WICKLIFFE, Ky -
You drive over bridges without giving your safety a second thought, but the condition of some of the bridges you're crossing might surprise you.
Kentucky's Transportation Cabinet is working on a plant to replace the US 51 Bridge from Wickliffe to Cairo. A lot of people live on the other side of the river work in Kentucky, and that means the bridge is vital to their way of life.
James Smith has been taking the gateway across the Ohio River for more than 28 years. He says the trucks keep changing, but the bridge never does.
"The bridge is the same distance and our mirrors are sticking out a foot wider," he said.
Just one pass on the bridge will give you a taste of how tight the squeeze can be. According to the state, the bridge received a 39 out of 100 sufficiency rating. That doesn't mean it is unsafe, but it does mean it qualifies for federal funding to replace it. Those who are on it most say they still worry about how much strength the 76 year-old structure has left.
"You put five or six of those at the same time on an old bridge, you're looking at a lot of structure, a lot of weight," James said.
A new bridge would cost about $236 million according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, and although truck drivers say construction would cause a lot of headaches, they say it'd be worth it.
"If they can do that, that would be nice. Not only for truck drivers, but for everyone," James added.
If for whatever reason this bridge had to close, it would be an inconvenience for many. Drivers would have to cross the Ohio River Bridge in Paducah and then make their way back down, creating an 80 mile detour. Which is why most people support the idea of a bridge so a potential issue in the future wouldn't burden those who cross it to work. Those same people hope the plans to make a new bridge are soon put into motion.
According to the state, if nothing is done to the bridge, they would have to close it to truck traffic in 2025 and the bridge would be impassable by 2030.
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Paducah, KY 42003