The temporary closure of the bridge over Terrill Branch on Kentucky Highway 3376 near Silver Creek School has generated much discussion recently. I also found it unusual for this bridge replacement to occur just after the replacement of a bridge over Cowbell Creek on US Highway 421 at Big Hill. As luck would have it, my questions were unexpectedly answered at the quarterly meeting of the Bluegrass Area Development District Board of Directors earlier this week.
Our guest speaker at this meeting was Royce Meredith, a Program Manager with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), and his presentation was about the "Bridging Kentucky" program. The Bridging Kentucky program is an initiative of KYTC that will rehabilitate or replace at least 1,000 critical bridges throughout the State of Kentucky between the fall of 2018 and 2024. The goal is to improve the safety and soundness of bridges across the Commonwealth. In fact, 340 bridge projects are already funded by the State Legislature, with 16 projects already under construction. According to Mr. Meredith, KYTC will replace or rehabilitate three times more bridges than we would see in a normal year.
KYTC's plan calls for rehabilitation or replacement of 9 Madison County bridges in Fiscal Year 2019-2020, which began on July 1, 2019 and will end on June 30, 2020. They are:
• KY 169 over Long Branch
• US 421 Over Cowbell Creek
• Oakley Wells Road Over Muddy Creek
• KY 3376 over Terrill Branch
• Peacock Road over East Fork of Otter Creek
• Old Hayes Fork Road over Branch of Hays Fork
• Black Road over Branch of Muddy Creek
• KY 1984 over Tates Creek
• KY 1983 over CSX Railroad
Looking forward, four additional bridge projects are in the planning stages for Madison County in the Fiscal Year 2021-2024 timeframe:
• US 25 over CSX Railroad Spur
• Meadowbrook Road over Muddy Creek
• Crutcher Pike over Crutcher Fork
• Sam Jones Road over Otter Creek
Several factors were mentioned in response to a question about how these bridges were chosen by KYTC: Bridges that were already closed, weight restrictions (improving load ratings) and those in poor condition. In response to a question about why bridges are closing during construction, we were advised that the KYTC has several reasons, including a safety-first focus, the expedited program, bridges that are not being expanded, and short closure windows are expected. Bridge rehabilitation projects extend bridge life at least 30 years, while bridge replacement will last at least 75 years.
I came away from this presentation with a much better understanding about why we are seeing so many bridge replacements and am hopeful that this information will be useful to all Madison Countians.