Weisenberger Mill Bridge hosts ribbon-cutting ceremony
More than a month after the new Weisenberger Mill Bridge was opened for traffic, politicians and others gathered on the Woodford County side Friday, Jan. 31, to talk about its importance and cut a ceremonial ribbon. The bridge reopened two days before Christmas, but a Dec. 30 event there was postponed in order to allow new state Transportation Secretary Jim Gray to attend. The bridge was closed by the state July 1, 2016 for safety concerns, cutting off a shortcut between Scott and Fayette counties and leaving residents of Zion Hill, who live less than a mile from the bridge, concerned about wait times for emergency vehicles. A bid by the Louisville Paving Company to rebuild the bridge for $877,000 was accepted last July – three years after the bridge was closed – and the bridge, which connects Woodford and Scott counties, was reopened Dec. 23. “That was well short of the May 1, 2020 completion date that we had on the project,” said Kelly Baker, chief district engineer of the Transportation Cabinet’s District 7 office. Kelly said the project was done with an eye to minimizing impacts to the environment and the properties around it – and preserving the original intent of the one-lane bridge. The company kept the original abutments, with repairs, and late last year, used a massive crane to swing the new bridge into place. Gray, whose family owns a large construction firm and is the former mayor of Lexington, said he was reminded that safety should be the first priority, but community was important, too. “I would say that there’s not many projects in the state that convey a sense of history and culture as much as this project does right here,” Gray said. “ … When postcards were a real method of communicating, we could say that it is … ‘postcard-perfect.’ And it has such real reference to identity, and history, and culture.” Gray was followed by Woodford Judge-Executive James Kay, who thanked Baker for his work on this project and others, and joked that Gray’s reputation was such that it helped speed up the project. Kay said former state Rep. Carl Rollins got the initial funding for a bridge rebuild in 2010, and that after Rollins stepped down and he won the seat, he fought for funding for it, as his successor, Joe Graviss, has done, as well as Magistrate Liles Taylor (Dist. 1) and Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift. “And so it took a long time to get here, but hallelujah – the water is officially under the bridge,” Kay said. “And this bridge means so much to this community. Not only will it shorten a lot of people’s commute to where they need to go, but this bridge is special to many people for many reasons. There have been many proposals here … there have been many a good fish caught out of this creek. There have been many a love made and a love lost on this bridge …” The audience chuckled at that last line, to which Kay responded, “It’s true. This is a wonderful, wonderful spot, it’s an iconic spot in Central Kentucky, and today, we’re so proud to open it up.” Graviss was also one of the seven speakers. He said everybody had done a great job thanking people who worked on the project, but that somebody who had a big role in making it happen wasn’t mentioned: “And I’d like to thank God, for his divine intervention, because I believe there was some divine intervention … to get us to this point and (he) also kept everybody safe. There was not an injury involved – whether during the community meetings (which drew chuckles, as some were heated) or the construction …” After a few more speeches, Transportation Cabinet officials set up a ribbon in the middle of the bridge, Gray was joined by a cast of dozens, including Weisenberger Mill owner Phil Weisenberger and his grandmother, Bette, and Gray did the honors. A few minutes later, the crowd left, and the bridge, closed for nearly three-and-a-half years and again for a few hours last Friday, reopened.