Input sought on replacing Cairo Bridge

September 5, 2019

Land Line Staff

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Plans are underway to replace the Cairo Bridge on U.S. Highway 51 over the Ohio River.

The Cairo Bridge connects Wickliffe, Ky. and Cairo, Ill.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Illinois Department of Transportation have started preliminary engineering and environmental analysis for the project.

Two open-house public meetings have been scheduled to inform the public on the project’s progress.

Each meeting is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. CDT. Handouts containing information about this project, comment sheets, and displays will be available at the meeting. There will be no formal presentation. Representatives of KYTC, IDOT, and consultants on the project team will be available to answer questions and gather public comments and input.

The first meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 9, at the Fort Jefferson Welcome Center in Wickliffe.

The second meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 10, at Cairo High School in Cairo.

In 2014, a planning study commissioned by KYTC recommended a preferred corridor for a new bridge immediately upstream of the existing U.S. 51 crossing. Information about the project is available online at US51Bridge.com.

Comment at or outside of meetings

There will be displays to view at the open house meetings. Officials encourage comments from area residents, businesses that rely on commerce created by bridge traffic, and companies hauling materials by truck over the bridge.

The displays may also be viewed at the KYTC Paducah office. The public comment period is expected to remain open for about two weeks.

Individuals or organizations wishing to submit comments outside of the public meetings may contact Chris Kuntz, PE, at the KYTC District 1 Office at 5501 Kentucky Dam Road; Paducah, KY 42003 or by calling 270-898-2431.

Cairo Bridge ove r the Ohio River

History of the Cairo Bridge

The U.S. 51 Ohio River Bridge, at Ohio River navigation mile point 980.4, carries U.S. 51, U.S. 60, and U.S. 62 traffic across the Ohio River at U.S. 51 Kentucky mile point 7.372.

Also known as the Cairo Bridge, it carries about 5,500 vehicles across the Ohio River each day between Wickliffe, Ky. and Cairo, Ill. Trucks account for about 35% of that traffic.

The bridge was constructed by the Cairo Bridge Commission as a toll facility and opened to traffic in 1937. Tolls were removed from the crossing in 1948, when the highway departments of Kentucky and Illinois took over maintenance of the structure.

It immediately connects with the U.S. 60/U.S. 62 Mississippi River Bridge to Bird’s Point, Mo., at the southern tip of Illinois, creating a major transportation link connecting Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri.

Cairo Bridge specifications

  • The existing bridge deck is 22.5 feet wide and has narrow 10-foot lanes and 1.25-foot shoulders.
  • The bridge does not allow oversize or overweight permit loads.
  • The bridge does not accommodate pedestrians.
  • Between October 2008 and September 2012, there were 18 vehicle crashes on the bridge between the 20 mph curve in Kentucky and the U.S. 60/U.S. 51 intersection in Illinois. The primary crash types were sideswipes and single-vehicle collisions. There were no fatalities and one injury collision. The crashes were largely concentrated at either end of the bridge.
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