PADUCAH, Ky. — The Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge, which links Wickliffe, Kentucky, and Cairo, Illinois, will be closed for maintenance beginning sometime during first week of August and continuing for 30 days, according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC). The estimated closure date is between Aug. 3-9; KYTC will notify the public when a specific date is set.
The bridge carries U.S. 51, U.S. 60, and U.S. 62 traffic across the Ohio River at U.S. 51 Kentucky mile point 7.372. Also known as the Cairo Bridge, the structure connects with the U.S. 60/U.S. 62 Mississippi River Bridge that connects Illinois and Missouri.
According to KYTC, extensive maintenance work is required along a nearly 2-mile section of the Kentucky approach levee; in addition, there is an ongoing deck maintenance project on the bridge.
The estimated 30-day closure will also allow critical work on the bridge deck through the curve at the Kentucky end of the structure. Placement of a concrete latex overlay along the curve would have required the bridge to be closed to semis for an extended period. Closing the bridge and the Kentucky approach to all traffic will allow all of the work to be completed more quickly and efficiently.
KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Kyle Poat said engineers and the contractor came up with six options to allow all the work to be completed during the 2020 construction season. A detailed analysis of the project’s impact on traffic, timeline and costs determined a 30-day closure of the bridge was the best choice.
“We looked at several scenarios, including overnight and weekend closures. Those options created numerous side issues for area businesses, truckers and our daily commuters,” Poat said.
“By closing the bridge for 30 days, we speed up the construction process so we can get the bridge back to near-normal traffic flow sooner rather than later,” he continued. “Some of the options included overnight and weekend closures. Those options created numerous side issues for cross-country travelers, area businesses, truckers and our daily commuters. The additional construction time would have extended the impact to traffic by 12 weeks.”
Poat noted that the decision was reached after extensive conversations with area government officials, farmers, trucking companies and businesses that depend on the critical U.S. 51, U.S. 60 and U.S. 62 transportation corridor.
A recent traffic count, conducted to aid in planning for the project, indicated that about 7,000 vehicles cross the bridge in an average day, with commercial trucks comprising 35% of the traffic. The total vehicle count is up substantially from 4,800 per day in 2019.
Maintenance along a nearly 2-mile section of the Kentucky approach levee was halted June 6 when traffic backed up more than 5 miles and caused gridlock in Wickliffe. On June 10, the contractor moved ahead with a work zone for bridge deck and joint work while discussions continued on how to best complete the levee work with the least amount of disruption.
The bridge is currently restricted to one-lane traffic with a maximum 8.5-foot load width. Motorists and truckers should be prepared to encounter a 2,900-foot section of one-lane traffic controlled by an automated signal on the main span of the bridge. Traffic delays are likely during peak travel periods, and KYTC notes that both caution and patience are required on the part of motorists.
Intech Contracting LLC is the prime contractor on the maintenance project, which has a price tag of more than $8 million. The target completion date is Oct. 1.
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