Salvage operations are anticipated to begin Saturday. Foss Maritime, owner of the Delta Mariner, has brought in numerous support vessels and technical salvage equipment in anticipation of debris removal operations.
"The Coast Guard is working closely with Foss Maritime to ensure the safest and most efficient salvage of the ship," said Cmdr. Claudia Gelzer, commanding officer of Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Paducah. "The company is cooperating fully and bringing the appropriate resources to bear in support of the operation. The goal is to free the ship from the bridge span debris and assess damages so it can be repaired and put back into service."
The Coast Guard has been enforcing a safety zone from mile marker 41 to mile marker 43 on either side of the bridge on the Tennessee River to protect the public from the damaged bridge and stricken ship since Jan. 26, 2012. The river was opened to commercial traffic on Jan. 28, 2012, with speed restrictions.
The Coast Guard Cutter Obion and a 25-foot Response Boat-Small and crew from MSU Paducah remain on site to ensure safety of salvage operations. The Coast Guard is working closely with the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and Marshall County Police.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 31, 2012) – A dive team working for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is examining three piers of the U.S. 68/KY 80 bridge over Kentucky Lake today to detect any critical shifting of the pier substructure.
The inspection area includes Pier 6, which may have shifted when a cargo vessel crashed into the 80-year-old bridge Thursday night. A 322-foot span of the bridge was ripped away. Engineers are looking at the lake floor to identify any movement in the mud around the piers. The dive team will not place sensors on the piers at this time.
Earlier, the dive team spent most of the morning using sonar to produce a profile of the lake bottom around the piers to prevent divers from getting entangled in the debris.
“Crews have worked tirelessly around the clock inspecting the bridge’s stability,” said Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock. “Assessing the condition of the piers will help us determine what we can do to restore traffic on U.S. 68 and KY 80. We value the public’s patience and support during this inconvenient time.”
The combined-route highway has been closed since the 8400 ton cargo ship Delta Mariner rammed the bridge, which is between Marshall County and the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in western Kentucky.
The two-lane bridge – formally known as the Eggners Ferry Bridge – 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. Steve 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.
Despite bridge closure, Land Between the Lakes still open
Closure of the bridge does not mean closure of Land Between the Lakes. Travelers wishing to enter and visit the nationally renowned recreation area and nearby Lake Barkley can still do so:
· From east and south – I-24 to Exit 65, then west on U.S.68/80 through Cadiz and Trigg County.
· From north and west – I-24 to Exit 31 or U.S. 62 to Lake City, then south on KY 453 through Grand Rivers and onto The Trace, a scenic roadway that runs the length of the recreation area.
AURORA– The crash of the Delta Mariner knocking out a 322-foot span of the Eggner’s Ferry Bridge has left plenty of questions for motorists and area residents. So far, there aren’t many answers.
Keith Todd with the Department of Transportation said the focus this week is on cleanup of the wreckage and determining to what extent, if any, there has been damage to Pier 6 on the east side of the bridge.A crane has arrived on site to remove the wreckage from the ship.
Members of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet have been on the scene providing advice as to the best way to remove the steel and concrete, but the U.S. Coast Guard is in command of the operation.
“It is a very delicate operation,” Todd said “If the weight were to shift upon removal of the debris it could cause some serious problems.”
Instability continues to remain a concern. According to Todd, a dive team from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) plans to place sensors on a pier of the bridge over Kentucky Lake to help determine how badly it was damaged in Thursday night’s collision. At issue is the bridge pier at the eastern edge of the impact area.
“We have to know for certain whether the pier has been shifted, and if so, whether it is still moving,” Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said Saturday. “That will have a huge influence on our decisions as we weigh the options for restoring traffic on U.S. 68 and KY 80.”
Those options include repairing the existing structure or waiting on the already planned for new four-lane bridge. A ferry boat is also a possible consideration.
“While there would be some problems with running a ferry, we are looking at all options,” Todd said. “What we have to do is take into account the amount of fuel it would take for 2,650 cars (the estimated daily traffic on the bridge) to go around a detour versus the cost of running a ferry. I know the county judges and tourism directors are possibly calling for that option and we are open to that if it’s feasible.”
This week, conditions permitting, a dive team will begin placing sensors on the bottom of the pier. The sensors measure degree of tilt and can detect changes if the pier is moving. Secretary Hancock said it will take a few weeks to collect and analyze the data.
That information could have an impact on which route officials decide to take the project. An unstable peir could eliminate the possibility of repairing the existing structure.
How that will effect the county in the meantime remains unknown.
“When you have 2,800 cars and trucks going across that bridge each day, it’s going to effect us,” said Marshall County Judge Executive Mike Miller. “It’s going to have an economic impact, we just don’t know how much yet. Aurora suffered when Interstate 24 came through. Now, there’s an extra commute.”
Curiosity is also creating an additional workload for law enforcement and transportation workers.
Sunday, highways officials warned the public to stay off the remainder of the bridge due to safety concerns. At one point the Coast Guard reported several hundred people out on the structure.
Police agencies are planning to issue citations to spectators who have made their way onto the US 68/KY Eggners Ferry Bridge today.
“I am very proud of our emergency responders, in particular the Aurora-Ross Fire Department and the Marshall County Rescue Squad,” Miller said. “It just blows my mind how lucky we were that no one drove off that bridge.”