The men responsible for replacing the Kennedy Mill Bridge say the public needs to speak up if they want the replacement finished faster.
The state permanently closed the bridge earlier this month, stranding commuters and leaving local marinas trying to save the summer before it even started.
Last week, representatives from Walsh Construction Company LLC, the contractor responsible for building the replacement, and an engineer with the state, gave a progress report at the annual meeting of the Herrington Lake Conservation League.
They said that the old bridge is beyond saving and that if local residents and merchants want the replacement finished before the November 2019 completion date, they are going to have to put some pressure on the state.
The representatives were asked if a public outcry would cause the state to invest more resources in finishing the bridge ahead of schedule.
“I think it will definitely help,” said Kevin J. Buch, P.E., the project manager with Walsh.
Buch said the 94-year-old bridge, which has been closed seven times since it was built and four times since 2003, was not worth saving.
“That bridge is almost beyond repair,” he said. “It’s a miracle in my opinion that the bridge has not collapsed.”
Rob Johnson, an engineer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said the bridge’s deck is unstable. While Walsh was paid $500,000 to repair the bridge, Johnson said it would cost $5 million and take up to nine months to replace the deck. Even if they reduced the weight limit back down to three tons and were somehow able to stop tractor-trailers from using the bridge, it would still cost more money than the bridge was worth to repair it, he said.
It would make more sense, both Johnson and Buch said, to invest resources in speeding up construction. By working around the clock, it would be possible to finish the replacement bridge much sooner.
Asked if it would be possible to finish the bridge by November of this year, Buch said, “That is not realistic.”
Local commuters and owners of the marinas on both sides of Herrington Lake are not looking forward to two summers without a working bridge. Another worry is that, in order to facilitate construction, the elevation of the lake will be lowered to 720 feet for two weeks in the middle of May.
Construction has slowed down recently thanks to the inordinate amount of rain that has fallen on Mercer County and the rest of Kentucky. Walsh suspended work on the Garrard County side of the bridge because of the high water levels. After the work was done, the water level could be raised again, Buch said, but that would depend on the weather.
Buch was asked about boat traffic. He said Walsh would have to shut down all traffic through the construction zone when they start moving the 100-ton, 136-foot-long steel girders in place. But the shutdowns would not last long, he said.
The girders, which are being ordered from Bowling Green, would be brought over land to the construction site, Buch said. However, the girders would not be delivered until later this year. He said Walsh and KYTC will let residents know when the lake would be shut down. “We’ll work with you guys,” Buch said.
Even though the Kennedy Bridge is small, he called the replacement “truly unique” because of the deep water. “It’s got a huge foundation and a large superstructure,” Buch said.
A lot of the equipment being used has had to be specially built. “A lot of this stuff has never been done before,” he said. Walsh will make a presentation at an international conference about the job.
Buch asked if the crowd had anything else to say.
“Hurry up and get back to work,” was the answer.
Make sure Frankfort hears your voice. Here is a list of people who need to hear how important the replacement of the Kennedy Mill Bridge is to the citizens of Mercer County.
- Gov. Matt Bevin. Phone: (502) 564-2611. Send the governor an email at governor.ky.gov/contact
- Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Phone: (502) 564-4890. Email: https://bpm.kytc.ky.gov/ApplicationBuilder/eFormRender.html?code=810A005056A2147711773738BD5BE87C&Process=PA-DV-ContactUs
- Kentucky Transportation Secretary Greg Thomas. Office phone number: (502) 564-5102.
- State Representative Kim King. Phone: (502) 564-8100 extension 763. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- State Senator Tom Buford. Phone: 502-564-8100 Ext. 610. Email: email@example.com