Friday, Dec 6, 2013
U.S. 51 Bridge Re-Opens to Truck Traffic
CAIRO -- A busy connection between Illinois and Kentucky is now fully re-opened to traffic.
The U.S. 51 Bridge in Cairo has been undergoing maintenance repairs since July. During the construction project, trucks, campers, and trailers were forced to take a long detour.
Officials with the Kentucky Tranpsortation Cabinet know restrictions are an inconvienence. However, the work was necessary to keep the nearly 80-year-old bridge in good condition for many years to come.
Word that the U.S. 51 Bridge is once again ready for trucks traveled fast. As soon as the traffic barriers came down Wednesday morning, the larger vehicles were driving the newly re-enforced structure.
"We have about 5,500 vehicles cross this bridge in an average day," said Keith Todd with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. "Of that, about 35 percent or more than 1,900 of those vehicles are trucks."
Vehicles wider than 7 feet and longer than 19 feet have been kept off the span since late July. Cars have also been restricted to just one lane.
Barricades needed to be put up while a contractor installed beams and joints under the deck.
Todd has heard from a lot of anxious people that rely on the route to ship goods.
"Several of the area grain companies all over West Kentucky," said Todd. "A lot of farmers that haul grain to the grain elevators in Cairo and Mound City."
Construction was scheduled to end on Sunday, but there were a few small delays. The re-opening was a welcome sight for vehicles big and small.
"Everybody is a lot happier," said Kentucky resident Bryan Klein.
Klein makes the trek from Wickliffe to his job with the Cairo Police Department. In the past weeks, he's seen some delays and watched a lot of confused drivers.
"People trying to go across," said Klein. "Then they have to come back through Cairo and go 80 miles out their way."
Still, Klein believes the closure of one lane for a couple months is far better than shutting down the entire bridge for a few weeks.
However, he is thrilled the work is now over.
"I just come across it," said Klein. "I was like alright, we're back in business."
Todd says crews also took advantage of the lighter traffic during the restrictions to replace pavement at a busy intersection on the Kentucky side. That will help them avoid having to shut down that intersection at another time.
Wind: 8 MPH
Humidity: 86 %