RUSSELL Work is on or ahead of schedule on the new viaduct that will take traffic into and out of downtown Russell, a Kentucky Department of Highways spokesman said.
If contractors can stay on schedule the viaduct should be open to traffic by summer, said spokesman Allen Blair.
The $20-plus million viaduct will loop over the river bank from downtown Russell via a series of concrete piers, then cross over the CSX rail tracks and U.S. 23 and connect with a roadway carved into the hillside that descends to intersect with Kenwood Drive (Ky. 750).
It replaces one that is 82 years old and deteriorating.
All but two of the piers have been completed and work on the remaining two should start soon, Blair said.
Most of the blasting on the hill side is done, which means there should be few more delays for that, he said.
Much earth remains to be moved via heavy trucks, however.
The massive steel beams that will carry the roadway over the piers are on order and should begin arriving in December. There may be traffic delays when they are being placed. Those delays could last a couple of hours but will be announced in advance, he said.
Installing the steel beams will be a complex process because of their shapes, Blair said. The beams are curved and also banked, which means they will require temporary bracing during the construction phase.
Once completed, the bracing can be removed. "This is one of the more complicated bridge projects we've ever done," Blair said.
Other than the initial installation, most work on the beams will be done off-road, so no additional traffic delays are anticipated.
Work on the project will continue through the winter, although paving, which requires warmer weather, will wait until asphalt plants reopen in the spring.
Once opened to traffic, work will continue on some final details.
The design was chosen because it improves the intersection of the new Ironton-Russell bridge and allowed the existing viaduct to stay open during construction, Blair said.
Current traffic patterns at the bridge intersection create long waits at the traffic signal and those waits will be significantly shorter when the old viaduct closes.
Keeping it open during construction was imperative because it provides a vital access and exit point to downtown Russell. Without it, large trucks and some emergency vehicles would not have a route into or out of downtown. There is an underpass under the CSX tracks at the other end of downtown but it is too low and narrow for many large vehicles.
A section of U.S. 23 southbound across from downtown will remain one lane probably until the project is complete, but the northbound section that approaches the bridge will probably revert to two lanes by winter, Blair said.
When the new viaduct opens, the old one will be closed and demolished. Until then, the transportation department will continue with periodic inspections to make sure it remains safe for use, Blair said.