A study that must take place before a bridge replacement project on Herrington Lake can move forward has been postponed, at least for a while.
Natasha Lacy, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 7, said a geotechnical study that would require closing Kennedy Bridge for several weeks will not happen until winter. The bridge, where Ky. 152 crosses the lake on the Mercer and Garrard County lines, was originally scheduled to close on April 16.
At a public informational meeting held Tuesday in Burgin, many in attendance said they were worried about increased time and cost of everyday travel should the bridge be closed for construction. However, Lacy said it was the immediate concerns many nearby business owners voiced that led to pushing back drilling for the study.
“They have decided to do the drilling in the winter months when it is the off season and marinas and other businesses won’t be disrupted,” Lacy said.
Linda Barnes, one of the owners of Chimney Rock Marina, attended the meeting Tuesday and was happy to hear the road leading to her business won’t be closed just as she is preparing to open for the spring and summer. She said the closure could have meant a big inconvenience for many customers coming from Lexington.
“It is really good news,” Barnes said. “Here we are opening on the 13th and they were going to close the bridge on the 16th.”
Lacy said the project is still expected to move forward once the study can be completed. Engineers and the consulting firm WMB Inc. are still looking at either replacing the current bridge at its present location, which would mean shutting down the crossing for an extended period of time, or building another bridge downstream, which would allow the current bridge to stay open.
The study is necessary to find out why the 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.
One of 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.
WMB consultant Charles Raymer, who worked for the Transportation Cabinet until retiring in 2000, said theories for what has caused the piers to rise include a layer of clay under the rock on the bottom that expanded after the lake was impounded, or the karst rock formations typical of limestone in the region. While the culprit is unknown, Raymer said Tuesday modern engineering and technology will likely make it possible to overcome whatever resulted in the structural problems.
Most at Tuesday’s meeting were less concerned with the temporary inconvenience of the study than the potential closure for months or years should the department choose the option of replacing the bridge where it is now. An average of 2000 people cross the bridge on a daily basis, which Raymer said is not necessarily a high volume, but many residents at the information session said they use the span multiple times a day.
The project was still in the most recent version of the biennial road plan, which legislators are working on in a conference committee this week before they return to close the regular session next Monday. The plan included $630,000 for right-of-way acquisition and utility relocation and $8.3 million for construction.
Lacy said another public meeting will probably be held when more information on the project is available.