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Ledbetter Bridge drops again as demolition nears

BY DAVID ZOELLERdzoeller@paducahsun.com

While crews have begun delivering equipment to the site, the start of demolition of the old Ledbetter Bridge may still be several days away, according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Meanwhile, the west approach spans continue to drop.

Cabinet officials had hoped dry weather would slow down slippage along the bluff near the 83-year-old bridge, but significant movement of the west approach spans early Friday morning proved otherwise.

Sensors placed on the bridge indicated movement around 5:15 a.m., and inspectors found the span had dropped about one foot. A few hours later, it had dropped another 3-4 inches, said Keith Todd, cabinet spokesman.

"Our theory was if it quit raining and the bluff dried out, that maybe the movement would stop," cabinet spokesman Keith Todd said Friday. "But the bluff is continuing to move."

According to Todd, the girder that sits on top of the upstream side is hanging on by just inches. While decking on the three approach spans remains standing, they have dropped several feet since movement along the bluff at the west end of the bridge was discovered April 30. Two land-based piers are leaning toward the west end of the bridge, Todd said.

"The contractor has arrived and begun delivering equipment to the site," said Todd, indicating that process could take four or five days. A large crane used in the demolition will be assembled on site.

"By this time next week we should begin to see some demolition activity," he said.

Demolition is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 1. The bridge has been closed to traffic since July 2013.

"Our concern is if the approach spans were to have a catastrophic failure it might damage the main truss," Todd said. "That would impact the navigation channel."

Authorities continue to warn the public to avoid areas along the bluff and Tennessee River shoreline near the bridge.

"We had reports of a fellow who had apparently taken his children down there (along the bluff to look under the bridge)," Todd said. "There are still some people down there poking around and getting into places they don't need to be."

Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.

         

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