PADUCAH, KY — A contractor for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) has set a start date for a 30-day closure of the U.S. 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge. The bridge will close to all traffic starting Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020.
The bridge will close promptly at 6:30 a.m and remain closed for up to 30 days to allow extensive maintenance work along a nearly 2-mile section of the Kentucky approach levee.
The closure will also accelerate an ongoing deck and expansion joint maintenance project on the bridge.
KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Kyle Poat recognizes the closure is a hardship on commuters, businesses, and industries that depend on the bridge.
“We carefully considered about a half-dozen options for completing both the bridge work and the levee work this construction season,” Poat said. “We looked at overnight closures and weekend closures. Those options did not allow enough construction time for completion of the work this year. This 30-day closure, while creating a temporary hardship, gets the work completed and the bridge reopened to one-lane traffic in the shortest possible time.”
The U.S. 51 Ohio River Bridge serves as a north-south connection for U.S. 51, as well as an east-west connection for U.S. 60 and U.S. 62. The bridge carries about 7,000 vehicles per day between Kentucky and Illinois. About a third of the traffic on the bridge is commercial trucks, many of them hauling wheat, soybeans, and corn to nearby grain handling facilities.
When the bridge closes Aug. 1, a normal 5-mile drive from Wickliffe, Kentucky, to Cairo, Illinois, will become an 80-mile detour via the Interstate 24 Ohio River Bridge at Paducah. Portable message boards will be set up at key locations to alert travelers and truckers to the closure before they reach the bridge.
There will be no officially marked detour. However, motorists and truckers are advised to self-detour via the I-24 Ohio River Bridge at Paducah to U.S. 45 North at Metropolis, Illinois, then take Illinois Route 169 through Karnak to Illinois Route 37 South to Cairo or to connect to Interstate 57 into Missouri. Motorists at Cairo will reverse that route. Motorists who adjust their route prior to reaching the bridge can greatly reduce the detour mileage.
The Dorena-Hickman Ferry also offers a viable alternative for some local commuters. There is a $14 toll for passenger vehicles with a half-price return trip. The toll is higher for larger vehicles. For information on the ferry operating schedule click here.
Area farmers have already been using the ferry to take wide equipment around the maximum 8½-foot load width in the bridge work zone.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has sent notice of the extended closure plan to travel sites and websites that cater to cross-country truckers.
“Our contractor has committed resources to complete as much work as possible during this 30-day window,” Poat said. “We are confident this extra effort will assure that all work on the bridge is completed by our original target date. It helps assure one-lane traffic can be restored around Labor Day, and bridge traffic can return to normal flow about the time the fall crop harvest season ramps up.”
The U.S. 51 Ohio River Bridge is about 5 miles north of Wickliffe, Kentucky, at Kentucky mile point 7.372. Also known as the Cairo Bridge, it connects with the U.S. 60/U.S. 62 Mississippi River Bridge that carries traffic between Illinois and Missouri.
The bridge work zone has one-lane traffic with alternating flow controlled by an automated signal with a maximum 8½-foot load width. Traffic delays are likely during peak travel periods. Both caution and patience are required.
Intech Contracting, LLC, is the prime contractor on the $8,060,092 project. The target completion date for all work on the project is Oct. 1, 2020.
The U.S. 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge opened to traffic on Nov. 11, 1936. The Cairo-Wickliffe Bridge is at Ohio River navigation mile point 980.4 near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.