MARSHALL-TRIGG COUNTY LINE, KY (KFVS) - The Eggners Ferry Bridge is set to reopen today, two and a half days ahead of schedule.
Hall Contracting of Kentucky Inc. completed the emergency repairs on the bridge earlier than required, and the bridge reopened to traffic at 1:05 p.m. CDT Friday.
The first people across the bridge happened to be the last people who crossed it before the bridge span went down.
At the opening ceremony, Kentucky Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson said getting the bridge reopened to traffic in such a short period is truly remarkable.
"Governor Beshear quickly recognized the importance of this bridge to the region's tourism economy and area commuters," Abramson said. "We made a commitment to get the bridge reopened quickly. The Transportation Cabinet and Hall Contracting executed on that promise. That's worth celebrating."
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.
The public was allowed to walk on the bridge from 9 a.m. to noon Friday before it opens to traffic. It was estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 people walked the bridge, according to KYTC.
There was no structural damage to the piers when it was hit on January 26.
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, according to KYTC. 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 was 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.
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, according to Kentucky's Western Waterland, a regional tourism promotion group.
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.