ALERT: River Forecast Indicates Floodwaters Will Close the US 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge Friday Afternoon
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet wants commuters who regularly cross the US 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge between Wickliffe, KY, and Cairo, IL, to be aware that foodwaters may force the bridge to close sometime between 12 Noon and about 6:00 p.m., CST, on Friday, February 22nd.
That assessment is based on the latest forecast update for the river gauge at Cairo.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet engineers have been carefully monitoring river gauge readings to compare them with water levels observed along the Kentucky approach levee to the bridge. A previous forecast had indicated river levels would crest with floodwaters at the edge of the asphalt along US 51. A bump up in the forecast issued today projects river levels are on a path to cover the pavement sometime Friday afternoon or evening.
Over the years, floodwaters traditionally force US 51 to close south of Wickliffe near the Ballard-Carlisle County Line first. A day or two later rising floodwaters would normally cover US 51 at the 7 mile marker near the Kentucky end of Ohio River Bridge. That can change based on how much water is coming down the Ohio River and the Mississippi River.
At this time, KYTC personnel believe the river is rising at a rate that will force the US 51 Bridge to close sometime between 12 Noon and about 6:00 p.m., CST, Friday. The river is expected to approach 54.1 ft. at Cairo Friday evening. Based on that reading, the bridge would likely remain closed until about February 28th, possibly longer if additional rainfall totals keep floodwaters elevated.
Transportation engineers are preparing message boards, barricades, and other traffic control equipment to be pre-positioned at key locations early Friday in case the river rises faster than expeced in the next 24 hours. River readings Friday morning could provide a more specific timeline for highway crews and travelers.
Again, based on the current forecast, the US 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge would likely be forced to remain closed until around February 28th, or possibly longer depending on additional rainfall across the region.
Transportation crews will be closely monitoring river levels and will attempt to provide timely notice when the US 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge is forced to close. Travelers will face about an 80 mile detour to get from Wickliffe to Cairo via the Interstate 24 Ohio River Bridge at Paducah. The detour will add less distance for travelers who adjust their route before they reach the bridge.
The US 51 Ohio River “Cairo” Bridge between Wickliffe, KY, and Cairo, IL, carries US 51, US 60, and US 62 traffic across the Ohio River at US 51 Kentucky mile point 7.372.
Also known as The Cairo Bridge, the US 51/US 60/US 62 Wickliffe-Cairo Bridge carries approximately 4,700 vehicles across the Ohio River each day. It immediately connects with the US 60/US 62 Mississippi River Bridge to Bird’s Point, Missouri, at the southern tip of Illinois.
The US 51 Ohio River Bridge was constructed by the Cairo Bridge Commission as a toll facility and opened to traffic on November 11, 1936. Tolls were removed from the crossing on November 11, 1948, when the highway departments of Kentucky and Illinois took over maintenance of the structure.
The Cairo-Wickliffe Bridge is at Ohio River navigation mile point 980.4.