Gov. Steve Beshear said the plan is to reopen the stricken Eggners Ferry Bridge over Kentucky Lake by Memorial Day weekend. The bridge has been closed since a cargo ship tore off a 322-ft. section of the 80-year-old bridge on Jan. 26. Photo courtesy of An
Kentucky awarded a $7 million emergency contract March 8 to repair a damaged bridge spanning a key traffic artery in the state’s popular western lakes region and set a timetable to finish work before the summer tourism season.
Gov. Steve Beshear said the plan is to reopen the stricken Eggners Ferry Bridge over Kentucky Lake by Memorial Day weekend. The bridge has been closed since a cargo ship tore off a 322-ft. section of the 80-year-old bridge on Jan. 26.
The repairs will take less time and cost considerably less than officials had expected, the governor said.
“This will help save the crucial summer tourism season for all of this region,’’ Beshear said during a visit to the region.
Engineers initially thought it might take until September or October to finish repairs, he said, but an underwater inspection revealed no significant damage to the bridge’s piers.
The state Transportation Cabinet awarded the contract to Hall Contracting of Kentucky Inc., based in Louisville. Its bid came in well below proposals from two other contractors that exceeded $11 million each, officials said.
To shave several months off the project, the state invited a select group of prequalified bridge contractors to submit bids.
Beshear said the project may qualify for federal funding, but said the state will cover the bill if necessary.
Hall Contracting handled the recent repairs to the Sherman Minton Bridge connecting Louisville and southern Indiana.
Those repairs were completed in Feb. ahead of schedule. Workers added steel plating to strengthen the Ohio River bridge, which was closed in September after a crack was found in a steel support beam.
Hall was rewarded with $100,000-a-day incentive — up to $5 million — to beat the deadline on that project.
No such incentives were offered for the bridge work in western Kentucky.
But the contract includes a $50,000-per-day penalty for missing the May 27 deadline to reopen the Eggners Ferry Bridge to traffic.
When the cargo ship struck the bridge, the 322-ft. section collapsed onto the vessel’s deck and into the lake. The ship was carrying rocket parts for NASA and the U.S. Air Force.
The missing span has halted traffic on U.S. 68 between the western shore of Kentucky Lake and the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.
Joe Walker, who owns and operates nearby Kentucky Beach Resort with his wife, said the Memorial Day deadline means they’ll have to spend less time rerouting some customers headed for a stay at their getaway along Kentucky Lake.
Their business reopens later in March for the spring fishing season.
The biggest impediment for his business, though, is the sluggish economy that’s keeping some people from taking vacations, he said.
“For those that do have money, we darn well don’t want to lose their business,” Walker said. “And the reality is we’ve got a very big problem, and that is that bridge.”
The state has plans to replace the aging Eggners Ferry Bridge and another span over nearby Lake Barkley that is similar in age and size. Both spans are to be replaced with four-lane bridges, but the project is still in a preconstruction phase. Beshear’s highway plan that he sent to state lawmakers included $330 million in construction funding for the two bridges.