Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - Updated: 8:47 AM
CANTON — Despite a rainy start to the day, construction crews on forged ahead Tuesday with plans to move and set the main span on the new U.S.68/KY 80 Lake Barkley Bridge at Canton.
The 10-12 hour move began shortly afterTuesday, after the U.S. Coast Guard closed the navigational channel; road crews closed traffic on the existing Henry Lawrence Memorial Bridge about Tuesday to accommodate a 2,000-foot clear zone to move the arch, which encompasses 550 feet. The bridge will remain closed to traffic until about .
It was more than just closed bridges and waterways, though; for many residents, setting the arch marked a milestone in Canton history. Several residents turned out to watch the event in slow motion. Canton Baptist Church was ready to assist.
Dannye Wagner, secretary at Canton Baptist said the church had decided in the weeks leading up to the event to open its doors and property to allow those who wished to view the chance to do so. As ofTuesday, Wagner said about 25 residents had ventured out to watch the event from the church property.
Wagner, who also watched the Eggners Ferry arch move, said the event was exciting in the potential it brought for new development in the area and safe passage.
“We need it,” Wagner said. “Because the bridges were old. They’re also going to really be a gateway to LBL and bring more tourism in, and I really think that it’ll be a good thing. Even the hiking trail over the Eggners Ferry: every time you go over there it’s being used. So, I’m really looking forward to this side reaping the benefits, too.”
Wagner said she’s followed the project since the beginning, when planning committees opened public forums on the bridges’ design and construction.
“I was able to go with a group of friends to the first meetings they had and actually get to vote on the different prototypes,” Wagner said. “... We’d go to the meetings and see how what’s going to happen and get to vote on how it was going to be. I was glad that everybody had a good idea that we needed a special bridge. ... Something that people would actually when they came here would see something really nice to look at. ... Having been watching the process for all these years ... it was neat to be able to feel that the public was contributing to what they were going to do.”
J.B. Oakley was born and raised in Devil’s Elbow, having moved to Canton after he and his wife married and about the time residents were being moved from the area to for the Land Between the Lakes. In his mind, Oakley said seeing the project come to fruition had been an outcome he’d not truly thought to experience.
“It’s something I never expected to happen in my lifetime,” Oakley said. “Now, this will be the second one I’m going to see put up. I just think it’s a great thing, something I never expected to see.”
Like Wagner, Oakley said he was hopeful the new stuctures would bring potential to the area. A safer route to drive was a plus to Oakley, as well.
“At least we’ll have a good road to travel to Murray and (other) places,” Oakley said. “Them two bridges there, they was a nightmare to go across, people knocking mirrors off and things and they pray to get over.”
KYTC Public Information Officer Keith Todd said once the main span was fully set, project engineers would have a more clear idea of target date for completion. As of Tuesday, contractors expected to be able to transition two-lane traffic sometime in spring 2018, a slight setback from the initial fall 2017 timeline.
“We were thinking maybe October-ish, November-ish originally,” Todd said. “... I want to say it was when they were doing the borings for the pier footers here, I think they had to do some extra grouting. It was something that consumed some extra time.”
Work will continue on the bridge throughout the end of the year once traffic shifts, according to KYTC.
PCL Civil Construction of Denver, Colo., is the prime contractor on the $128.3 million project.