Bridge contractors begin construction

Hall Contracting of Kentucky Inc. the contractors hired by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to replace a missing span on the Eggner’s Ferry Bridge has started design work required for the bridge repair.

In a news conference on March 8, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Hall Contracting was awarded a $7 million contract with a requirement that it be completed by Memorial Day.

Beshear said the Federal Highway Administration approved $9 million in emergency relief funding to repair the bridge.

Keith Todd, spokesperson for the KTC, said officials were being vague about the six options prior to choosing to replace the span until they had something more solid.

“We waited until we got firm dates and the confirmation that, yes, this can be done,” Todd said.

Todd said the pier evaluation was a big part of the decision to repair the bridge.

“Just like we waited on the information about the underwater evaluation of the piers,” Todd said. “That was a key part of the decision to repair the span. We were kind of vague until we had a copy of the report in hand.”

He said getting the steel fabricated will be the first step for the repairs.

KTC officials cannot set a beginning construction date until the fabrication of steel is completed. He said the process requires the KTC to be flexible.

Todd said the KTC wants Tom Roberts, vice president of Hall Contracting, to stay focused on the work on the bridge.

“He keeps information flowing through us,” Todd said.

A penalty fine of $50,000 will be issued each day past the deadline if the construction is not completed.

Sally Mateja, Institutional Review Board coordinator at Murray State, said she was astonished that the state government chose the rebuilding of the missing span as the route of repair.

“For the sake of the tourist trade, I’m glad they are doing this but I’m afraid it may mean they intend to put the replacement of the bridge on the back burner,” Mateja said. “It and the Lake Barkley bridge need to be replaced before they both fall into the rivers.”

Her commute from Cadiz, Ky., went from 40 minutes to an hour and 30 minutes and the mileage of her trip increased 49 miles.

“The cost of gas and maintenance has more than doubled for each round trip,” Mateja said. “I no longer see my friends unless they stop by my office or I can catch lunch with them. No one, including me, is willing to drive the hour and a half to get together for a friendly visit.”

Chelsea Brown, senior from Hopkinsville, Ky., said she has been keeping up to date with the progress of the bridge since the damaged structure has now made her daily commute to and from class a four-hour round trip.

“I think the progress of the bridge is very much needed for the amount of people this catastrophe has affected,” Brown said. “I think the repairs being completed by May 27 are very fast.”

Brown said she would rather the repair work be done safely and in an appropriate amount of time versus quickly and not thoroughly.

“I have to keep telling myself that these people working on the bridge know what they are doing and if it wasn’t safe to repair, they wouldn’t even begin repairs,” Brown said. “I know there will be a lot of happy travelers after May 27.”

Don Robertson, vice president of Student Affairs, said he and other faculty members were planning alternative class options for the fall semester when they heard about the plans for the repairs.

“We were talking about if we offer more freshman level classes in Hopkinsville or more online classes,” Robertson said. “Then we get the announcement later that day about that bridge, obviously there is no need to implement any of that.”

He said the University was concerned and was trying to be proactive about how they could off-set this.

“We were going to survey current students and admitted students from that area to determine if more online classes and more classes on Hopkinsville campus would be of interest because of the additional time it takes to commute,” Robertson said.