MADISON, Ind. - Thousands of commuters will face detours of up to 45 miles after authorities closed an Ohio River bridge linking Madison, Ind., and Milton, Ky., early Tuesday following an accident involving a construction worker.
Transportation officials from both states said a worker was injured when a steel bearing plate between the Milton-Madison Bridge and pier dislodged and struck him. Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield said the worker suffered minor injuries and was treated and released at a Madison hospital.
The accident will force commuters to find other routes across the river until further notice and will delay the movement of the new bridge to the site of its predecessor, authorities said.
"We recognize this is a major inconvenience for people who rely on the bridge regularly," Dav Kessinger, project manager for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said in a statement. "We're working diligently with Walsh, the construction contractor, to resolve this issue and to safely reopen the bridge as quickly as possible."
Work began in late 2010 on a $100 million project to replace the old bridge. The new half-mile span was scheduled to be moved beginning Friday from its temporary supports across steel rails onto rehabilitated piers of the previous bridge.
Wingfield said bearing plates are designed to allow for natural expansion and contraction of the bridge. The worker was installing equipment as part of the project to move the bridge to its new location, he said.
Kentucky engineers were assessing the bridge Tuesday afternoon to determine what needed to be done to reopen it to traffic, Wingfield said.
Traffic is being diverted to the Markland Locks and Dam Bridge some 25 miles upstream or the Interstate 65 bridge at Louisville about 45 miles downstream.
Wingfield said an estimated 10,500 vehicles cross the bridge each day. He added that the detour routes are not used to carrying the load of traffic that the detours are expected to produce.
Indiana and Kentucky officials are working to set up a ferry service for emergency vehicles while the bridge is closed.