Business owners frustrated U.S. 51 Ohio River ‘Cairo’ Bridge still closed

WICKLIFFE, KY – A major travel artery in the Local 6 area is still closed Wednesday. Sky 6 flew over the U.S. 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge that connects Cairo, Illinois, to Wickliffe, Kentucky. In the video, it’s clear why the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet shut down it down: Ohio River floodwaters.

Because of the closure, drivers are forced to take an 80-mile detour through southern Illinois. That’s hurting local businesses near the bridge.

Normally, the traffic would drown out the sound of BBQ sauce being made at Kentucky Hillbilly BBQ. Owner Brian DeRousse says the bridge closure has cost his business about 60 percent.

“This is the first time we went through it, so we didn’t know what to expect. But, we knew it be significant, because we have so much traffic from Cairo,” DeRousse says.

When DeRousse when out to see the bridge for himself, he had a hard time believing it shouldn’t already be open.

But, road crews say it’s still closed for good reason. Nighttime travel especially would be dangerous with the large number of cars that usually travel that bridge.

DeRousse says he knows he can’t do much to reopen the bridge. Until it re-opens, he says he’s thankful for the loyal locals who still go there for lunch.

“The local people are real good about supporting us, but we miss our Illinois, Missouri traffic,” DeRousse says. “It really hurts us.”

The water is expected to crest over the weekend. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says it is hoping to reopen the bridge by the beginning of next week, but safety is the biggest concern when considering when it will actually open.

KYTC spokesman Keith Todd says river levels have been harder to predict this year. He says the estimate for re-opening the bridge is just that: an estimate.

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