• 61°

Bridge beam replacement rescheduled for August

Ashland river crossing could open as early as Aug. 12


ASHLAND, Ky. — While the fate of a truck driver who allegedly struck the Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge, causing the span’s months-long closure, is still up in the air, crews have set a date to replace the damaged steel beam.

According to a release by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Department of Highways District 9, contractors have scheduled the beam replacement for the Aug. 9-12 weekend.

That’s about a week and a half later than originally expected.

The original repair completion date was July 31. However, work is being restricted to weekends to reduce traffic impacts, the release stated.

After coordinating schedules and safety plans with both Norfolk Southern railroad and the Kentucky and Ohio transportation departments, the new date is the contractor’s first available opportunity to make physical repairs on the bridge.

“These last two months, the Tri-State has been severely inconvenienced by a vehicle accident and the subsequent traffic issues it has caused,” said Bart Bryant, Kentucky Department of Highways District 9 chief engineer. “We appreciate the public’s continued patience as engineers and contractors move closer to reopening the bridge.”

On May 17, a vehicle hit one of the vertical I-beams near the Ohio side of the bridge that normally carries traffic into Kentucky. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet continued to allow traffic to cross, at a restricted weight limit.

The bridge was closed within a few days as a safety precaution and traffic into Kentucky was routed over the Simeon Willis Bridge, which carries traffic into Ohio.

Dennis J. Smith, 59, of South Point, was cited in late June by the Ohio State Highway Patrol in connection with the damaged bridge.

Smith is charged with failure to control and leaving the scene of an accident, both misdemeanor charges. He pleaded not guilty to the charges July 1 in front of Judge O. Clark Collins.

According to the post, Smith was driving a 1987 Mack semi tractor-trailer loaded with scrap metal at the time of the crash. The truck continued into Kentucky without stopping or reporting that a crash had occurred according to the OSHP. The truck is owned by L.R. Daniels Transportation in Ashland, Ky.

The KYTC awarded the bridge repair work on June 19 to Evers Welding Co. of Cincinnati, who offered a bid of $52,400 for the job of replacing the damaged beam.

In the past five weeks, Evers Welding has been fabricating the replacement steel, mobilizing equipment and working with transportation engineers to finalize shop drawings and repair plans, as well as scheduling traffic control for the roadway and railway beneath the bridge, according to the KYTC.

Repair plans call for high-capacity jacks to support the bridge while the damaged beam is removed and the new beam installed. Work is tentatively scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9, and continue through early Monday, Aug. 12.

To protect motorists, all traffic beneath the bridge will be diverted during that time and train flagmen will direct rail traffic.

The following highway detour will be in effect:

— On US 52 east, through traffic may take the Ashland bridge exit ramp near Coal Grove, proceed up the ramp, past the Ashland bridge turns and use the facing on ramp to re-enter US 52 east of the work site. Motorists should watch message boards for direction.

— Ashland-bound traffic will continue using the US 52 exit ramps to access the now two-way 13th Street bridge, so motorists should expect significant delays during construction.

The 12th Street bridge will reopen after work is complete and as soon as the structure is deemed safe to cross by transportation inspectors.

If the weather permits and there are no unforeseen complications during repairs, the reopening could occur as early as Monday, Aug. 12, according to the KYTC.