Construction is scheduled to start in March on a $131.5-million bridge over the Tennessee River in western Kentucky that will replace the aging Eggners Ferry Bridge.

The old bridge was shut down after a cargo ship struck it, taking out a 322-ft span in 2012.

Fort Worth, Texas-based Johnson Brothers Corp. won the bid for the new four-lane bridge that will carry U.S. 68/Ky. 80 traffic over Kentucky Lake at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area.

Gov. Steve Beshear (D) in a Feb. 11 statement called the bridge and a companion replacement span over Lake Barkley "a priority of my administration."

With 2,800 daily vehicles, the bridge is the only Tennessee River crossing in Kentucky. During the four months it was closed, motorists had to take a 90-minute detour.

Designed by Michael Baker Inc., the basket-handle bridge, which will replace the narrow, two-lane structure built in 1932, will be 3,611 ft long, with a 550-ft main span.

It will include shoulders and a 10-ft pedestrian-bicycle lane. The total project length is 9,080 ft, with four approach spans totaling 1,409 ft on the west side, five approach spans totaling 1,653 ft on the east side, a 550-ft lagoon bridge and 2,400 ft of causeways.

It will have a vertical clearance of 67 ft and a 502-ft-wide navigational clearance span, says Keith Todd, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman.

The schedule calls for traffic to be moved to the new bridge by December 2015, although six to 10 months of finish work will remain after that, he adds.

The lagoon bridge and causeway work is under way in a $25-million project awarded to Jim Smith Contracting, Grand Rivers, Ky. The contract includes about $7 million for load testing to aid the main crossing's pier design, Todd says.

The two bridges are estimated at $155 million each, and the estimate on the second is now about $150 million, so both jobs are coming in under budget, he adds.