KYTC NEWS RELEASE
A major transportation artery for Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri is expected to be restored at 7 a.m., CST, Today.
The US 51/US 60/US 62 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge between Kentucky and Illinois is expected to open to traffic just after daylight. The river crossing has been closed since the early morning hours of Thursday, December 31st where floodwaters covered the bridge approach levee at the Kentucky end of the span.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet engineers have been checking water levels regularly and have inspected the levee. That inspection found no shoulder and erosion issues that plagued the area after the 2011 flood. A check this morning found water had dropped enough for traffic to resume today.
KYTC engineers had been in conversations with the US Army Corps of Engineers about water levels at the site. Late yesterday they were awaiting a drop of about 2 inches before restoring traffic. KYTC officials also were looking for some assurance that a planned discharge increase at Kentucky Dam and Barkley Dam would not force US 51 to be closed again in the next day or two.
The river crossing normally carries about 5,000 vehicles a day across the Ohio River. About 35 percent is truck traffic carrying goods between Kentucky, Illinois, and nearby Missouri. The closure impacts north-south traffic on US 51 between Kentucky and Illinois and east west traffic along US 60 and US 62 into Kentucky and Missouri.
US 51 is also closed south of Wickliffe, KY, near the Ballard-Carlisle County Line. It may be a few more days before that site can reopen.
Highway crews have removed driftwood, mud and other debris from the Kentucky end of the US 52 Ohio River Bridge closure to help reduce the amount of time needed to reopen the roadway once floodwaters dropped off the pavement. The Ballard County Highway Maintenance Crew has also used the closure to patch potholes along the highway and on the bridge deck.
From bridge end to bridge end, the closure of the US 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge createed about an 80 mile detour via the Interstate 24 Ohio River Bridge through Southern Illinois. It added about 40 miles to a trip from Paducah, KY, to Sikeston or Cape Girardeau, MO.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet plans to reopen the bridge to traffic at 7 a.m., CST, this morning. Motorists are asked to use caution along the bridge approach levee due to floodwaters that continue to be near the edge of the roadway.
The Wickliffe-Cairo Bridge carries US 51, US 60, and US 62 traffic across the Ohio River at US 51 Kentucky mile point 7.372.
Also known as The Cairo Bridge, the US 51/US 60/US 62 Wickliffe-Cairo Bridge connects with the US 60/US 62 Mississippi River Bridge to Bird’s Point, Missouri at the southern tip of Illinois.
The US 51 Ohio River Bridge was constructed by the Cairo Bridge Commission as a toll facility and opened to traffic on November 11, 1936. Tolls were removed from the crossing on November 11, 1948, when the highway departments of Kentucky and Illinois took over maintenance of the structure.
The Cairo-Wickliffe Bridge is at Ohio River navigation mile point 980.4.