Work to maintain and repair the U.S. 51 Ohio River Bridge between Wickliffe, Ky., and Cairo, Il., that has restricted traffic to a seven-foot maximum vehicle width and 19 ft. maximum vehicle length, has been extended to Sept. 22.
According to Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 1 Acting Chief Engineer Mike McGregor, weather delays have put the project about a week behind schedule.
"We recognize the work zone restrictions have created a hardship for area industries and farmers by excluding trucks and other larger vehicles," McGregor said. "Our contractor is working to complete the project as quickly as possible; however we've had to adjust the schedule due to the amount of rainy weather they've encountered since the project started."
The work zone restriction prohibits trucks, buses, motor homes and vehicles pulling trailers from crossing the bridge.
Other key Elements of the Work Zone include:
"This project includes repairs to deck stringers, replacement of 10 joints on the bridge and approaches, as well as some deck patching," McGregor said. "The contractor faces a potential penalty for going beyond the original completion date."
In addition to the strictly enforced 7-foot maximum vehicle width, the turn radius on a curve at the Kentucky end of the bridge prohibits vehicles more than 19-feet long, dual wheeled vehicles and vehicles pulling trailers. The bridge is limited to passenger vehicles and light trucks only until the work is completed. Police posted at each end of the bridge work zone enforce the restrictions.
The U.S. 51 Ohio River Bridge also carries U.S. 60 and U.S. 62 between Kentucky and Illinois. It immediately connects with the U.S. 60/U.S. 62 Mississippi River Bridge which carries traffic between Illinois and Missouri. Commercial trucks make up about 35 percent of the 5,500 vehicles that cross the Ohio River at the site each day, making it a key transportation link between the three states.
The bridge work zone restriction turns a six-mile trip from Wickliffe, Ky., to Cairo, Ill., into an 80-mile detour for restricted traffic. However, the detour for traffic between Paducah and Cairo only adds about 20 miles to the normal trip. That unmarked detour for trucks and other large vehicles is via I-24 to U.S. 45 at Metropolis, then north to Illinois Route 169 West and south on Illinois Route 37 to Cairo.
McGregor noted that by maintaining the 7-foot load width, commuters driving passenger vehicles who travel between Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri are still be able to get to and from work. However, one lane traffic in the work zone controlled by an automated signal has created some delays, particularly during peak travel periods.
The U.S. 51 Ohio River Bridge was constructed by the Cairo Bridge Commission as a toll crossing and opened to traffic Nov. 11, 1936. Tolls were removed from the structure on Nov. 11, 1948, when the highway agencies of Kentucky and Illinois assumed responsibility for maintenance on the bridge.
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