Gov. Steve Beshear Thursday announced the award of an emergency contract to repair and reopen the damaged Eggners Ferry Bridge over Kentucky Lake by Memorial Day weekend – saving the crucial summer tourism season for the region around Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. The contract, with a low bid of $7 million, was awarded by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to Hall Contracting of Kentucky Inc. – the company that last month completed repairs ahead of schedule to reopen the Interstate-64 Sherman Minton Bridge in Louisville.
The Eggners Ferry Bridge, which carries U.S. 68 and KY 80 across Kentucky Lake between Marshall and Trigg counties in western Kentucky, has been closed since the night of Jan. 26, when a cargo vessel carrying rocket parts for NASA struck and tore away a 322-foot-long span of the 80-year-old bridge.
“Since the night the bridge was struck and the highway was severed, we have worked with one thought in mind – to get this bridge repaired and Route 68/80 reopened as quickly as possible,” Beshear said in a statement issued by his office. “We have never lost sight of the damage that the loss of this bridge is doing to area businesses and the toll it has taken, in time and fuel costs, on folks who have been forced into long detours to get from one side of the lakes to the other.”
To save valuable time, and shave several months off the project, the Transportation Cabinet opted to make an emergency solicitation rather than go through its customary construction procurement process, in which a project is designed and put out for bids. The cabinet instead invited a select group of prequalified bridge contractors to submit bids by 2 p.m. EST on Wednesday.
Contractors were given access to original design plans and recent inspection reports for the bridge. Each contractor was instructed to submit a lump-sum price that included all costs for engineering, materials, labor and equipment needed for repairing the bridge’s pier caps, replacing the truss span and reopening the bridge. The critical requirement is to reopen the bridge to traffic by Sunday, May 27. The contract includes a penalty of $50,000 per day for missing that deadline.
Two other companies besides Hall Contracting submitted proposals:
· Walsh Contracting, of Crown Point, Ind. – $11.2 million
· C.J. Mahan, of Grove City, Ohio – $11.4 million
The project requires a new asphalt or concrete deck 20 feet wide, comporting with dimensions of the rest of the existing bridge, and a railing system at least as strong as the existing rails. In addition, the truss must be given one primer coat of paint that closely resembles the color of adjacent spans.
The Transportation Cabinet gave serious consideration to adding a ferry service to the area to accommodate traffic, but ultimately chose not to implement it. The bridge carried nearly 2,700 cars per day, and at best, a ferry could carry only 40 cars per hour. This would create an unreasonable bottleneck. Second, a ferry service would likely demand the construction of access roads, as well as possible dredging of the lake to allow the ferry’s safe passage. By the time those accommodations were finished, the bridge would be likely close to completion.
The Eggners Ferry Bridge is obsolete, as is a similarly aged and sized bridge over nearby Lake Barkley. Both are being replaced with four-lane bridges in a project that is still in preconstruction phase. The recommended highway plan that Beshear sent to the General Assembly on Jan. 17 provides $330 million in construction funding for the two bridges combined.