Friday, July 26, 2019

Weisenberger Mill bridge project gets same bidder, lower price, but still well above engineer's estimate

The second round of bidding for a new Weisenberger Mill bridge drew the same lone bidder, who bid much lower but still well above the estimate of state Transportation Cabinet engineers.

Louisville Paving bid $877,000 for the work, almost 42 percent above the estimate of $618,959. Still, that was a big improvement over the first bid: $1.95 million, 2¾ times the estimate of $709,889. The estimate was lowered because the soil-nailing part of the project, insertion of reinforcing bars into the creek bank, was removed and made part of an overall contract the state has issued for such work.

The Transportation Cabinet is expected to decide in about a week whether to accept the bid for the long-delayed project to replace a bridge that was closed more than three years ago.

After the first bid, Woodford County Magistrate Jackie Brown said Kelly Baker, the chief engineer at the cabinet's District 7 office in Lexington, told him that Louisville Paving bid on foundation work they would not have to do, and expected that a rebid would be much closer to the estimate.

The bridge across South Elkhorn Creek, the border of Woodford and Scott counties, is nominally Woodford's responsibility, under a longstanding agreement between the counties, but the state agreed to take responsibility for it several years ago.

The state closed the bridge July 1, 2016, after inspectors found it was not safe for a load of three tons. The state had already lowered the limit twice in an effort to turn away heavy trucks whose drivers used the bridge for a shortcut to or from Interstate 64.

The bridge's closure has further isolated the largely African American community of Zion Hill, at the southern tip of Scott County. Woodford County has been providing emergency services to the area.

Replacing the one-lane span, built in the early 1930s, has been complicated. The first plan was for a two-lane bridge, but the cabinet changed it to one lane, with the pony-truss style of the old bridge, to assuage public concern that a modern concrete span would detract from the scenic nature of the site and encourage speeding, causing accidents in the sharp curve on the Woodford County side.

Since the bridge has historical significance and is a state responsibility, the project had to undergoreview by the State Historic Preservation Office and the Kentucky Heritage Council, as well as an environmental impact report to federal officials. The project was delayed at least a month by negotiations over construction easements.

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