Public safety paramount consideration
PADUCAH, Ky. (Jan. 9, 2012) – The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is reducing the load limit on the U.S. 60 Tennessee River Bridge to 3 tons. The weight restriction, scheduled to be posted at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10, essentially limits the bridge to passenger vehicles and standard pick-up trucks only.
Jim LeFevre, chief district engineer of Department of Highways District 1, at Paducah, said the 3-ton load limit is necessary for the safety of citizens who depend on the bridge to get to and from work. It also will help ensure that the bridge can remain in service until a new bridge currently under construction upstream can be completed, LeFevre said.
Also known as the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge and the Ledbetter Bridge, the U.S. 60 Tennessee River Bridge connects McCracken County to Livingston County between Paducah and Ledbetter. The bridge is at U.S. 60 Livingston County mile point 0.0 and McCracken County mile point 19.718. The two-lane bridge was opened to traffic in 1931.
The bridge carries approximately 7,700 vehicles across the Tennessee River in an average day. About 80 percent is private passenger vehicle and commuter traffic that will be unaffected by the 3-ton limit.
However, the limit will restrict truck traffic for a number of major businesses, including the ADM Livingston Point Elevator, Three Rivers Boat and Barge in Ledbetter, Livingston County Livestock Auction, and additional businesses in Livingston, McCracken and Crittenden counties.
LeFevre said he and other engineers involved in the decision recognize that the load limit reduction will mean a lengthy detour that will pose a hardship to area truckers and some businesses. “However, we believe at this time it is best to use caution as we work to maintain the existing structure while the new bridge is being constructed,” he said.
LeFevre said engineers will evaluate the possibility of repairs, though repair work that would force temporary closure of the bridge, perhaps for several months, would be impractical.
In 2007 the bridge was reduced to a 28-ton load limit for several weeks to allow deck reinforcement and pier cap repairs. Completion of that work allowed trucks to again cross with load limits only on certain types of trucks.
However, cabinet engineers in District 1 and at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet central office in Frankfort concluded, after analyzing results of an inspection completed in October 2011, that the deck, superstructure and substructure of the bridge had deteriorated enough to require the lower weight posting.
“Our prime concern here is the safety of the public. The bridge is safe for passenger vehicles and standard pick-up trucks. We are not comfortable allowing larger vehicles to cross the bridge at this time,” LeFevre noted.
Livingston County Judge-Executive Chris Lasher said he recognized the hardship on the affected businesses. However, he said he agreed that maintaining the safety of the bridge for everyone should take priority.
The new bridge, which is under construction 1,500 feet upstream from the existing structure, is on track for completion in mid-2014.