Update on replacing U.S. 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge

The semi that blocked the Ohio River bridge at Cairo for hours finally makes it to the other side.
Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 6:15 PM CDT
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - The semi that blocked the U.S. 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge for hours finally makes it to the other side. The bridge was closed just after 9 a.m. and reopened after 1 p.m. because the semi flipped on it side on a sharp curve of the bridge on the Kentucky side.

Right now, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is working to replace the more than 80-year-old structure.

Thursday’s wreck highlights has many talking about the long standing need for a new bridge to carry drivers from Wickliffe, Kentucky into Alexander County.

A spokesman with KYTC says they’ve had several crashes over the years at that sharp curve on the Wickliffe side of the bridge.

But, KYTC’s Keith Todd says it’s been quite some time since a semi wreck like the one Thursday morning shutdown the span for several hours.

Todd says the cabinet continues to make repairs to the U.S. 51 bridge to keep it open to traffic, as work continues toward building its replacement.

He tells me the new bridge will be nearly two miles long and be built about 980 feet upstream.

I asked him where they’re at right now in the planning process.

“There’s a lot of work going on right now to help us determine what type of bridge would work best there. A lot of that has to do with the hydrological studies. Also some seismic studies that are ongoing,” said Todd.

Flooding issues where the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers come together are top of mind.

As for the new bridge, Todd expects it to look a whole lot different than the current one. It will have wider lanes and shoulders to accommodate much larger vehicles, including most farm equipment.

“So, there are a lot of moving parts here but things are gradually moving along. And we would hope to have it ready for construction to start maybe in 2025 or 2026. Somewhere in that time range to start construction that would then take three to four years to complete,” said Todd.

He did say the pandemic did slow them down a bit, especially in getting input from the public.

KYTC looks to host a public meeting later this fall to update everyone on the massive project.

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