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'Lights Out' On Simon Kenton Bridge

Cody Evans, The Ledger Independent

The aesthetic "necklace" lighting accenting the cables of the Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge from Maysville to Aberdeen, Ohio has been turned off until further notice.

That was the news delivered Thursday night (Feb. 13) by Bart Bryant with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, District 9 Office in Flemingsburg.

Bryant said the decision is a safety and precautionary step based on the following reasons.

-- A review of the lights found exposed wiring, inadequate or damaged connectors that attach the wiring to the bridge, damaged and missing junction box covers and other issues.

-- The lighting system frequently trips electrical breakers, which is an indicator of short circuits or other potentially unsafe situations in the wiring.

-- Incidents that have occurred on other state bridges related to faulty aesthetic wiring, including a fatality involving a western Kentucky contractor.

The western Kentucky incident happened in Owensboro last year, Bryant said. That bridge was owned by the city of Owensboro, although the state was asked to conduct an investigation into the fatality. In the case of Maysville's bridge, it is owned by KYTC, not the city.

Age and weather elements were cited as contributing factors to the situation. The lights were installed in 2000 after a joint effort to raise approximately $140,000 between private citizens and a transportation grant.

Bryant said the issues with the conduits are a safety concern for contractors conducting structural inspections and pedestrians who may come into contact with the metal structure.

"There's a small chance (something would happen), but we would rather err on the side of caution," Bryant said.

It was also noted the lighting hasn't been inspected since it was installed. The situation is unique with the state owning the lights, when aesthetic lighting is typically owned and maintained by the city.  It was noted once the situation is resolved; inspections of the lighting would take place in the future.

In 2005, the state hired a contractor to replace the bulbs on the necklace lighting. Bryant said KYTC is proceeding with caution, and is considering a full assessment of the electrical system/wiring, and will information to city officials as information is known.

The assessment could be sourced to an outside consultant given the unique situation.  It was noted with bridges, KYTC focuses on structural inspections, traffic and navigational safety, routine maintenance, etc. and doesn't typically maintain aesthetic lighting or related electrical systems.

Recognizing the importance of the necklace lighting and illumination of the bridge to the community, Bryant said the tower lighting, which is on a separate circuit, remains operational unless risks or hazards require it to be shut off.  The street lighting and navigational lighting on the towers and below the bridge for river traffic are not affected.

There was no timetable given for how long the assessment could take.

The Ledger Independent is online at: http://www.maysville-online.com

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