AURORA – The U.S. Hwy. 68/Ky. 80 Eggners Ferry Bridge reopened to traffic at 1:05 p.m., Friday, more than two days ahead of schedule. Hall Contracting of Kentucky Inc. completed emergency repairs on the bridge earlier than required and returned control of the bridge to Kentucky Transportation Cabinet engineers. Highway crews worked into the night Thursday, and then were back on the bridge at daylight Friday morning to complete all of the finish work required to get the bridge open.
Before the bridge reopened to traffic, the public was allowed access to the bridge from 9 a.m. to 12 Noon. Transportation officials estimate between 2,000 and 3.000 people took advantage of the unique opportunity to walk and bike across the bridge.
The Eggners Ferry Bridge, which carries U.S. 68/KY 80 across Kentucky Lake, was struck by the cargo ship Delta Mariner the night of Jan. 26th, taking out A 322-foot-long span of the 80-year-old structure.
During a brief opening ceremony, Kentucky Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson noted that 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.”
In addition to cleaning the bridge deck, a member of the Marshall County Highway Crew had to remove a swarm of bees that settled on the bridge and threatened to put a damper on the festive mood. Highway crews also had to remove dozens of detour signs and a half-dozen message boards that have helped travelers and commuters negotiate a 64 mile detour around the closure. The detour added 42 miles to a normal 22-mile trip from Aurora to Cadiz.
Following a noon news conference to celebrate the opening, pedestrians and bicyclists were asked to exit the deck to allow traffic to be restored. About a half-hour later, a pickup truck driven by Robert Parker was among the first vehicles to cross. Parker and his wife were driving across the bridge the night of the incident that severed the 322 ft. span.
During a 1 hour visit to the site earlier in the day, Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said restoring traffic to the bridge in 120 days took a phenomenal effort.
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 serves as the western gateway to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. The bridge opened to traffic crossing the Tennessee River in 1932. 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 cross the bridge in an average day.
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.
According to Kentucky’s Western Waterland, a regional tourism promotion group, 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.