Blue Bridge: Demo or save?

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By Robin Bass

What does it cost these days to preserve a landmark?

If the historical structure is Taylorsville’s Blue Bridge, then the price tag to save it could be close to $1.9 million, according to David Steele, of Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Division of Maintenance.

The cost to demolish the 78-year-old truss bridge, however, was estimated at only $150,000.

“That Blue Bridge has always been a landmark to the community.” said Taylorsville Mayor Don Pay. “If we tear it down, it will be nothing but a memory. Just pictures in a photo album.”

Local officials have been exploring the possibility of using the Blue Bridge – also known as the Salt River Bridge/KY 55 – for pedestrian traffic ever since the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet announced their plans to build a replacement. But after looking at the costs of owning and repairing the structure, city and county officials are asking even more questions.

“My question is why not take $2 million to rebuild the Blue Bridge and save taxpayers some money?” said Pay.

The mayor was especially adamant about repairing the existing bridge since the transportation cabinet’s plans addressed neither the dog-leg turn on Main Street nor the snake-like curve up Bloomfield Rd.

“Nobody seems to want to talk about that aspect,” said Pay.

Originally, the Blue Bridge was to be replaced with a newer one about 100 yards up river. It would begin with an access ramp at the intersection of Main Street and Railroad Street and end at the hilltop near the Marathon gas station on Bloomfield Road. Local officials were told that the original $17 million bridge project was scraped for the much less expensive solution – a $ 4.9 million replacement bridge just upstream from the existing structure.

“This community is going to be saddled with a mistake,” said Magistrate John Riley. “It’s going to cost $4.9 million to put a new bridge next to an old one. If it’s going to be a temporary fix, why not spend the $1.9 to fix the old one.”

Matt Bullock, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet chief district engineer, told officials Monday that the repair estimates would not bring the Blue Bridge to the level suitable for 20 more years of vehicular traffic.

“The deck and underneath structure are in terrible shape,” said Bullock.

Projected repairs and costs estimates compiled by Steele consisted of:

* $200,000 for replacement of the concrete overlay, or $100,000 for partial depth patching and asphalt overlay,

* $50,000 for expansion joint repairs and replacements,

* 75,000 for structural steel repairs including gusset plate,

* $10,000 for concrete curb repairs,

* $1.5 million for bridge cleaning, painting and red lead removal,

* $25,000 for engineer inspections (needed every two years), and

* $2,500 for cleaning gutter line, drains and washing bearing devices.

Steele said that all the listed items would be necessary even if the Blue Bridge was intended for pedestrian traffic only.

“Some of these structural steel repairs, if not addressed soon, could make for a very serious situation,” said Steele.  He added that in certain situations, pedestrians can create more stress on the bridge than vehicles.

Magistrate Bill Drury suggested that local officials find out if the community was still interested in saving the Blue Bridge in light of the costs.

“I know there was a significant amount of interest when we first started discussing this,” said Drury.