WESTERN KY (1/30/12) – “It is a wonder that someone was not killed”. These are the words of Keith Todd, Public Information Officer, of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Todd has been a very busy fellow since Thursday night when the Delta Mariner struck the Eggners Ferry Bridge that crosses Kentucky Lake/Tennessee River.
Todd informed SurfKY News Reporters that initial reports were inaccurate and changing every minute. Since then, the Transportation Cabinet engineers and workers have been working around the clock to get the facts and get a plan of action in place.
Todd said that the cooperation of various agencies and departments has been very good and that commercial barge traffic has resumed.
Traffic on US 68/KY 80 is a different story altogether. It would take Smoky and the Bandit to make the 322’ jump over the frigid waters of the Tennessee River. Adding to the uncertainty is the possibility that one of the bridge’s massive support piers is damaged. If the support pier is damaged, that is a game changer according to Todd. “If the support pier is damaged, there will not be a quick fix.”
The quickest fix would be a temporary bridge provided by the Corps of Engineers. However, they do not have one that can span 322 feet, and, on top of that, it must have solid piers on both ends. From a practical standpoint, it seems expensive to replace a span that is scheduled to be torn down in just a few years.
But for the immediate, the ship owners will be working to extricate the 12 year old ship from the tangled wreckage and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will continue to evaluate damage to the bridge and support structures. Cabinet officials will have to develop a plan very quickly to minimize economic impact. Todd did not speculate on what course of action would be taken. He did promise to keep the public informed as soon as decisions are made.
SurfKY News does know that the loss of the bridge will heavily impact the businesses along the route and the 2,800 vehicles that use the bridge every day. A 30-plus mile detour will not be helpful.
Though the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has been very open and forthcoming with information, overall there are many more questions than answers. The first is why this calamity had happened. The answer to that question will be up to the Coast Guard to determine. Evidently there were multiple factors that led to the crash - low visibility with fog at night, some missing lights on the bridge, etc. The Coast Guard will have to sort the facts and make some recommendations.
Who will pay and to whom? The answers to the why and how will go a long way in answering this question. It appears that taxpayers will end up footing most of the bill. The only question is: which pocket it comes out of? The mysterious, 8,000 horse power Delta Mariner is operated by Foss Marine and contracted by the United States Government. It carries booster engines and other critical missile components - things that are too large for trucks, trains or even barges.
What is onboard the Delta Mariner? Keith Todd said that the ship’s crew and owner will not say what (if anything) is onboard the ship. The one certainty we do know is that at 312 feet long, 82 feet wide and 50 feet tall, it is a very large, expensive vessel.
Here is about all we do know: The Delta Mariner sits with thousands of tons of steel and concrete draped across her bow and mystery in her hold. There are two bridge ends missing 322 feet of middle. There are a lot of people working very hard to fix an expensive error.
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