Hearing set to unveil 'preferred' plan to replace Herrington Lake's Kennedy Bridge

gkocher1@herald-leader.comDecember 9, 2012 


    Public meeting on replacing Kennedy Bridge

    When: 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 13

    Where: Burgin Elementary School cafeteria, 440 E. Main St., Burgin

    The meeting is informal. The public may stop by any time from 5 to 7 p.m.

    Handouts containing information about the project and comment sheets will be available. Consultants and representatives of the state Transportation Cabinet will be on hand to answer questions.

HERRINGTON LAKE — Kennedy Bridge has shown its age for some time, so the state Transportation Cabinet will announce plans this week to replace it.

The steel truss bridge is 88 years old and carries traffic on Ky. 152 across Herrington Lake between Garrard and Mercer counties.

At a public meeting in Burgin on Thursday, transportation engineers and consultants will share a "preferred alternate" for the bridge's replacement, said Natasha Lacy, spokeswoman for the state Division of Highways District 7 office in Lexington. The meeting's purpose is to gather public comment about those plans.

The state would not say which alternate has been selected, but people who work in the area said they think the state will choose to build a bridge alongside and just north of the existing bridge. That way, no ferry service will be necessary to shuttle vehicles across the lake, and the disruption to motorists traveling from one side to the other will be kept to a minimum because drivers won't have to detour more than 30 miles out of their way.

"You know how people are; they don't like to take a long route," said Clint Woodard, who operates The Boat Doctor Marine Service about a half-mile from the bridge in Mercer County. "They like the shortest route."

Garrard County Judge-Executive John Wilson said the state has been "more sensitive to the public's concerns on this project than any I can remember in recent memory."

For example, the state planned to close the bridge temporarily last spring, right at the start of the boating season, so some core samples could be taken around a pier.

But when state officials were made aware of the effect that would have on marinas, "they changed their plans in sensitivity to the people in the area," Wilson said. "So I've been very impressed with the process so far."

The federal government has authorized $11 million in bridge-replacement funds for the project. Construction is supposed to start during the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The deteriorating, corroded bridge has had residents and state officials concerned for some time. Paul Barnes, owner of Chimney Rock Marina, said the state should have replaced the bridge long ago.

"It's a dangerous bridge the way it is because it's too narrow," Barnes said. "They've worked on it and worked on it ever since I can remember."

Kennedy Bridge has a "sufficiency rating" of 28.9. Bridges with a rating of 50 or less need extensive repair or replacement. The state also says the bridge is "functionally obsolete," which means it's too small for modern traffic loads. Those factors qualify it for replacement using federal bridge funds.

In 2003, the state installed new steel decking and repaved the bridge. But even then, state officials said it needed to be replaced.

In 2007, the state lowered the bridge's weight limits from 10 tons to 3 tons. At the time, the state encouraged motorists driving vehicles heavier than 3 tons to find alternate routes to avoid the bridge.

The weight limit was raised to 15 tons after $1.8 million in repairs were made to the bridge in 2009.

Kennedy Bridge — not to be confused with the Kennedy Bridge that spans the Ohio River in Louisville — was built in 1924 about the time Kentucky Utilities dammed the Dix River for hydroelectric power and created Herrington Lake. The bridge is 20 feet wide and is nearly 800 feet long.

The bridge showed problems early in its history. A 1932 inspection report revealed that the deep-water pier nearest the Mercer County side had risen 16 inches. Later surveys showed that, at the height of its movement, the pier had risen about 30 inches, and had tilted upstream and toward the Mercer side about 12 inches.

"It would be very desirable to try to find out the mechanism that caused the movement at pier 2 so that future problems with a new bridge can be avoided," said a report prepared by the District 7 office in Lexington in 2011.

Today, the bridge is a major artery between Burgin west of the lake and U.S. 27 east of the lake. In 2010, the average daily traffic count on the bridge was 1,590 vehicles, but the recent expansion of U.S. 27 to four lanes in northern Garrard County probably increased has traffic on Ky. 152.

Approaches to the bridge have sharp curves, but state police data show only six crashes at either end of the span during the past 10 years, according to the 2011 report. There were two side-swipe crashes, one rear-end crash, two run-off-the-road crashes and one crash into a tree.

Alternatives presented to the public at previous meetings included replacing the span with a new bridge at the current location; replacing the bridge at a location right next to the old bridge; or replacing the bridge at an alternate location for a more straight and direct approach across the lake that eliminates the sharp curves.

That last option appears to have been eliminated because it would have been the most expensive. The estimated cost of rights-of-way purchases, utilities relocation and construction would have been $16.8 million alone, and that doesn't include the costs to relocate Chimney Rock and Kamp Kennedy marinas.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @heraldleader.

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