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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

New Weisenberger Mill bridge set for completion by May

A new Weisenberger Mill bridge should be open by May 2020, the state Transportation Cabinet announced today after meeting with the contractor on the project.

"Preliminary operations begin Monday, August 12," the cabinet said in a news release. "The public will be informed of progress toward the replacement bridge through advisories furnished to media outlets." The first step will be removal of the old bridge, which has been closed for more than three years, blocking a popular tourist and commuter route and delaying emergency responses.

Louisville Paving Co. Inc. was the sole bidder for the project through two rounds of bidding. Its latest bid of $877,000 was almost 42 percent above the state engineers' estimate, but that was a big improvement over the first bid of $1.95 million, 2¾ times a somewhat higher estimate.

The cabinet decided Friday to accept the bid; it will spend an additional sum for "soil nailing," insertion of reinforcing bars into the banks of South Elkhorn Creek. That part of the work was removed from the bid documents and made part of an overall contract the state has issued for such work.

1935 photo of the bridge (Kentucky Transportation Cabinet)
The bridge was closed July 1, 2016, after state inspectors found advanced deterioration in the lower chord of the truss. The new bridge will be a "pony truss" style like the current one, which is 72 feet long and 12 feet wide. The truss spans about 40 feet. 

Replacing the one-lane span, which dates to 1935, has been complicated. The first plan, in 2013, was for a two-lane bridge, but the cabinet changed it to a one-lane pony truss in response to 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.

"The newly constructed bridge will fit within the context of the environment," the news release said. "It will also provide a solution for safe travel to be utilized by citizens and emergency management vehicles."

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

The bridge links Woodford and Scott counties. It 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 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.

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