U.S. 51’s Cairo Bridge to close Aug. 1-31, resulting in 80-mile detour for drivers crossing Ohio River between Kentucky and Illinois

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Ohio River Cairo Bridge
Full closure of the Cairo Bridge on U.S. 51, which spans the Ohio River between Kentucky and Illinois, will begin at 6:30 a.m. central time Aug. 1. (Courtesy: Kentucky Transportation Cabinet)

PADUCAH, Ky. — Beginning at 6:30 a.m. central time on Saturday, Aug. 1, the Cairo Bridge will be closed to all traffic, according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC). The bridge, located on U.S. 51, spans the Ohio River between Wickliffe, Kentucky, and Cairo, Illinois. In addition to allowing extensive maintenance work along the approach levee on the Kentucky side of the bridge, the closure will accelerate a deck and expansion-joint maintenance project on the bridge itself.

Kyle Poat, chief engineer for KYTC’s District 1, said he realizes the closure will be a hardship on commuters, businesses and industries that depend on the bridge.

“We carefully considered about a half-dozen options for completing both the bridge work and the levee work this construction season,” he said. “We looked at overnight closures and weekend closures. Those options did not allow enough construction time for completion of the work this year. This 30-day closure, while creating a temporary hardship, gets the work completed and the bridge reopened to one-lane traffic in the shortest possible time.”

The Cairo Bridge serves as a north-south connection for U.S. 51, as well as an east-west connection for U.S. 60 and U.S. 62. The bridge carries about 7,000 vehicles per day between Kentucky and Illinois. About a third of the traffic on the bridge is commercial trucks, many of them hauling wheat, soybeans, and corn to nearby grain handling facilities.

When the bridge closes Aug. 1, the normal 5-mile drive from Wickliffe, Kentucky, to Cairo, Illinois, will become an 80-mile detour via the Interstate 24 Ohio River Bridge at Paducah. Portable message boards will be set up at key locations to alert travelers and truckers to the closure before they reach the bridge.

There will be no officially marked detour, KYTC says.

Motorists and truckers are advised to self-detour via the I-24 Ohio River Bridge at Paducah to U.S. 45 N. at Metropolis, Illinois; then take Illinois Route 169 through Karnak to Illinois Route 37 S to Cairo or to connect to Interstate 57 into Missouri. Motorists coming from Cairo should reverse the route noted above. Motorists who adjust their route before reaching the bridge can greatly reduce the detour mileage.

“Our contractor has committed resources to complete as much work as possible during this 30-day window,” Poat said. “We are confident this extra effort will assure that all work on the bridge is completed by our original target date. It helps assure one-lane traffic can be restored around Labor Day, and bridge traffic can return to normal flow about the time the fall crop harvest season ramps up.”

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