Want to buy a bridge? Kentucky's giving one away

Tue Oct 25, 2011 3:53pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Officials in Kentucky are so keen to get rid of an obsolete but historic bridge on a rural stretch of highway that they are trying to give it away -- and even offering to dismantle and deliver it to its new home for free.

The 82-year-old span on state Route 80 in southeastern Kentucky needs to come down so a new bridge capable of handling heavier traffic can go up, the state Department of Highways said.

But state officials would prefer not to demolish the existing structure, a 450-foot metal truss span built in 1929 that is eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. So they are seeking to give it away.

To sweeten the pot, the state is willing to have the bridge disassembled, transported and off-loaded at no charge. All the new owner has to do is reassemble and maintain it, said H.B. Elkins, spokesman for the Department of Highways, District 10, where the bridge is located.

"It's what they call functionally obsolete, meaning it's narrow and the trusses have low clearance," Elkins said. "But it's structurally sound. People use it every day."

Elkins said possible applicants could include a municipality, a state or even a private person in need of a stream crossing or a unique driveway.

As long as the old bridge is re-erected at the new site with its original characteristics retained, Kentucky does not care who gets it, Elkins said.

The only other asterisk: The cost of saving the bridge cannot exceed the estimated cost of demolishing it. Elkins said no one knows what that cost might be "because we haven't bid out the construction job for the new bridge."

This is the second bridge in Perry County that Kentucky has tried to give away in recent years. The deadline to apply is December 20, Elkins said.

With the first one, offered about five years ago, Elkins said there was plenty of interest upfront but no takers in the end.

"So we built the new bridge next to the old one, documented the old one with photographs and then demolished it," he said.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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