Speaking Wednesday morning from the Trigg County side of Eggner's Ferry Bridge, Governor Steve Beshear promised quick action on restoring the crossing, whether by a temporary fix of the bridge itself or via a ferry or ferries across Kentucky Lake.
“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,” Beshear said. “Our engineers are working non-stop on plans to get traffic safely restored.”
The state is looking at the piers to make sure they're safe enough for a repair of the bridge. Beshear said they'll have more information in about a couple of weeks, but so far, they don't seem to have found any problems with the piers.
However, added Beshear, they'll probably need two more piers to safely repair the bridge. He further stated that anything installed or built in the lake, like bridge piers or docks for a ferry, will probably require approval from the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or 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,” Beshear said.
If the bridge – which crosses Kentucky Lake from Trigg County to Marshall County along U.S. 68/Ky. 80 – is repaired, it will continue to be a two-lane bridge, the Governor said.
For the time being, the state is going to eat the cost of the repairs and any other actions required to re-establish the crossing, but if Foss Maritime – the owner of the M/V Delta Mariner – is found to be liable for the accident, the state will look to them for reimbursement, said Beshear.
That comment was made after a question about Foss Maritime's lawsuit, filed this week in federal court. Foss Maritime denies responsibility for the accident, alleging that part of the bridge was dark.
However, the U.S. Coast Guard's investigation of the incident has not yet been concluded, said Beshear, who didn’t know when that investigation would be complete.
Officials with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KyTC) said they are still 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, KyTC officials have stated.
Beshear’s recommended six-year 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.
He said the new Kentucky Lake bridge probably won’t be built on the site of the Eggner’s Ferry bridge, but did say he wants it to be built and completed by the end of his second term.
The bridge has been out since the Delta Mariner struck it while trying to cross under the recreational span. The 312-foot-long ship, which was carrying rocket parts to Cape Canaveral, took a 322-foot part of the span with it.