“This is a very positive step in our efforts to make a temporary repair that will allow us to restore traffic across Kentucky Lake,” said Gov. Beshear, who got a firsthand look at the damage on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
“From the beginning, our engineers, working with expert consultants whom we brought in, have been planning for repairs under multiple scenarios,” Gov. Beshear said. “But now we have a better idea of exactly what we are dealing with.”
The 80-year-old Eggners Ferry Bridge carries U.S. 68/KY 80 across Kentucky Lake. The bridge provides the western entrance to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (LBL), one of Kentucky’s most important tourism sites.
A 322-foot span of the bridge was destroyed when struck by an 8,600-ton cargo ship on the night of Jan. 26. Gov. Beshear told area residents and officials during his visit on Wednesday that the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is moving toward the use of a ferry service during the several months it will take to install a replacement span.
The administration had already launched a project to replace the obsolete Eggners Ferry Bridge and a similarly aged and obsolete bridge over Lake Barkley, on the other side of LBL. The recommended highway plan that Gov. Beshear sent to the General Assembly on Jan. 17 provides $330 million in construction funding, but it will take years to complete two new, four-lane bridges.
Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said results of the emergency underwater inspection were encouraging to KYTC engineers.
“We’re still gathering information on the bridge piers. But the engineering dive team found that the base of the bridge structure is substantially sound,” Secretary Hancock said. “With the existing piers as a sound starting point, this should help simplify efforts to replace the missing truss and deck section taken out by the ship.”
A four-person team contracted from Chicago-based Collins Engineers Inc. performed a detailed visual and tactile examination of the accessible surfaces of three piers – Nos. 5, 6 and 7 – near the impact area. The team, including three engineer-divers, used high-resolution acoustic imaging equipment to check for impact damage and also to map the channel bottom around each pier.
Jim LeFevre, Chief District Engineer for Department of Highways District 1, said the combination of sonar scans and up-close examination by the divers provided information that will be valuable for engineers as efforts to repair the bridge move forward.
“In the week after the crash, we developed about six options that we thought were viable,” LeFevre said. “We’ve taken the approach that the physical condition of the piers and the remaining bridge structure would point us to the best of those options as we move forward. This information, added to information gleaned from ongoing inspections and laser monitoring, is very valuable.”
The inspection team report said Piers 5, 6 and 7 are in “fair condition from the waterline to the channel bottom.”
“Piers 5, 6 and 7 of the ... bridge showed no signs of significant damage below water as a result of the ship collision,” the report said. However, the pier cap – a horizontal concrete beam that helps support the bridge deck, was damaged when the truss span was torn away and will need to be repaired if the truss span is to be replaced, the report said.
The team recommended that the piers be closely monitored for rotation or settlement with the use of survey methods including benchmark points and 3D laser scanning. The team also said the piers should undergo another underwater inspection in at least two years.