Fiscal Court declares state of emergency to expedite Ky 81 bridge repairs

Al Mattingly

Daviess Fiscal Court has declared a local state of emergency regarding the Kentucky 81 bridge over Panther Creek.

While the language associated with the executive order, signed by Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly on Wednesday, may seem severe, it was done to allow repairs on the state-maintained bridge to happen faster, Mattingly said.

"The state of emergency means nothing other than Daviess County Fiscal Court can suspend its ordinary operations procedures when it comes to bidding out the work, equipment and services. We chose to declare it based off of the economic and safety needs related to the Kentucky 81 bridge."

Through declaring a local state of emergency, the court was able to ask the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to suspend its procedures in order to expedite the repair process as well, he said.

"KYTC engineers have determined that the bridge can be repaired and have started an expedited bidding and repair," Mattingly said. "They are anticipating completion in eight to 12 weeks, but people shouldn't expect it to be open exactly at that time. There will inevitably be delays and issues, but that is inherent in projects like these."

A definite plan has not been greenlit as of yet, but the order has allowed the KYTC to enter into expedited plan development. While no plan has been nailed down, the KYTC is in the process, said KYTC District 2 Chief Engineer Deneatra Henderson.

“Once that process is completed, we estimate it will take several weeks to fabricate the necessary steel to repair the steel truss structure. After that, we estimate on-site construction could be completed in about six to 10 weeks,” Henderson said.

Damage to the Kentucky 81 bridge occurred on Aug. 14 when a piece of scrap metal on top of a semitrailer load struck the bridge as the truck attempted to cross. The impact caused severe damage to its superstructure. The bridge has been closed since.

While the estimated repair timeline may not necessarily be ideal for the 5,200 motorists that use the bridge daily, it is far better than if the court had not made the order, Mattingly said.

"It could have taken the state up to two months to even bid the project out without the order," he said. "There are businesses feeling the hurt and the people that will really feel it are the farmers. They will have to detour their equipment on (Kentucky) 554, which is a narrow state road. Then you have the other detour that dumps that traffic on Southtown Boulevard.

"It may not be convenient now, but it is far more preferable than waiting until next year to get the bridge open," he said.

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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