Wednesday, October 25, 2017

State says Weisenberger Mill bridge will be replaced, with only one lane of traffic

The Weisenberger Mill and bridge, shortly after the one-lane span was closed for safety reasons on July 1, 2016.
By Katia Davis, Destiny Butler and Sarah Landers
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

Neighbors of the Weisenberger Mill bridge, who wanted it to remain one lane for safety and historic reasons, appear to have won their years-long battle.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said Tuesday it would “move forward with an alternative plan that re-uses some elements of the existing structure” and that the plan would be a “long-term solution to re-opening the roadway,” but the cabinet's press release did not address specifics of the plan.

However, Assistant City Clerk Sonya Conner told Midway officials in an email Wednesday afternoon, "The engineer on the job called me this morning to report that at this time, they are going to build a single-lane bridge over the existing space and re-build the abutments."

The bridge over South Elkhorn Creek has been closed since July 1, 2016, due to steel infrastructure problems caused by trucks violating a weight limit that was reduced to 10 tons and finally to 3 tons.

Conner said cabinet officials "do not have a start date at this time but should be meeting in the next couple of weeks to try and work out the details." She said the engineer "assures me there will be no work done until sometime next year."

The project has been delayed several times, most recently for federal review of more detailed studies requested by the State Historic Preservation Office and the Kentucky Heritage Council.

In 2016, the cabinet announced that the one-lane bridge would be replaced by a two-lane span, but Tuesday's release didn't address that point. It said "The proposed solution will fit within the context of the environment. It would also provide a structure that can be safely utilized by both the public and emergency management vehicles."

The bridge, built in the 1930s, has been a candidate for renovation or replacement since 2010. In 2014, the cabinet proposed to replace it with a two-lane bridge, but residents objected and the plan was delayed.

At various meetings over the years, residents have expressed concern that a two-lane bridge would increase speeding, causing a hazard to other cars and pedestrians. Residents also expressed a liking toward keeping some historical elements of the bridge. But in May 2016, the cabinet said it would stick with its two-lane plan.

At a meeting last November, Project Manager Ananias Calvin III said a two-lane bridge would be safer than a one-lane span, and engineers on the project had considered the traffic that would use the road—including the semi-trailer trucks that were part of the reason for the bridge’s July 1 closure—when evaluating the safety standards the road would have to meet.

The cabinet said in September that the replacement bridge would use the pony-truss design of the old bridge to retain some of its historical character. “The aesthetics of that were important,” David Waldner, the cabinet’s director of environmental analysis, said in an interview then.

Calvin said in an interview in November that a new bridge would cost about $1.3 million, about double the cost of a standard bride for the location. Rehabilitating the bridge would only extend its life another 20 years and will cost 40 to 50 percent of a new bridge, which would last 75 to 100 years.

The bridge is in a historic district and is a favorite scenic spot. Its closure has kept some bicycle and foot races from the area, and last week, Midway city officials agreed to urge the state to get going on the project.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said Tuesday night that he is glad the cabinet decided to act after the long process. He said this month that the bridge replacement had already been delayed for more than a year, and that it had caused detours and loss of business. “We needed them to do something,” he said Tuesday night.

The bridge crosses South Elkhorn Creek and connects Woodford and Scott counties. Woodford has responsibility for it, but the state agreed to be responsible for its renovation or replacement in return for the county doing work on a state bridge at Millville several years ago.

This story is an updated version of one published Tuesday night.

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