From the office of the Governor:
Gov. Steve Beshear today took a firsthand look at the damaged Eggners Ferry Bridge and said getting traffic restored across Kentucky Lake is among his highest priorities.
“We are keenly aware of the inconvenience for travelers and the economic hardship that has been created for many business owners because of the sudden loss of this route across Kentucky Lake,” Gov. Beshear said. “Our engineers are working non-stop on plans to get traffic safely restored.”
The Eggners Ferry Bridge, which carries U.S. 68/KY 80 across Kentucky Lake, has been closed since it was rammed 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.
Since the crash, engineers and inspectors from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) have been examining and monitoring remaining piers and bridge spans to determine their stability. “That work continues, and everything hinges on it,” Gov. Beshear said.
The Governor said options being explored include securing a temporary ferry service while repairs are made to the bridge. The cabinet has two engineering consultants – Michael Baker Inc. and URS – working simultaneously on repair options for multiple scenarios, including a need to add temporary bridge piers.
Anything installed or built in the lake, such as bridge piers or docks for a ferry, likely would require approval from the Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Gov. Beshear said U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and Congressman Ed Whitfield have offered to seek expedited approval of necessary permits. “This is a bipartisan effort to speed relief to people in the Jackson Purchase and Pennyrile region,” Gov. Beshear said.
KYTC crews have worked around the clock since the crash of the vessel Delta Mariner.
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. Its elevation was raised in 1943 when the Tennessee 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 is 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. Gov. Beshear’s recommended highway plan, which he sent to the General Assembly on Jan. 17, contains $165 million in construction funding for a new Kentucky Lake bridge from 2013 through 2015.
With closure of the bridge, KYTC has posted signs to detour through-traffic onto Interstate 24, which circles north of Land Between the Lakes. Motorists also can get around Land Between the Lakes via U.S. 62 on the northern end and KY 121 – becoming Tennessee 119 – on the south.