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Officials Say Bridge Should Have Been Closed Or Rebuilt Years Ago

By: Marie Luby Email
By: Marie Luby Email

Highway departments across the country were urged to inspect bridges after the catastrophic bridge collapse in Minnesota last month.

Inspectors here in eastern Kentucky say a bridge in Harlan County should have been closed or rebuilt years ago, but many people are still using the bridge every day!

Doris Browning's sense of safety when she drives to and from home across the Billips Avenue bridge is crumbling.

“We need a new bridge, we've needed one for years,” Browning said.

“The bus was available for other kids but they wouldn't come over here and at one point the mail quit coming so we had to go to the post office every day,” Browning said.

City officials put up this sign after bridge inspectors recommended it be closed. But for some 100 residents in this neighborhood, closure isn't an option.

Department of Highways District 11 director Michael Calebs says a bridge collapse like the one in Minneapolis is not likely here.

“If one beam collapsed there's a good probability that the other beams would carry the load and the structure would not fail catastrophically,” Michael Calebs said.

“If a flood comes and takes it out, there's no way we can get them across. We don't even have a plan for that,” Charles Raleigh said.

Officials barricaded the bridge for about 6 hours last year when water rose to the top of this flood wall. Other times Browning keeps driving.

“Drive real fast across the bridge! It's kind of scary when you see all that under it so you just hurry and get off of it,” Browning said.

Browning hopes a new bridge is built before someone gets hurt.

The Army Corps of Engineers does have a replacement design for the Billips Avenue Bridge.


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