Repairs to a collapsed span of the Eggners Ferry Bridge over Kentucky Lake should be completed by May 27—four months earlier than originally anticipated. Hall Contracting of Kentucky Inc., Louisville, has won a $7-million emergency contract. It faces a $50,000-per-day penalty if it misses the May 27 deadline.

Hall, which recently completed emergency repairs to cracks on the Sherman Minton Bridge in Louisville 13 days ahead of schedule, edged out Walsh Contracting, Crown Point, Ky., and C.J. Mahan Inc., Grove City, Ohio, in bidding to repair the bridge. It lost a 322-ft span when a cargo ship struck it on Jan. 26.

"This is a lot sooner than I thought possible when we first saw what happened," Gov. Steve Beshear (D) said at a press conference on March 8. "Engineers were telling me it might require another pier or two" and that it could be September or October before repairs were finished. "We were fortunate that underwater inspection revealed no damage to the bridge's piers," Beshear added. "And we were fortunate to be able to track down the original design plans."

Hall will repair the pier caps, then structural-steel work will start in April, says Tom Roberts, Hall vice president. Crews will work 24/7 when possible. To have 30 to 40 workers on-site, the firm will bring in employees from Louisville and hire locally, he says.

State officials had considered a ferry crossing but rejected it due to the traffic jams and need for access roads and possible dredging, Roberts said. The 80-year-old bridge and a similar bridge over nearby Lake Barkley are scheduled for replacement; the state budget includes $330 million to fund the two. The Kentucky Lake bridge would go up first.

But the timetable has not been set because the projects will require Federal Highway Administration approval, according to Jim LeFevre, chief engineer for that district.