Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

May 21, 2013

Ben Williamson bridge damaged

10-weight limit is in effect

ASHLAND — A temporary 10-ton weight restriction is in effect on the Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge, which brings traffic from U.S. 52 into Ashland.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials put the weight limit in place Tuesday afternoon. Only vehicles carrying 20,000 pounds or more are affected. Those vehicles are being detoured from Portsmouth over the Jesse Stuart Memorial Bridge at Lloyd to U.S. 23 and at Chesapeake, across the Nick Joe Rahall II Bridge to Interstate 64.

According to Allen Blair, a highway spokesman, officials received a call from 911 dispatchers early Tuesday that an accident had damaged the bridge.

Bridge inspectors were sent to examine the bridge, Blair said. They found damage to steel diagonal beams and took measurements, which were sent to engineers in Frankfort, who then did load calculations, he said.

“They determined while it is safe to remain open, they recommended a 10-ton weight limit until we can get those repaired,” Blair said. A time frame for the repairs hasn’t been established, he said, noting authorities are still “reacting” to the closure, trying to get notifications to motorists and establishing a plan to address the repairs.

“The question will be: ‘What needs to be done and can we do it with the equipment resources we have?’” Blair said. “It’s obviously something we’re going to do quickly on an emergency basis so we can take that restriction away. How long it will take depends on what needs to be done.”

When repairs begin, additional traffic restrictions will be put into place.

It is unclear, however, how the bridge became damaged. Emergency dispatchers in Ohio and Kentucky said they had no record of an accident Tuesday morning on the inbound approach of the bridge.

Lawrence County (Ohio) Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Cartmell said his office was notified of damage to the bridge Sunday night. His office contacted the Ohio Department of Transportation, which instructed Kentucky authorities be alerted. Cartmell said he contacted Ashland Police Department personnel, who said they knew about the damage several days prior to that.

The damage, Cartmell said, is visible on the third beam from the end and is at a higher level than a passenger vehicle. He said it looks like a large truck would have had to strike the bridge.

APD officials said they had no record of an accident on the bridge or that the bridge had sustained damage.

When asked about the situation on Tuesday, APD Maj. Todd Kelley said it was the first he had heard about it.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com.

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