PADUCAH, Ky. — As a reminder, a contractor for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) plans a 30-day closure of the U.S. 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge starting promptly at 6:30 a.m., CDT, on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020.
The 30-day closure is 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.
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. almost 35 percent is commercial trucks.
When the bridge closes Aug. 1, a normal 5-mile drive between Wickliffe, Ky., and Cairo, Ill., will become an 80-mile detour via the Interstate 24 Ohio River Bridge at Paducah. Motorists who adjust their route prior to reaching the bridge can greatly reduce the detour mileage. Portable message boards are 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, Ill., then take Illinois Route 169 through Karnakto Illinois Route 37 South to Cairo or to connect to Interstate 57 into Missouri. Motorists at Cairo will reverse that route.
Closing the bridge to all traffic for 30 days is expected to accelerate the required work along the bridge corridor. Engineers expect one-lane traffic to be restored by Aug. 31 and anticipate bridge traffic can return to normal flow about the time the fall crop harvest season ramps up around Oct. 1. A substantial amount of the truck traffic on the bridge is grain heading to storage and processing facilities in Cairo and Mound City, Ill.
The U.S. 51 Ohio River Bridge is about 5 miles north of Wickliffe, 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.
Since June 10, the bridge work zone has had one-lane traffic with alternating flow controlled by an automated signal with a maximum 8½-foot load width. The lane and load width restriction will remain in place when the bridge reopens around Aug. 31.
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.