Wednesday, May 4, 2016

State will build two-lane replacement for Weisenberger Mill bridge, close old one for construction in late fall

A northbound car waited for a southbound sport-utility vehicle to cross the one-lane bridge on March 15.
By Aayat Ali
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

The Weisenberger Mill Bridge will be closed and replaced with a two-lane bridge, the state Transportation Cabinet has decided.

For years, the one-lane bridge has been under consideration for replacement due to its old, crippling structure.  Recently, it underwent a weight limit reduction, from 10 tons to 3 tons. 

The plan to replace it can now proceed because the legislature and Gov. Matt Bevin have approved the state’s road plan, which budgets $1,380,000 for replacement this year, more than previously.
The bridge crosses Elkhorn Creek near the historic Weisenberger Mill and connects Woodford and Scott counties.  Built in 1930, it has always been a popular site for its scenic and historic value in the community, overlooking the mill, its dam and the creek.  

Ananias Calvin III, the project manager for the Transportation Cabinet, said the plan is to start construction on the bridge in the current construction season, which typically runs through November.

Calvin explained that once construction starts, workers will have to close the bridge while the new 
one is built.  He said the state hopes construction will only take one season. 

Calvin said as of right now, bid letting on the project is set for Oct. 28, but workers may not start work on it until as late as December.  A detour will be set up, but it has not been finalized.

Calvin said the agency decided to build a two-lane bridge because “We don’t like to put back a one-lane bridge when there’s a two-lane road.”

Many members of the community have opposed a complete replacement of the bridge on historic grounds, but others, including mill owner Mac Weisenberger, have safety concerns about a two-lane bridge.

Because southbound traffic must make an immediate sharp turn after crossing the bridge, Weisenberger said the plan will creates a possible hazard for motorists, as well as visitors who just wish to see the scenery.

“They’re running cars down a straight hill across the two-lane bridge into a [sharp] turn,” said Weisenberger.  “The only reason they slow down now is because there’s a one-lane bridge, but when they get the two-lane bridge, they will be flying across the bridge into the turn.”

Weisenberger said his concern could be addressed by widening Weisenberger Mill Road, but Calvin said that would cost more than the budget for the project.  

Weisenberger said the bridge closure for reconstruction will have no effect on the shipment of goods to his mill, since they come from Leestown Road.  But he still worries over the possible traffic issues in the area. 

“It’s going to open up an avenue for big trucks to run from I-64 to Versailles Road,” he said. “Once the weight limit changes back there will be trucks cutting from 64 to the Bluegrass Parkway.”

Weisenberger said his main issue is the safety of drivers and people who visit the bridge for its scenery.  The bridge is a hotspot for photographers and tourists alike.

“People get out and walk up on the bridge up here,” Weisenberger said, “and I don’t think they’ve put much consideration into the situation.”

Calvin said the posted speed limit on the county road is 35 miles per hour, and the state will post (or arrange with Scott County) to post a sign warning that a 25 mph or 15 mph curve is ahead.

The state is paying for the bridge because Woodford and Scott counties paid for repairs on a bridge on a state road a few years ago.

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