According to a press release from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), a dive team working for KYTC is examining three piers of the U.S. 68/KY 80 bridge over Kentucky Lake 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, ripping away a 322-foot span of the bridge.
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.