50 Years, 50 Stories

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Published Feb. 9, 2018, in The Legder Independent

FLEMINGSBURG — A project to temporarily stabilize the flood-damaged Dover Covered Bridge is now underway in Mason County, officials with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said Friday.

The work comes nearly seven months after record floodwaters along Lee Creek damaged the 1800s-era structure, tearing away two 12,000-pound steel support beams and shifting the truss off its foundations.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet immediately closed the bridge, then began an engineering assessment. In September, the cabinet authorized $75,000 to explore options to temporarily stabilize the bridge.

Last month, the Buffalo Trace Covered Wooden Bridge Authority – in cooperation with the Transportation Cabinet and the Buffalo Trace Area Development District – contracted the stabilization work to Arnold M. Graton Associates Inc., a covered bridge restorer from New Hampshire who’s worked on several such bridges in Kentucky, including bridges in Fleming and Lewis counties.

Graton began mobilizing equipment this week and expects to begin temporary stabilization efforts next week. Residents are reminded that the covered bridge site is an active construction zone and not open to the public.

Stabilization efforts will include connecting the structure to steel beams that will be inserted through the covered bridge and tied to the ground on either side. This reinforcement will help protect the bridge from future flood damage or structural failures. In addition, Graton will slowly shift the bridge’s wooden truss back into place. It’s anticipated the project could take several weeks to complete.

While the work will not return the covered bridge back to its original condition, it will safeguard its future until a long-term restoration plan can be developed, said Kentucky Department of Highways District 9 Chief Engineer Bart Bryant, whose office is overseeing the project.

“Our communities greatly value Kentucky’s remaining historic covered bridges, and so do we,” Bryant said. “The Cabinet will continue to work toward their preservation.”

The Dover Covered Bridge, also known as Lee’s Creek Covered Bridge, dates back to as early as 1835 when the 61-foot structure opened as a toll bridge. Renovated by the Bower Bridge Company in 1926 then the Kentucky Highway Department in 1966, it remained largely the same until the late 1980s when the steel support beams were added underneath. It was bypassed in 2005 and is now part of Kentucky 3113 just south of Kentucky 8 near the Ohio River at Dover.

Although open to traffic before last year’s damage, the covered bridge will remain closed to all vehicles and pedestrians until further notice – even after stabilization work is complete – due to safety concerns.

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