport" Bridge. However, the existing bridge will continue to be maintained to current safety standards.

Motorists who normally travel the U.S. 45 Ohio River "Brookport" Bridge between Kentucky and Illinois are using a detour via the Interstate 24 Ohio River Bridge.

Judy C. Harp Company, Inc., is the prime contractor on the original $183,902 bridge maintenance and repair project.

Todd said KTC has added another $200,000 to $300,000 to the original contract, nearly doubling it in order to repair the bridge.

"The whole idea here is to assure that the safety and viability of the bridge can continue on into the long term. We want the bridge to be safe. We want it to be in service. It's been here for awhile. It's kind of like a house of its age. If you've got a 90 year-old house, it requires some maintenance from time to time and this is one of those times when the bridge requires some maintenance," said Todd.

The 10-span structure, also known as the Irvin Cobb Bridge, normally carries approximately 5,000 vehicles across the Ohio River each day between Paducah and Brookport.

Timely traffic advisories for the 12 counties of KYTC Highway District 1 are available by going to www.facebook.com/kytcdistrict1. You do not have to be a Facebook member to access this page.

Navigate traffic with KYTC at goky.ky.gov and at WAZE.com or via the WAZE App.

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