• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

'A lot of upset people' at bridge meeting

About 50 people attended what a state Transportation Cabinet spokesperson called a non-public meeting about the Weisenberger Mill Bridge Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Midway University. Attendee Doug Elam, who lives two houses away from the bridge on the Woodford County side, provided the attendance estimate. Elam said the purpose of the meeting was not to discuss the design of the bridge, which was closed July 1 and may not be rebuilt or replaced until late next year. "You had to sign up as a historical consultant to actually be invited . and there were about eight of them that had gone into the website, the Kentucky Transportation Historical something or other website, and applied to be a historical consultant," Elam said. "First off, they only wanted to hear about the historical effects. They didn't want to discuss any of the nature of the two-lane bridge (but) there were a lot of other people that attended that had no idea other than somebody put a copy of the invitation in their door." Debra Instone, the owner of a farm across the street from Elam's house, also attended. She said state officials spent the first part of the meeting parrying questions from people who weren't invited, but eventually fielded some of those, too. An official with the state Transportation Cabinet who was at the meeting was not available for an interview. Instone said the meeting lasted more than three hours, and though the subject of the meeting was not intended to involve the make-up of the new bridge, that question was raised by Elam and others. "Nobody in the room felt like the two-lane option was safe because they haven't addressed the approaches on either side," Elam said, adding that "there were a lot of upset people there." Elam said state Transportation Cabinet officials still seem to be ignoring "substandard" approaches to the bridge on both the Scott and Woodford sides, and that improvements to the approaches have not been incorporated due to funding concerns. "My concern to them was that you're going to take a historic bridge out of a historic area that people have seen, if they're old enough, for 80-plus years, and you're going to replace a . 14-foot wide bridge with a 30-foot wide bridge that's going to be massive . for that small area," Elam said. Instone said even the one-lane bridge, which should have slowed motorists down, didn't prevent motorists from striking a fence on her property many times. "The only time I ever get called is when they need someone to tow them out," Elam said. In August, project manager Ananias Calvin III said it will be at least October of next year before the bridge will be rebuilt - and that the new bridge will almost certainly be two lanes wide. The state Transportation Cabinet closed the 86-year-old pony truss bridge July 1 after an inspection days before revealed "advance deterioration." In December of 2015, they changed the weight limit of the bridge from 10 tons to three, but Elam, Instone and others said they saw much heavier vehicles cross the bridge on a regular basis. In August, Calvin told The Sun that the projected start date for the project has been pushed back from October to January. "That's . because to widen the bridge from a single-lane to a two-lane, we're going to have to purchase some property. It's really going to be minor acquisitions, so it won't be a lot, but it's going to be some ." Calvin said. After last week's meeting, Elam and others still had the same concerns. "If you take and put a bridge in that's twice as wide as has been there for 80 years, it's going to look way out of place and way out of scale. It's also going to impact the functionality, the use of it now, as far as people walking across, taking pictures, painting, doing that type of thing. People now feel safe enough to walk across the one-lane bridge because people have to slow down. They know it's a one-lane bridge and they may have to stop when they get to the bridge," Elam said. A Dec. 2 follow-up letter from Calvin and forwarded to The Sun from Instone said, "We are appreciative of the time that we were able to share at the meeting of the Consulting Parties . Your passion for preservation of the local area is well recognized and your concerns were heard." The letter closed by saying, "We are very interested in receiving your comments related to the potential project impacts on historic properties and mitigation measures for adverse affects ." It asked that the comments be submitted by Dec. 11 at midnight.

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