Gov. Steve Beshear Thursday announced that the Federal Highway Administration has approved $9 million in emergency relief funding for the repair and reopening of the Eggners Ferry Bridge, which carries U.S. 68 and KY 80 across Kentucky Lake. “We appreciate the support of our partners at FHWA to help us in getting the bridge repaired and averting a potential disaster for our tourism industry in the Western Kentucky Lakes Region,” Beshear said in a statement released by his office.
Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said the state had sufficient funds to make the necessary emergency repairs, but the federal funding would ensure that state funds remained available for other projects.
“This means that work to restore this important connection across Kentucky Lake will not delay other highway improvement projects where state funds have been committed,” Hancock said.
A 322-foot span of the 80-year-old bridge was mangled and knocked off the structure when an 8,200-ton cargo vessel, the Delta Mariner, struck the bridge the night of Jan. 26.
Hall Contracting of Kentucky Inc. was awarded a $7 million emergency contract to replace the missing span. Engineers are finalizing detailed plans required for fabrication of steel components, according to a state press release.
Hall Contracting has committed to restoring U.S. 68/KY 80 traffic on the bridge by Memorial Day weekend – a critical time for Western Kentucky’s lakes region, which depends heavily on summer tourism. Last month, Hall Contracting completed repairs ahead of schedule to reopen the Interstate 64 Sherman Minton Bridge in Louisville.
About 2,600 vehicles per day used the Eggners Ferry bridge, which serves as the western entrance to Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area, a major regional tourist attraction. Closure of the bridge added a 42-mile detour via I-24 to a normal 22-mile trip from Aurora to Cadiz along U.S. 68/KY 80.
The Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the allision of ship and bridge.
Hall Contracting plans to run a crew of about 40 around the clock to meet the repair deadline. The company faces a $50,000 per day penalty for failing to meet the May 27 target date for restoring traffic.
The project requires construction of a 20-foot-wide deck that meets dimensions of the existing bridge and railings. In addition, the replacement truss will be painted to closely resemble the color of the existing spans.
Plans to replace the Eggners Ferry Bridge and a companion bridge over nearby Lake Barkley with a basket-handle tied arch design are in the pre-construction phase. Beshear’s Recommended Highway Plan provided $330 million in construction funding for the two bridges. The proposed plan is currently before the Kentucky General Assembly.