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Bridge into Ashland closed

Safety measure due to structural damage

 

Ashland, Ky. — The Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge, the span that connects in Ashland at 12th Street, was closed at approximately 9:30 a.m. Thursday as a safety measure after the structure suffered damage from a recent automobile crash.

The bridge carries traffic one way across the Ohio River from Ohio to Kentucky, linking U.S. 52 and U.S. 23.

Engineers with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet inspected steel beam damage on the bridge’s Ohio approach span Tuesday and then imposed a 10-ton weight limit. Since then, engineers have been monitoring traffic and analyzing the damage.

“There is too great a risk until we get a repair plan,” said Allen Blair, public information officer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 9. “This is one of those decisions where we trust our engineers to protect the public. It is a safety issue.”

With continued heavy traffic and further analysis, transportation officials say keeping the bridge open poses too great a risk to the structure’s stability and to the safety of traffic.

“Right now, our priority is the safety of motorists,” said Kentucky Department of Highways District 9 Chief Engineer Bart Bryant. “While we understand the inconvenience this bridge closure will cause, it is the right thing to do in terms of protecting the traveling public.”

Highway crews have placed barricades at the bridge and will set up appropriate signage and detours throughout the day. Engineers continue to assess repair plans, and are investigating options to alleviate the traffic disruption of closing the bridge.

For now, traffic may detour using several routes to reach Ashland:

— From Portsmouth, Ohio, east on US 52, cross the Jesse Stuart Memorial Bridge at Greenup, Ky., to US 23 south.

— From Chesapeake, Ohio, west on US 52, cross the Nick Joe Rahall II bridge at Huntington, W.Va., to I-64 west to US 23 north.

— From Ironton, cross the Ironton-Russell Bridge in downtown Ironton to connect with U.S. 23 near Russell.

“We are looking at a variety of options to alleviate traffic disruptions,” Blair said, adding that making the Simeon Willis Memorial Bridge two directions as was done during a past painting project is a possibility. “This is not something we do lightly.”

The issue began Tuesday when the span was struck by a vehicle on the Ohio approach. Inspectors responded to examine damaged steel beams and determined that the bridge could remain open to traffic but that the weight of vehicles crossing the bridge would be restricted to 10 tons.

Find more information about Department of Highways District 9 activities online at http://transportation.ky.gov/district-9, or keep up to date via Twitter at http://twitter.com/KYTCDistrict9 or via Facebook at http://facebook.com/KYTCDistrict9.