The historic Warren through-truss bridge that crosses the Kentucky River where Henry and Owen counties meet at Gratz is slated for removal as soon as a replacement is built.
Ground was broken for the new bridge project on December 2.
The bridge is one of 429 in the United States built in 1931 and carries an average of more than 1,000 vehicles daily across its span.
Henry County Judge Executive John Logan Brent said the bridge has been on the six year highway plan for 15 to 20 years.
“That’s a priority needs list,” he said, “that means a project is supposed to be completed within six years of being placed on the list.”
Brent said Representative Rick Rand and State Senator Ernie Harris provided vital support for the project. Several Lockport residents also called the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to voice their support for a new bridge. “The state was made aware from several directions,” he said.
Cabinet Secretary Joe Prather said even though the state is suffering hard financial times, projects addressing safety concerns will continue.
“We are committed to improving and when necessary replacing our aging bridges,” he said. “Replacement of the Kentucky River Bridge in Gratz is necessary to ensure safe travel for those using Ky 22.”
Brent said the heavy amount of traffic made replacement crucial. Loaded dump trucks from Liter’s Quarry just half a mile up the road use the span continuously adding to the urgency. “At the ribbon cutting a month ago,” he said, “about 20 dump trucks crossed in 15 minutes.”
Transportation Cabinet Public Information Officer Andrea Clifford said the project is slated for completion in 2010. “It probably won’t be done this year,” she said.
The new bridge will be constructed 500 feet upstream from the existing bridge. Clifford said the Hayden Bridge Company was awarded a $12.5 million contract to perform the work. “It’s not going to be a truss bridge,” she said. Clifford said the company submitted a value engineering proposal to construct the bridge with pre-stressed, post-tensioned concrete members. Use of those materials would save about $800,000 in construction costs.
Following demolition a section of the old bridge’s railing will be installed as part of a historical kiosk documenting the history of Gratz and the bridge.
Gratz, with a population of 89 as recorded by the 2000 census, was founded in 1847.
It was named for Benjamin Gratz Brown, the grandson of the Honorable John Brown, one of Kentucky’s first senators. B. Gratz Brown grew up to be a Missouri governor.
Historical accounts report that Gratz was a flourishing town prior to the lock and dam system being built on the Kentucky River. Goods were ferried across the river or portaged around the unnavigable portion of the river at Gratz and transported to Pleasureville’s train depot.
Magistrate Mike Fisher said Dr. Charles Alexander was the first person to cross the old bridge, riding his horse across it in 1931.
Gratz Mayor Charles Redmon said he is happy with the location of the new bridge. “In addition to improving safety, relocating the new bridge upstream will return Gratz to what it looked like at the turn of the century,” he said. “I am really glad to see this project starting after several years of planning.”
Fisher said he also is glad the project is underway. “It’s kind of narrow for the big trucks and farm machinery that have to use it,” he said. Fisher said local residents also are pleased. “People were kind of surprised they were going ahead because of the economy, but they are really happy,” he said.
Brent agreed. “It’s good to see it is finally coming to fruition,” he said.
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