Officials vow to replace Kentucky bridge hit by cargo ship

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 27, 2012 6:33 PM
Officials vow to replace Kentucky bridge hit by cargo ship

(Reuters) - Officials in western Kentucky vowed on Friday to quickly rebuild or replace a bridge over the Tennessee River after a cargo ship that carries military rocket parts slammed into it, destroying the main truss.

The two-lane bridge was empty when the 312-foot-long Delta Mariner plowed into it Thursday night, tearing a 300-foot-wide gap in the structure, state transportation officials said.

The ship's crew escaped injury. The coast guard said the ship was not carrying hazardous cargo at the time of the accident.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear said engineers were reviewing their options for restoring the route, which is used by 2,800 vehicles a day. The bridge serves traffic on both U.S. Highway 68 and Kentucky state Route 80

"We'll turn our attention to a full inspection of the bridge and determine what steps we can take next to speed up the replacement of that important artery," he said.

The 80-year-old bridge was designed so that in the event of an accident like this only portions of the structure -- not the entire bridge -- would fail, officials said.

The Delta Mariner transports rocket parts for the Boeing Delta IV rocket program between a factory in Decatur, Alabama and either Cape Canaveral in Florida or California, where the military has a launch facility at Vandenburg Air Force Base.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Paul Thomasch)