PADUCAH, Ky. — The U.S. 51 Ohio River Cairo Bridge will reopen to one-lane traffic on Wednesday, Aug. 26, five days ahead of schedule, according to a contractor for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC). The bridge is about 5 miles north of Wickliffe at Kentucky mile point 7.372.
The bridge is expected to open at approximately 3 p.m. local time, but KYTC notes that the time could change based on the addition of new pavement striping and other factors.
While the bridge is expected to reopen Wednesday, it will continue to be restricted to one-lane traffic with alternating flow controlled by an automated signal until around Oct. 1. The bridge will also have a strictly enforced 8-foot, 6-inch load-width restriction.
The Cairo bridge serves as a north-south connection for U.S. 51, as well as an east-west transportation corridor for U.S. 60 and U.S. 62. The bridge carries about 7,000 vehicles per day between Kentucky and Illinois; almost 35% of that traffic is commercial trucks.
KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Kyle Poat thanked area commuters and cross-country travelers for their patience during the extended closure.
“We appreciate the hardship our commuters and other travelers have endured. Drivers are going to need additional patience as the work continues,” he said “We will continue to have workers on the bridge deck in close proximity to traffic flow. It’s important to obey the work-zone speed limit and use extra caution as work continues.”
Poat also expressed his appreciation to the contractor, Intech Contracting LLC, for completing the Kentucky approach work ahead of schedule.
The bridge, which closed to all traffic Aug. 1, was expected to remain fully closed through Aug. 31, creating an 80-mile detour for motorists. Motorists and truckers who adjusted their travel route before arriving at the bridge faced a shorter alternate route via the Interstate 24 Ohio River Bridge at Paducah-Metropolis. The closure also tripled the number of vehicle crossings on the Dorena-Hickman Ferry.
In addition to allowing extensive maintenance work along almost 2 miles of the Kentucky approach embankment, the extended closure also helped accelerate deck and joint work on the bridge.
“As one-lane traffic resumes, commuters, travelers and truckers will find an improved concrete driving surface along almost 2 miles of the Kentucky roadway approach embankment between the Willow Slough ‘Mile Long’ Bridge and the Minor Slough Bridge,” Poat said. “Several years with extended periods of high river levels have not been kind to the earthen roadway structure that was constructed in the mid-1930s. KYTC crews had worked to reinforce the roadway embankment during the last two years, but some additional work was required. Applying a concrete driving surface and finishing out the shoulder area with millings is expected to help the earthworks better withstand future floods and maintain the reliability of this important river crossing.”
Poat also noted that there will be some additional asphalt paving along the Kentucky approach between the Minor Slough bridge and the main bridge the week before Labor Day. That work could raise the driving surface elevation as much as 15 inches in some low spots, helping reduce the likelihood and length of closures during extreme flood conditions. This paving work will be completed in short sections with one-lane traffic controlled by flaggers; a more specific traffic advisory will be issued before the work starts.
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