To the delight of residents and marina owners, the new Kennedy Mill Bridge that spans Herrington Lake between Garrard and Mercer counties opened to traffic Friday — 11 months ahead of schedule.
“Merry Christmas, here’s your bridge,” said Roddy Eyres, drilling superintendent for Walsh Construction, the primary contractor, to an applauding crowd.
The new bridge replaces a 1924 bridge that was closed in March and demolished.
The new bridge was scheduled to open in November 2019, but Walsh Construction accelerated its work to open the span earlier.
The longer hours and accelerated schedule increased the bridge’s price tag from $29 million to more than $31 million.
But Herrington Lake marina owners say the bridge will mean more tourist traffic for them.
“When they had to close (the old bridge) last year, it put a damper on things as far as business,” said Tona Tudor, co-owner of Sunset Grill & Marina.
“It’s going to help our restaurant a bunch this summer,” said Tommy Jones, co-owner of Kamp Kennedy Marina.
Jenna Lewis is happy to see the new bridge, too. She lives on the Garrard side but her parents live on the Mercer side. When the old bridge closed, that meant Lewis had to make a 35-minute drive through Boyle County to see them.
Construction of the bridge piers was a challenge because the lake depth is 200 feet.
The project “was the most technically challenging foundation we have ever built,” said Joel Halterman, senior project manager for Walsh Construction.
Among the first people to cross the bridge was Calvin Grayson, 94, of Lexington, a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet secretary in the 1970s. He was born the same year that the demolished bridge was built.
“I had to write a paper on that bridge when I came back from” World War II to get an engineering degree, Grayson said.
“I lasted longer than the old bridge,” Grayson said.