PADUCAH, KY (KFVS) - The US 45 Ohio River “Brookport” Bridge reopened on Sept. 18 at noon.
This is more than a month ahead of schedule.
According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, maintenance and repair work is nearing completion.
It was originally scheduled to stay closed until November 1 for the repairs.
As the contractor works on some final items, KYTC crews are working on enhanced traffic restrictions and a new load limit to eliminate illegal truck traffic and farm equipment from the bridge.
Restrictions have been added to eliminate illegal truck traffic
New signs were installed on approaches to the bridge indicating a 15-ton load limit and two new 9.5-foot barriers are being built at each end of the bridge to keep vehicles over that height off of it.
KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Kyle Poat said progress on items and finishing some additional maintenance helped them get a better approximation of an opening date.
“We‘ve had a paint truck refresh traffic striping on the bridge, we’ve had a guardrail contractor checking on and repairing guardrail, we’ve had KYTC maintenance personnel cutting brush along the Kentucky approach, we have our sign crew preparing and installing signs, and we are finishing construction of a barricade at each end of the bridge to exclude illegal trucks,” Poat said. “We are also working on permanent gates that will allow us to close the bridge when it ices over during winter weather. Work on all of these items and a number of other maintenance efforts will continue right up until traffic is restored.”
The contractor has some work below the bridge deck that still needs to be done. Rather than keeping the bridge closed for several more weeks, KYTC engineers have worked out a plan to allow the contractor to return to complete that work in about three weeks.
It is possible this phase of work can be completed with only intermittent daytime lane restrictions.
Poat reiterated 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.
“As we said last week, if your vehicle is more than eight feet wide, if you are pulling a trailer hauling much more than a riding lawn mower, if it weighs more than 15-tons, you should find a different route to cross the Ohio River Bridge between Illinois and Kentucky,” Poat said.
On Thursday, August 15, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet announced a contractor is making “good progress” on maintenance and repair items on the bridge. They said while the project is just past the halfway point, several items are completed.
KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Kyle Poat noted that, in spite of some delays due to weather and flooding on the Ohio River, the project remains on track for the bridge to reopen in early November, weather permitting.
Among the maintenance items remaining is a carbon-fiber wrap to further protect and strengthen new concrete on the piers that were repaired.
The bridge was first closed to vehicles on Wednesday, May 8 when illegal truck traffic created safety issues for workers. The closure was extended to up to 30 days when the contractor and inspectors determined that more work would be required.
On Wednesday, June 5, the KYTC announced the closure was extended again.
While maintenance and repair has been ongoing, KYTC said the contractor and inspectors performed an additional study of the bridge piers and determined a widening of the concrete repairs will be required on one pier, along with the addition of concrete repairs on two other piers.
“Our bridge engineers worked closely with the contractor to extend the scope of the original maintenance and repair list,” KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Kyle Poat said. “Accommodating that extra work means what we had hoped would be about a 30-day closure would become about a six-month closure. We understand the inconvenience to commuters, but adding these needed repairs to an existing project ensures we’re addressing key repair items as efficiently as possible."
Drivers who normally take the US 45 Ohio River “Brookport” Bridge between Kentucky and Illinois should detour via the Interstate 24 Ohio River Bridge until further notice.
According to KYTC, the bridge is restricted to vehicles no more than 8-feet wide, which prohibits most commercial trucks from crossing.
They say the contractor had a number of issues with trucks wider than that crossing the bridge and driving through the work zone, which created safety issues for workers involved in the bridge maintenance and repair.
Officials said violators of the previous load limit and 8 ft. vehicle width restriction have 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 KYTC will continue to evaluate ways to take a more aggressive approach to excluding illegal commercial trucks from the 90-year-old structure.
The original project would cost $183,902. According to KYTC, the maintenance and repair project increased to about $400,000.
The 10-span bridge, also known as the Cobb Bridge, carries about 5,000 vehicles across the river each day between Paducah, Ky. and Brookport, Ill. It originally opened to traffic in 1929.