Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

July 12, 2013

Off-site work on Simeon Willis Bridge is ongoing

Mike James
The Independent

ASHLAND — A contractor is still on track to complete repairs to the damaged Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge by the end of the month, but it will be awhile before any of the work is visible, a spokesman said.

Cincinnati-based Evers Welding Co. is manufacturing a steel I-beam offsite that it will use to replace a damaged beam on the Ohio-side approach span.

The company also is working on permit issues and coordinating its efforts with the Norfolk Southern Railroad, whose tracks run beneath the affected bridge section.

“Right now, the work is all off-site. We will meet within the next week or two and get a more exact schedule,” said Allen Blair, spokesman for District 9 of the Kentucky Department of Highways.

The manufacturing process is lengthy because the beam has to be made to order from specifications drawn up by transportation department engineers, Blair said.

However, officials still expect the project to be completed by July 31, he said. Because weather and temperatures affect some elements of the project, the completion date can’t be guaranteed, he said.

The bridge, which normally carries traffic from Ohio to Kentucky, remains closed pending the completion of repairs to the beam, which was bent severely in May when a truck loaded with scrap metal turned onto the bridge and hit it. The driver of the truck faces criminal charges in Ohio stemming from the accident.

Traffic continues to be diverted to one lane of the Simeon Willis Memorial Bridge, usually one-way from Kentucky to Ohio. Because the Ben Williamson Bridge usually carries about 20,000 vehicles per day in two lanes, cars and trucks have been stacked up across the other span during peak traffic hours.

District 9 has established a web page with detailed traffic maps, current bridge status, a project timeline and other information.

The public may access the web page at Transportation.ky.gov/District-9/Pages/Ashland-Bridges.aspx, or at Transportation.ky.gov/District-9 by clicking “Ashland Bridges.”

The district also has repair information at its Facebook and Twitter pages.

Temporary traffic patterns include:

Traffic on U.S. 52 in Ohio can take the Ashland exit, turn right onto the 13th Street bridge and follow cone-marked lanes to U.S. 23-Winchester Avenue where all traffic must turn right. Northbound U.S. 23 vehicles can continue straight, and southbound U.S. 23 traffic can take the truck detour using Greenup Avenue.

Southbound traffic on U.S. 23-Winchester Avenue is restricted to one left-turn lane onto the 13th Street bridge. (The dedicated left-turn lane has been eliminated to give incoming traffic more room.) Two lanes carry traffic across the bridge to access U.S. 52 toward either Ironton or South Point.

Northbound U.S. 23-Winchester Avenue traffic can turn right onto the 13th Street bridge as normal. And, 13th Street traffic can proceed along normal routes.

Other possible routes for vehicles headed to Interstate 64 or U.S. 23 include taking the 17th Street Bridge from Chesapeake to West Huntington to I-64 to reach U.S. 23 at Catlettsburg or the Jesse Stuart Bridge at the Greenup locks and dam to U.S. 23 and the Industrial Parkway to reach I-64 just west of Grayson.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.