MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY (KFVS) - The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has arranged for emergency demolition of the old U.S. 60 bridge over the Tennessee River between McCracken and Livingston Counties.
They say the Old Ledbetter Bridge, closed to traffic since July 2013, has become unstable because of land slippage along the McCracken County river bank following heavy rains on April 29.
A joint venture of Haydon Bridge Co. and Kay and Kay Construction Co., which built the New U.S. 60 Tennessee River Bridge, will carry out demolition of the old structure under a change order to its contract. The company is completing finish work on the new bridge.
The negotiated price of the demolition will be $5.62 million. The contractor is to begin work immediately, with the first step being to mobilize equipment and conduct a thorough engineering analysis.
While the main truss spans of the old bridge are stable, two approach spans have dropped about 2 feet due to slippage of the ground under their piers.
"Quick action is needed, and this is the fastest way to eliminate a potential hazard to river traffic," said State Highway Engineer Steve Waddle.
A schedule for the project calls for crews to spend four weeks removing the bridge deck, beginning about June 10. Next would be removal of the steel truss, requiring most of July. Support piers would be cleared by the end of August. All work, including debris cleanup and demobilization, would be completed by Dec. 1.
After receiving a report that two west-end approach spans had dropped, KYTC inspectors found that a landslide had occurred and had caused the bases of two approach piers on the McCracken County side to move.
Due to concern about possible damage to the main truss spans, the U.S. Coast Guard closed the river to marine traffic until inspectors determined that the main spans were safe. River traffic resumed with an advisory that boats should avoid stopping along the bluff near the bridge.
The Old Ledbetter Bridge opened to traffic in 1931. It was reduced to a 3-ton load limit in January 2012, which led to expedited opening of the new bridge on July 31, 2013.
KYTC engineers and inspectors say they've seen additional movement in west approach spans on the Old Ledbetter Bridge.
KYTC personnel on Thursday are installing a seismic sensor on the approach spans. They will likely be on-site a couple of hours. USGS personnel are surveying the land slip.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet engineers and inspectors say the have detected an additional inch of movement in west approach spans on the Old Ledbetter Bridge since Tuesday, May 14.
The approach spans have moved about 3.25 inches total in the last three days. There has also been additional movement of soil along the bluff near the bridge on the McCracken County side of the Tennessee River.
According to KYTC Spokesman Keith Todd, the Kentucky Transportation Research Center is sending a seismic sensor that to the bridge. That is in order to alert inspectors to any substantial shift in the sagging approach spans.
"We expect to have the sensor on site for installation sometime Thursday. Nearby resident Bill Schroeder has offered to temporarily supply power to the sensor until it can be attached to a more permanent power supply," Todd said.
The continued movement of the approach prompted engineers to increase a number of ongoing activities:
- Regular monitoring of the approach spans for additional movement
- Placement of a seismic sensor on the approach spans (Likely Thursday)
- Placement of solar powered navigation lights on the main span and piers in case an approach span collapse cuts power to the bridge
- Continued negotiations with contractors in an effort to expedite demolition of the bridge
- Continued communication with the US Coast Guard about developments at the site
- Continued interaction with McCracken County Emergency Management
"First, we want to again urge the public to avoid areas beneath the approach spans on the McCracken County side of the river. Second, we will be placing solar powered navigation lights on the main truss spans and piers in case power to the existing lights should be cut by an additional drop in the approach spans. Third, we are continuing negotiations with contractors in an effort to expedite demolition of the bridge," McGregor said.
Engineers are continuing to monitor the approach spans for movement.
Officials say a team is prepared to immediately check the main spans of the structure from the Livingston County end of the bridge to assure it is safe for passing river traffic.
And, they've been in regular contact with the U.S. Coast Guard and McCracken County Emergency Management about the bridge and the land slippage along the bluff.
According to McCracken County Emergency Management Director Jerome Mansfield, no evacuation of homes along the bluff has been ordered.
Residents have been alerted to the land slippage - and have been asked to report anything unusual that might indicate additional movement of land along the bluff.
Officers have placed caution tape along the Tennessee River shoreline to keep people away from the slumping approach spans and leaning piers.
Sheriff Jon Hayden has said the public should avoid the area along the bluff near the bridge.
Transportation Cabinet officials in Frankfort have been in negotiations aimed at expediting demolition of the bridge, likely starting with the ailing west approach spans.
With the recent landslides in Washington State, and the sinkhole that developed under the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky and several sinkholes and landslides around the region, officials want residents of the area near the Old Ledbetter Bridge to be alert for any additional signs of land movement.
KYTC officials expedited construction of the new bridge and it opened to traffic on July 31, eleven months ahead of schedule.