WICKLIFFE, Ky. — A contractor for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet plans to restrict traffic — including tractor trailers — on the U.S. Highway 51 Ohio River Bridge starting promptly at 9 a.m. CDT on Monday.
The work zone with a 7-foot maximum vehicle width is required to allow repair work on deck stringers, replacement of 10 joints and deck patching on the bridge between Wickliffe and Cairo, Ill.
The work zone restriction will prohibit trucks, buses, motor homes and vehicles pulling trailers from crossing the bridge for approximately 50 days.
In addition to the strictly enforced 7-foot maximum vehicle width, the turn radius on a curve at the Kentucky end of the bridge will prohibit vehicles more than 19-feet long, as well as dual wheeled vehicles and vehicles pulling trailers.
This will essentially limit the bridge to passenger vehicles and light truck traffic only until the work is completed.
The U.S. Highway 51 Ohio River Bridge also carries U.S. Highway 60 and U.S. Highway 62 between Kentucky and Illinois.
It immediately connects with the U.S. Highway 60/U.S. Highway 62 Mississippi River Bridge, which carries traffic between Illinois and Missouri.
Commercial trucks make up about 35 percent of the 5,500 vehicles that cross the Ohio River at the site each day, making it a key transportation link between the three states.
The bridge work zone restriction turns a six-mile trip from Wickliffe, Ky., to Cairo, Ill., into an 80-mile detour for restricted traffic.
However, highway officials say making travel route adjustments before they arrive at the bridge will allow most trucks, motor homes, and travel buses to reduce the length of their detour.
While there will be no official marked detour, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDot) has offered a suggested detour for legal loads via Illinois Route 37 North, then east on Illinois Route 169 to connect with U.S. 45 South to Interstate 24 into Kentucky.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet engineers noted that by maintaining the 7-foot load width, daily commuters driving passenger vehicles to travel between Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri will still be able to cross the bridge to and from work. However, even vehicles that can fit through the work zone restrictions are likely to face significant delays because of alternating traffic flow that will be controlled by a manually operated temporary traffic signal.
Key elements of the work zone include:
• 7-foot maximum load width
• 19-foot maximum vehicle length
• No dual-wheeled vehicles
• No trailers
• Barrier walls for worker safety
• 24-hour police presence with strict work zone enforcement
Due to work requirements on the bridge, vehicles that block the bridge or hit the barrier wall due to being more than 7 feet wide will be subject to citations with a $245 fine or higher.
The work zone is expected to remain in place until about Sept. 14th.
American Contracting is the prime contractor on this $766,000 highway improvement project.
The U.S. 51 Ohio River Bridge was constructed by the Cairo Bridge Commission as a toll crossing and opened to traffic Nov. 11, 1936. Tolls were removed from the structure on Nov. 11, 1948, when the highway agencies of Kentucky and Illinois assumed responsibility for maintenance on the bridge.
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