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Initial bridge demolition work under way

Staff report

A contractor for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has completed saw cutting of decking on the three main spans of the old Ledbetter bridge and begun initial demolition work on the aging structure.

According to Keith Todd, cabinet spokesman, the contractor plans to complete the initial dismantling of concrete along the end of the main span nearest the McCracken County side of the Tennessee River by hand. Once the crew loosens the decking along the edge, the contractor will use mechanized equipment to take out the concrete decking, he said.

Demolition plans were submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard for approval several weeks ago. The Coast Guard's review is expected to take about 30 days, Todd said. Coordinating the demolition with the Coast Guard is necessary to minimize disruptions to navigation along the Tennessee River.

"Once the plan is approved, the contractor will be able to provide a timetable for the ongoing demolition work through the summer," Todd said.

The safety of workers, the public and river traffic will be the top priority throughout the process, he said.

The cabinet has issued a $5.6 million contract for demolition of the bridge, to be completed by Dec. 1.

The bridge opened to traffic in 1931. It has been closed since July 2013, when traffic was moved to the new U.S. 60 Tennessee River bridge just upstream.

A section of the west approach on the bridge dropped several feet this spring due to land movement along the bluff on the McCracken County side of the river.

Due to continued land slippage along the bluff, one land-based approach pier and two approach spans at the west end of the bridge collapsed early June 22, prompting cabinet engineers to expedite demolition plans.

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