BURGIN — A new bridge will be built over Herrington Lake, 75 feet downstream from the narrow and, some say, dangerous span it is replacing.
Transportation Cabinet officials announced last month they had reached a decision on whether to rebuild the Kennedy Bridge on Ky. 152 in its current location or build a completely new bridge, but chose not to reveal that decision until Thursday night at a meeting at Burgin School, hoping the public would show and react. They were not disappointed.
A new bridge was the overwhelming preference of members of the public attending a meeting in April, even though its pricetag was twice as much. People traveling the route preferred the option of having the old bridge to use while the new one is being built due to a long drive required in a detour.
“We listened to what they said, and what they said made sense,” said Ananias Calvin, project manager for the Department of Highways.
But Calvin said the pricetag went up considerably when engineers gave further study to the type of bridge that would be needed. In April, the state said it would cost $11 million to build a new bridge, $6.4 million to rebuild the existing structure. Thursday night, Calvin estimated the cost of a new structure at $18.5 million.
“We were really off,” he said. “I’ll be the first to admit we didn’t do a very good job with that.”
But those who use the bridge and live close to it were not asking about the cost. They were more interested in the two alternative styles presented, asking detailed questions about the advantages of one over the other. Each person was given a form to fill out and return to the Cabinet that included a question of bridge design preference, among other things.
Charles Raymer, an engineer with the consulting firm WMB Inc. of Lexington, explained that several bridge design options were considered, and the list was narrowed to two, both employing options that would allow the supporting piers to be placed closer to the more shallow side of the lake. One design uses a networked arch suspension at one end but is more expensive by about $500,000. The piers currently on the deepest side of the lake go down 230 feet.
Rick Vanarsdall doesn’t travel across the bridge but lives within sight of it on Pandora Road. He prefers the option less visually intrusive, which also happens to be the cheaper one. The networked arch would spoil the view, he said.
Wanda Southerland has lived in the vicinity of the bridge for more than 35 years. She owns Lakeview Apartments and has been across the Kennedy Bridge more days than not. And she says it “needs to come out really bad.”
“I won’t cross it if there’s another car coming,” she said. And though her property won’t be directly affected, she would not have objected if it had: “I would have been willing to give up my property for it.”
Chris and Cheryl Neal of Lexington will do just that. Theirs is one of the three properties that will be taken to make way for the new bridge, and the only one on the Garrard County side of the lake. It’s a weekend and summer home they have enjoyed since 2005. Its loss will be bittersweet.
“It’s paid for, and the money will be good,” Chris Neal said of the impending sale. “But I will miss it. It’s the best spot on the lake.”
Cheryl Neal is excited about the sale, too, but she is quick to note perks like a ringside seat for the fireworks shows on the Fourth of July and the “no wake” zone in that area of the lake.
The Neals also have had a birdseye view of the traffic trying to cross the bridge. They recognize the need for a new structure.
“We’ve seen pontoon boats going different directions have close encounters going over that bridge,” Cheryl Neal said.
The couple recall expensive bass boats scraping the sides, a tractor-trailer deciding to turn around rather than cross, and even arguments erupting over who would cross first when things got tight.
The Neals say they will replace their house with “something,” maybe a boat. “We’ll see,” Chris Neal said.
A pamphlet distributed Thursday night says the new bridge will be 850 feet long. The length, placement of abutments and pier placements as described in the exhibits could change slightly based on geotechnical information yet to be obtained. Further design will take into account traffic safety on the approaches.
Calvin expects the final design phase to be funded at the end of 2013 and right-of-way acquisitions will begin shortly thereafter. Construction could begin in 2014 and is expected to take two years.
The existing bridge, which is over one of the deepest portions of the deepest body of water in the state, has had problems since its construction in 1924, according to an April 5, 2012, story in The Advocate-Messenger. One of the piers on the Mercer County side was found to have risen 30 inches by 1936, and the bridge was tilted 12 inches toward the Mercer County side. Repairs were made in 1940, 1944, 1992 and 2003 before a $1.8 million project was undertaken in 2009 to reinforce the bridge, which required closing the span for six months.
Once the new bridge is built, the existing one will be torn down.