With work almost complete on a $400,000 maintenance and repair project on the U.S. 45 Ohio River “Brookport” Bridge at Paducah, the bridge is reopening to traffic more than month ahead of the original November 1 target date. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet engineers plan to reopen the bridge at 12 Noon, today, following a flurry of work to add restrictions to prohibit illegal truck traffic and farm equipment from the bridge.
New signs have been installed on approaches to the bridge indicating a 15-ton load limit, reiterating the strict 8-foot load width, and two new 9-foot 6 inch barriers are prominent features at each end of the bridge to specifically exclude vehicles over that height.
The new restrictions are aimed at preserving safety and longevity of the bridge for commuters by limiting the bridge mostly to passenger vehicles.
While KYTC personnel have completed a substantial number of maintenance and traffic restriction items while the bridge has been closed, engineers huddled this morning and determined that the remaining items on the list can be completed with work zone lane restrictions in coming weeks. The contractor on the bridge maintenance and repair project will also return to the bridge in a few weeks for some finish work that will require brief traffic restrictions.
KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Kyle Poat said while there was a desire to complete the remaining work, he did not want to further inconvenience regular commuters who depend on the bridge..
On September 5th, Poat noted that truck drivers and farm equipment operators have commonly disregarded the maximum 8-foot load width restriction and the previous weight restriction, prompting a more aggressive approach to protect and preserve the bridge.
While most trucking companies and truck drivers have obeyed the previous load limit and 8 ft. vehicle width restriction, some have not. Violators prompted a number of additional restrictions including:
· 9 ft. 6-inch maximum vehicle height restriction with a barricade at each end of the bridge
· 15 ton load limit
· 8 ft. maximum vehicle width
· No permitted loads
· 25 mile per hour speed limit
Poat said the restrictions and barriers are designed to eliminate illegal truck traffic to maintain safety and preserve the bridge structure into the future. Like the previous restrictions, these are clearly marked by multiple signs along U.S. 45 as you approach the bridge.
The restrictions mean the U.S. 45 Ohio River “Brookport” Bridge at Paducah will continue to be unavailable for use as a truck detour during incidents that close the I-24 Ohio River Bridge between Paducah and Metropolis.
Poat stressed that there is no process in place to replace the U.S. 45 Ohio River “Brookport” Bridge, enhancing the need for restrictions to maintain safety and serviceability of the structure into the future.
KYTC engineers have consulted with emergency agencies to assure an appropriate response can be maintained whenever there is a crash or other incident on the bridge. The Illinois Department of Transportation is assisting with placement of additional signage along the southbound lane of U.S. 45 north of Brookport.
Most border bridges are jointly owned by the states they connect. The U.S. 45 Ohio River “Brookport” Bridge came into the highway system prior to those agreements, so it is solely owned and maintained by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The 10-span structure, also known as the Irvin Cobb Bridge, carries approximately 5,000 vehicles across the Ohio River each day between Paducah, Ky., and Brookport, Ill. Engineers anticipate that traffic count will decrease once illegal truck traffic is eliminated by the new barricade.
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.