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Bridge work making big impact

Staff report

I

n a huge blast during the early morning hours of July 25, the main span of the old Eggners Ferry Bridge at Aurora crumbled into Kentucky Lake as hundreds of spectators watched from the shores.

The 83-year-old bridge, known as the original "gateway to western Kentucky," became irrelevant earlier this year when crews finished construction of a new bridge running parallel to it.

The bridge carries drivers over U.S. 68/Ky. 80 over Kentucky Lake between Aurora and Land Between the Lakes. Officials have said roughly 3,000 cars travel it on a daily basis.

The new, $131.5 million bridge is wider and more expansive than the old one. It has six trusses, four 11-foot driving lanes, 4-foot inside and outside shoulders, and a 10-foot wide pedestrian and bicycle path.

Crews placed the main span in December and officially opened it to traffic in April after years of planning, designing and construction work that began in 2007.

Demolition is continuing on the old bridge, which was built in 1932. It was originally constructed to provide motorists a faster route over what was at the time the Tennessee River. In 1943, it closed for six months so crews could raise it to accommodate high water levels due to the impounding of Kentucky Lake.

In 2012, the bridge made headlines again when a cargo ship took out a 322-foot span, causing a four-month closure and inconveniencing motorists by adding about an hour to their drive times.

Crews are also poised to begin construction of the new Lake Barkley Bridge at Canton in Trigg County.

Transportation officials have labeled the old bridge, the Henry Lawrence Memorial Bridge, "functionally obsolete," creating the need for a new one.

The old bridge, which carried motorists over Lake Barkley via U.S. 68/Ky. 80, also was built in 1932.

The new, $128.3 million bridge is a new and improved version of the old bridge.

Officials say it will serve as the eastern entrance to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area when finished and has a targeted completion date of October 2017.

In early August, Keith Todd, public information officer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, advised motorists traveling from Exit 65 Cadiz-Hopkinsville off of Interstate 24 to Canton to stay alert for oversized truck loads carrying structural steel toward the bridge site.

The steel, he said, is required for the assembly of the main arch and for construction of the approach spans. The contractor expects deliveries of steel to the site at U.S. 68 in Trigg County, mile point 8.6, every Wednesday and Friday for the next four to five months.

Todd explained that crews will assemble some of the steel into a basket handle arch for the main span, which is set to match the main span of the new Eggners Ferry Bridge.

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