The US 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge is now CLOSED due to rising floodwaters.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet crews started prep work about 11:30 p.m., CST, Wednesday, to close US 51 at the 6 mile marker in Ballard County where floodwaters cross the levee leading out to the bridge. The roadway was closed to vehicle traffic about 12: 20 a.m. this morning. US 51 is also closed south of Wickliffe near the Ballard-Carlisle County Line a short time later.
The closure of the US 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge severs a critical transportation link for the region. The river crossing carries about 5,000 vehicles a day. About 35 percent is truck traffic carrying goods between Kentucky, Illinois, and nearby Missouri.
An initial projection on Tuesday indicated the bridge would be forced to close around Noon on Thursday, New Year’s Eve. However, river level updates from the National Weather Service and the US Army Corps of Engineers showed the river elevation was rising more quickly and would force closure of the bridge during the overnight hours.
Transportation officials moved to close the bridge at midnight to allow placement of semi-permanent barricades at each end of the bridge to provide an extra margin of safety by preventing people from removing Road Closed signs and driving through the floodwaters.
Engineers are expecting floodwaters to be about 6 ft. deep at one point on the levee near the Kentucky end of the bridge by Monday. In 2011, swift currents sweeping across US 51 damaged shoulders of the roadway and the earthen levee leading to the bridge. Following that flood it took about a day of cleaning and repair work before traffic could be restored.
Based on the most recent projections, engineers expect the US 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge to be closed for about a week. That estimate is based on no additional rainfall upstream.
Additional info on the bridge and closure can be found in the earlier Traffic ALERT below. We will provide timely notice when the bridge is able to reopen to traffic once floodwaters subside.