The pier bases of the old Ledbetter Bridge are gone. They went out with a mighty blast shortly after 2 p.m. today. About all that is left is cleanup work.
The contractor checked to assure there were no large pieces of concrete remaining on the river floor that might interfere with river navigation. Starting Monday, the demolition crew will use a crane and clamshell bucket to pluck remaining chunks of concrete from the bottom of the Tennessee River.
Specialists spent much of the day packing the pier bases with explosives to prepare for the blast. Just before 2 p.m., a series of horn signals from a tow boat provided a five-minute warning that the blast was about to take place. A few minutes later, another series of horn alerts indicated one minute to go, followed by a ten second countdown.
The base of Pier C nearest the Livingston County shoreline ignited first. Just as the roar of the blast started to resound across the river the base of Pier B nearest the McCracken County shoreline went up in a shower of pulverized concrete and water.
The piers had been standing in the Tennessee River since the bridge was constructed and opened to traffic in 1931.
The aging bridge had been out of service since traffic was moved to the New US 60 Tennessee River Bridge just upstream at the end of July 2013.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Spokesman Keith Todd noted that it is something of a relief to have the new bridge constructed and the old bridge in the final stages of demolition without getting any workers killed or seriously injured.
“I’m sure the demolition crew is relieved to be in the final stages of this demolition process. The remaining work is mostly a cleanup operation,” Todd said.
In addition to sweeping the river floor for concrete, there is some additional cleanup work required along the approach to the old bridge on the Livingston County side of the river.
The contractor is expecting help from good weather next week to help finish out removal of the 83 year old bridge.