Construction of western Ky. span ahead of schedule

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PADUCAH, Ky. (KT) – Despite a delay due to spring flooding in western Kentucky, construction of the new U.S. 60 bridge over the Cumberland River at Smithland, in Livingston County, continues to be ahead of schedule. 

Jim Smith Contracting, prime contractor on the $63.6 million project, has started footers for the main piers for the new bridge, and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 1 Chief Engineer Kyle Poat said the firm postponed starting footers for the main piers until well after the spring flood season to reduce the likelihood of worksite flooding.

"These main piers are closest to the edge of the river," Poat stated.   "While this work started about a month later than expected, the crew placing the pilings made up that lost time."

The pilings are huge pipes driven into the ground to help create a deep foundation to support the bridge.  KYTC Project Manager Austin Hart says it's hard to imagine their size until you see them up close.

"Also referred to as drilled shafts, these massive pipes are 80 ft. long and 8 ft. in diameter and are essentially screwed into the ground," Hart said.  "Once they are in the ground, the soil inside is excavated out, a pre-assembled cage of reinforcing steel is lowered inside the piling, then it is poured full of concrete.  It provides the base for the main piers."

Hart said three of the eight shafts for the main pier on the Smithland side of the river are completed, while three of the eight shafts for the main pier on the north side of the river have been started.

"When the eight shafts are completed on each side, the base of the main pier will sit directly on top of these structures," Hart said.  "Sometime in mid-August we expect to start construction of the main piers.  They should emerge from the base we are constructing now and be visible above ground by sometime in September with completion of the main piers expected by the end of the year."

Steel for the main truss is expected to arrive this summer. The 700-foot main span will be assembled off-site, beginning this fall, then floated to the construction site by barge and lifted into place in fall 2022.

The construction schedule calls for moving traffic to the new bridge in spring 2023.

The new bridge will have a 40-foot-wide, two-lane deck with 12-foot driving lanes and 6-foot shoulders, allowing motor vehicles to share the bridge with most farm equipment. 

It will replace the Lucy Jefferson Lewis Memorial Bridge, which was built in1931.


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