State making right moves on Perryville bridge project

Published 4:28 pm Tuesday, November 19, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

The state Transportation Department made the right decision to delay a public meeting and reassess its plan for overhauling the U.S. 150 bridge over the Chaplin River in Perryville.

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Perryville and Boyle County residents were less than pleased early this month when they found out the state was planning to shut down all access across the bridge while it was replaced next year, meaning drivers would need to travel 12 miles to get from one side of the bridge to the other.

The plan came as a surprise, because for whatever reasons, locals had believed the plan was to leave one lane of the bridge open at a time, or provide access over a temporary bridge during construction.

State officials got several earfuls of passionate but respectful complaints about their plan at the public informational meeting. Boyle County Magistrate Tom Ellis warned he would “fight” the plan in Frankfort; multiple residents and officials brought up concerns about the 12-mile detour’s effect on emergency response times.

Robin Sprague, branch manager of project development for the transportation cabinet, promised those upset by the plan he would look into what it would take to maintain access during construction. But he also noted it would require a substantial amount of research and work by bridge designers and engineers.

A second public meeting, intended to be focused on the bridge project’s impact on Perryville’s historic district, was scheduled for yesterday, but a few days after the first public meeting, the state delayed that meeting so it could have more time to research the problems brought up by local residents.

“After a public meeting on Nov. 12, it became clear that the community is not ready to move forward with the project until a solution is identified to maintain traffic through town, instead of utilizing a 12-mile detour,” a letter from the Transportation Cabinet stated. “The engineering staff at District 7 and in Frankfort are exploring a range of solutions, but with an aging bridge, the problem is complicated. They are working hard to find solutions, but at this point, we don’t know when their study will be complete.

“Rather than meet with those questions unresolved, we believe that the project and community will best be served by rescheduling the meeting. A more complete understanding of the options and implications on cost, schedule and any other impacts will ensure that the full picture is communicated.”

Transportation officials should be commended for coming to Perryville to listen; for really listening to local residents; and for changing course in order to address the problems they heard.

No one ever intended to create a problem with this project; in fact, the project is intended to solve a major problem — the future dependability of the U.S. 150 bridge.

When construction is complete, Perryville will have a new, stronger bridge that will ensure safer travel along a major route for decades to come. We’re glad such an important project is being handled so reasonably.