Paducah & Louisville Railway

P&L Railroad Bridges J23.3 and J23.7

Fort Knox, KY

Located just outside the Fort Knox Army Base, the Paducah & Louisville Railway’s steel trestle bridges J23.3 and J23.7 were originally constructed in the late 1800’s, consisting of wrought iron towers and girders on spread footings. After more than 30 years providing inspection services on these bridges, Benesch determined that 120 years’ worth of deterioration had rendered further repairs to the existing structures impractical. A life-cycle cost analysis determined that building new bridges on an off-set alignment was the most reasonable and economical way to replace the aging structures.

Designing the new structures required innovative techniques that would provide for economical and safe replacement of the existing bridges, while accommodating regular rail traffic operations in the mountainous region.

Developing multiple horizontal and vertical track profiles was key to the project’s success, as the profiles had to tie into existing track points between the bridges to meet all railroad track design standards. Because the structures would be built on an off-set alignment, the design team had the freedom to use longer span lengths and consider several more innovative superstructures types. Long-span prestressed concrete girders in combination with multi-column concrete piers allowed for the new structure to be built just feet away from the existing bridge, minimizing rail re-alignment and environmental impacts. This structure type was an unusual choice, as these girders are AASHTO type girders most often used on highway structures.

Construction was successfully completed in July 2012 while maintaining regular train operations on this strategic railway route to Fort Knox.

Project highlights

  • Maintenance of rail traffic
  • Complex vertical and horizontal track profiles
  • Off-set alignment to facilitate safe construction on rocky terrain
  • Innovative superstructure utilizing AASHTO type long span concrete girders
  • Construction within 10 feet of existing structures