Work planned on Ohio River bridge at Cairo
A contractor for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet plans an extended closure of the U.S. Route 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge starting sometime during the week of Aug. 3-9.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 1 reported on social media that the bridge is expected to be closed for approximately 30 days to allow for extensive maintenance work along a nearly 2-mile section of the Kentucky approach levee and an ongoing deck maintenance project on the bridge to be completed this summer.
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 semi trucks 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.
The bridge carries U.S. 51, U.S. 60, and U.S. 62 traffic across the Ohio River between Wickliffe, Ky., and Cairo at U.S. 51 Kentucky mile point 7.372.
Also known as The Cairo Bridge, it is near the U.S. 60/U.S. 62 Mississippi River Bridge that connects Illinois and Missouri.
According to KYTC District 1 chief engineer Kyle Poat, engineers and the contractor came up with six options to allow all of the work to be completed during the 2020 construction season.
A detailed analysis of the impact to traffic, timeline, and costs determined a 30-day closure of the bridge was the best alternate.
Poat noted that the decision came 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 to aid in planning for the project indicated 7,000 vehicles cross the bridge in an average day, with 35 percent of that being commercial trucks. That 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 continues to be restricted to one-lane traffic with a maximum 8 1/2-foot load width.
Motorists and truckers are advised to 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. Both caution and patience are required.
Intech Contracting LLC is the prime contractor on the $8,060,092 project. The target completion date is Oct. 1.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said it will provide timely notice when a specific date is set to start the 30-day closure.
The U.S. 51 Ohio River bridge opened to traffic on Nov. 11, 1936. The Cairo-Wickliffe Bridge is at Ohio River navigation mile point 980.4.
“We looked at several scenarios,” 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. 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.”