Story by Matthew Parks, Contributing writer
The new Eggners Ferry Bridge opened all four lanes today after two years of construction, and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet held a ribbon cutting in honor of the work done to make it possible.
The construction of the bridge was a $133 million project that has been in the works since 2011 and has created a larger, more stable bridge for crossing over the Land Between the Lakes National Recreational Area.
The ribbon cutting was held today and residents from all over western Kentucky came to see the bridge’s first day and walk along its span over the lake.
Engineers from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, representatives from Gov. Bevin’s office, state senators, contractors who worked on the project and judges from counties all over the district were in attendance.
Mike McGregor, chief engineer of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, spoke at the ceremony and praised both the state workers and contractors who worked on the project.
“There were times people would come up to me and say, ‘I won’t see this finished in my lifetime,’” McGregor said. “And there were also times when I thought they might be right.”
However, the bridge was finished ahead of schedule, since the original estimated date of completion was the end of 2017. The timetable was adjusted in 2012 after the Delta Mariner cargo ship struck a section of the bridge.
Marshall County Judge Executive Kevin Neal talked more about the project’s impact on western Kentucky and expanded on his hopes that the new bridge will increase tourism to the district.
“Personally, I’m very excited to get my family up here on the walking path,” Neal said.
The bridge will include a path along both sides that connect to trails within the Land Between the Lakes, allowing pedestrian access. The trail path is scheduled to be completed in the next six to eight weeks.
Patty Dunaway, state highway engineer, also attended the ribbon cutting. Although she oversees various projects throughout the state, she said she had a particular interest in this one.
Dunaway said the project is unique in both its design and methods of construction, and she said she is very proud of the team that put it together.
“It takes a team working together with joint enthusiasm to accomplish a feat of engineering like this one,” Dunaway said.
Murray State representatives also showed interest in the project.
Chris Wooldridge, district director for the Murray State Small Business Development Center, said he believes the bridge will provide much easier and safer traffic through the area.
“One of the most important factors for economic development is roadway infrastructure,” Wooldridge said. “These bridges will support regional tourism growth as well as provide companies with a safer route between I-24 and I-69.”
Chief contractor on the project, Mike Brown, echoed those sentiments. He testified to the endless hard work and dedication he and his staff put into getting the job done and hopes the entire region will enjoy the new bridge.
“We hope [the bridge] helps with the continued growth of western Kentucky,” Brown said.