Perryville’s Chaplin River bridge construction starts this week; dam being analyzed for repairs

Construction on Perryville’s U.S. Highway 150 bridge passing over Chaplin River was scheduled to begin Monday with the expected completion date of Oct. 14. As of Monday morning, temporary traffic lights set in caution mode were up on both sides of the bridge and on the U.S. Highway 68 side, and flashing signs were put in place to let drivers know about lane closure as construction begins, said Perryville Mayor Brian Caldwell.

Caldwell said this is a state road project through the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, and he’s been told the first process in construction will be to shut a section of the bridge off using concrete barricades to temporarily make one lane.

The approximately $1.3 million project, with the winning bid awarded to Jave Construction, is not being funded by the city since it’s a state project. It’s an undertaking that’s been in the making for about 14 years, Caldwell said.

Planned construction involves removing the two 5-foot sidewalks on either side of the bridge, as well as the decking on the bridge. The decking will be completely replaced, and instead of the sidewalks being reinstalled, there will be an 8-foot-wide pedestrian bridge installed on the south side, next to the east-bound lane of the bridge.

Caldwell said the state had originally planned to completely close the bridge while it was under construction, which he said “would have been a nightmare, but we talked them into leaving one lane open, especially for the emergency vehicles and such, because we still have to service the west end of the county there.”

Making the bridge one lane temporarily will potentially create an issue for large vehicles like semi trucks. Caldwell said the more semi trucks that can be diverted to go an alternate route, the better, since the lane will be narrow, about 10 feet and 4 inches wide, and traffic may get congested due to the large volume of vehicles that cross the bridge.

“There’s a lot of cars that cross that bridge in a 24-hour period, probably way more than most people even think about or realize,” Caldwell said.

Also, Caldwell has a specific concern with semi traffic on Hwy. 68 coming from Lebanon because semi trailers may not be able to make the right turn onto Hwy. 150 the way they have been doing due to the concrete barriers that will be in place, hence the reason for signage to let drivers know the traffic will transition into one lane and why semi trucks will want to go an alternate route.

A potential alternate route involves taking U.S. Highway 34 through the Brumfield area, but Caldwell said it might be a bit of a crooked, narrow path for semis.

“The more we can head off on (Hwy.) 68, like the more semi traffic coming out of Lebanon, that we can get turned around there and divert another way, I think the better off everybody will be, even the residents, the people that travel Hwy. 34 frequently — it’s going to be a little more hectic in that area,” he said.

Caldwell said though he anticipates traffic will become congested around the bridge, he’s hoping after a week or two of people getting used to the traffic switching to one lane, it will get better.

“The silver lining is, once this is done, the bridge should be good to go for another 75 years. It’s just kind of one of those things we’re going to have to deal with for four and a half, five months.”

Another construction project that’s years in the making is Perryville’s dam, located about 100 yards south of the bridge. Caldwell said it is an old design and has six breakaway steel gates 2 feet wide by 12 feet long. Over time, the gates have rusted through and have been impacted by water pressure and debris hitting them, and the gates leak.

The project to fix the dam, once it begins, will be a city project. Caldwell said he hopes construction will begin within the month of June. The city is still waiting on bids but has been meeting with a few contractors.

The city is also having fabricators build thicker, new steel gates to replace the old ones. The ultimate goal is to establish a viable riverfront in which the dam won’t leak.

“That should be a whole lot better-looking, if we can finally get the dam to hold water,” Caldwell said.