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Ashland bridge set to be repaired Aug. 9-12

Jul. 27, 2013 @ 12:21 AM

ASHLAND -- The damaged structural steel beam on the Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge at 12th Street will be replaced the weekend of Aug. 9-12 and traffic will be one big mess, Police Chief Rob Ratliff said.

The bridge was damaged in May, and the two-lane span over the Ohio River between Coal Grove and Ashland has been closed for about two months. About 20,000 vehicles per day use the bridge.

Eastbound U.S. 52 beneath the bridge will be closed while the repairs are underway that weekend, and train traffic also will be restricted, according to a news release from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Eastbound traffic will be rerouted up the ramp to the bridge and then down the other ramp to continue heading eastbound.

"It's going to be a mess that weekend," Ratliff said Friday. "I would advise people to avoid the bridge and use another way to get to Ashland."

The work was to have been done by July 31. However, work is being restricted to weekends to reduce the impact on traffic, according to the release. After coordinating schedule and safety plans with both Norfolk Southern railroad and Ohio and Kentucky state transportation departments, Aug. 9-12 was the first available opportunity to make repairs on the bridge, according to the release.

"These last two months, the Tri-State area has been severely inconvenienced by a vehicle accident and the subsequent traffic issues it has caused," Bart Bryant, District 9 chief engineer for the Department of Highways, said. "We appreciate the public's continued patience as engineers and contractors move closer to reopening the bridge."

Engineers closed the bridge May 20 and a week later converted the Simeon Willis Bridge at 13th Street to handle both northbound and southbound traffic between Ashland and Coal Grove. Evers Welding Co. of Cincinnati was awarded a $52,400 contract to make the repairs.

The contractor has been fabricating the replacement steel, mobilizing equipment and working with transportation engineers to make the repairs. The work tentatively is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9, and continue through early Monday, Aug. 12, according to the release.

Motorists should expect significant delays that weekend, according to the release. If things go well, the bridge could be reopened to traffic as early as Monday, Aug. 12.

In connection with the damage to the bridge, Dennis J. Smith, 59, of South Point, was arrested earlier this month on charges of leaving the scene of an accident and failure to control a vehicle. A hearing set for Thursday was continued to Aug. 1 in Ironton Municipal Court. The Ohio Highway Patrol charged that Smith was driving a 1987 Mack tractor-trailer loaded with scrap metal that struck the bridge support on May 17.

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