On Friday inspectors completed a check of the west portion of the remaining bridge structure and found it to be stable but deemed the east approach to be possibly unstable and ordered everyone off except for essential personnel.
KYTC traffic crews have completed installing signage to provide a marked detour to help motorists displaced by the closed bridge. The closed bridge turns a 20 mile trip from Aurora to Cadiz into a 64 mile trip.
Meanwhile, engineers have asked emergency management personnel and participating police agencies to take appropriate action to keep the public off the bridge.
The main concern is that people will come out on sight-seeing trips and attempt to get on the bridge for a closer look at the damage. It is unsafe for the public to be on the bridge at this time.
TRIGG COUNTY – Governor Steve Beshear today announced the immediate review of options for restoring the US 68/KY 80 bridge over Kentucky Lake after a large vessel struck the span last night and destroyed a main truss.
Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Mike Hancock will visit the bridge today and talk with local officials about the investigation, alternate routing, and impact on nearby communities.
“We are grateful that this wreck caused no injuries or loss of life. Since that bridge carries 2,800 cars every day, we were very fortunate that no one was on the span at that time,” said Gov. Beshear. “We’ll turn our attention to a full inspection of the bridge and determine what steps we can take next to speed up the replacement of that important artery.”
A cargo ship hit the bridge deck Thursday night, which collapsed across the bow of the cargo ship. The bridge was designed so that if it were struck, only portions of the structure would fail, not the entire bridge. Inspectors estimate the gap in the bridge to be approximately 300 feet wide.
Search teams in boats from the Aurora Fire Department and Marshall County Rescue Squad found no indication that vehicles fell from the bridge when the vessel struck. The U.S. Coast Guard said the ship did not contain hazardous cargo.
Inspectors and emergency responders from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) rushed to the scene. KYTC engineers made a preliminary inspection and began an in-depth inspection this morning. They are evaluating the stability of the remaining parts of the bridge as well as assessing the damage.
“We had already committed in our new six-year highway plan to replace this bridge, because we know what an important route it is for our citizens in western Kentucky,” said Lt. Gov. Abramson. “We will shift our focus to determining how to restore that route as quickly and safely as we can.”
"At this moment, we're assessing the situation to see whether repair is feasible. We also will be exploring whether construction of the new bridge can be accelerated," said Sec. Hancock.
The two-lane bridge – formally the Eggner’s FerryBridge – is at the western entrance to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. It opened to traffic in 1932. Its elevation was raised in 1943 when the Tennessee River was impounded to create KentuckyLake.
On average, the bridge carries approximately 2,800 vehicles across the lake per day. The Transportation Cabinet is in the initial phases of replacing the bridge, along with the nearby bridge over LakeBarkley on the eastern side of Land Between the Lakes. Preconstruction work, including geotechnical drilling, began months ago.
“I appreciate the quick response by the Governor and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to help this situation in western Kentucky,” said Sen. Bob Leeper, of Paducah. “I look forward to working with them to explore all the available possibilities for a solution for the transportation needs of this area.”
“I encourage our citizens to remain calm and patient as our state transportation officials investigate the structure and determine next steps,” said Sen. Ken Winters, of Murray. “I thank the Governor and Transportation Secretary for their immediate attention to this matter, and I hope that they will fully explore many alternatives, even temporary bridges, to best serve the people of western Kentucky.”
"I think Governor Beshear's plan for an immediate review of our available options is an excellent first step in getting this bridge back open,” said Rep. Will Coursey, of Symsonia. “I have been working with House leaders to see what more we can do while we are in legislative session, and want the people to know that the General Assembly stands ready to act."
With loss of the bridge, motorists will be advised to take alternate routes, such as Interstate 24 around the northern end of Land Between the Lakes.
Washington, DC – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following statement Friday regarding the cargo ship accident at the Eggner Ferry Bridge at Kentucky Lake:
“I am thankful that reports indicate no one was injured in last night's cargo ship accident at Eggner Ferry Bridge. My office remains in contact with state officials and I have sent a staff member to the scene to update me. I will continue to closely monitor the situation.”
US Representative Ed Whitfield's office has released a statement concerning last night's collapse of the Eggner's Ferry Bridge.
“I join my fellow Kentuckians in giving thanks that there were no injuries or loss of life from this terrible accident. I will continue to monitor the situation and work to ensure all Federal agencies with jurisdiction remain on top of this incident so that this vital roadway is restored as soon as possible.”
Congressman Whitfield will visit the site later today.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul is also planning to visit the collapse site at 1:00 p.m. C.S.T. according to the Marshall County Judge Executive's office.
In addition, Keith Todd with The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says Mike Hancock, Kentucky's Transportation Secretary is traveling to the accident and should arrive at approximately11:30 a.m. CST.
With the aid of daylight Kentucky Transportation Cabinet engineers are getting a better look at damage to the US 68/KY 80 Eggner's Ferry Bridge over Kentucky Lake at Aurora, KY this morning.
A main span of the bridge was struck by a large cargo vessel about 8:00 p.m., CST, Thursday night. Fortunately, there were no fatalities.
The boat struck Span "E" of the bridge. The span is 322 ft. long.
We will be working with the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers to determine if river traffic can be established under the main channel span. KYTC Engineers should know later today if the structure is stable enough to allow river traffic to resume.
At this time the Coast Guard has halted river traffic at the site.
Update from Chucke Wolfe with the Kentucky Transportation Caninet
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 26, 2012) – A portion of the U.S. 68/KY 80 bridge over Kentucky Lake in far western Kentucky collapsed tonight after being struck by a barge.
Search teams in boats from the Aurora Fire Department and Marshall County Rescue Squad reported no indication that vehicles were on the bridge at the time of the barge strike.
A main truss span collapsed on top of the barge.
Inspectors and emergency responders from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet are enroute to the bridge site.
The two-lane bridge – formally the Eggner’s Ferry Bridge – is at the western entrance to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. It opened to traffic in 1932. Its elevation was raised in 1943 when the Tennessee River was impounded to create Kentucky Lake.
On average, the bridge carries approximately 2,800 vehicles across the lake per day. The bridge is in the process of being replaced by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, along with the nearby bridge over Lake Barkley on the eastern side of Land Between the Lakes.
Update from Keith Todd with The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
Early reports from the Coast Guard are that the Motor Vessel Delta Mariner struck the main span of the US 68/KY 80 Eggners Ferry Bridge at about 8:10 p.m., CST. The pilot reported he was running without any barges in tow at the time. The Captain reported no vehicles were on the bridge at the time of the incident.
He also reported no injuries among the 20 crew members on board the vessel at the time.
The tow boat is afloat and holding position just downstream from the bridge.
The coast Guard has closed Kentucky Lake/The Tennessee River to boat traffic at the site.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has confirmed that a barge has struck the Eggner's Ferry Bridge in Aurora and a portion of the bridge has collapsed. We will provide more details as they become available.