The damage to the Eggner’s Ferry Bridge is a significant loss to the citizens of Trigg County. Students and workers who normally travel across the bridge on a daily basis will have an extra hour or more added to their travel time as well as significant additional expense in gasoline and wear and tear on their vehicles. For families with tight budgets, the impact will be especially significant. Businesses, especially those near to the bridge, may have fewer customers. The Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area can expect a decline in visitors.
The bridge is, or was, picturesque and stately. For those of us who have travelled the bridge, there is an emotional aspect to the injury. Traffic began using the bridge in 1932 and the recent collision is a historic event as well as an event which is economically important to the citizens of the area.
I think the decision by government officials to deny the public a reasonable opportunity to view the site from the eastern side of the bridge is a mistake. Highway 68 is closed several miles to the east of the bridge without any substantial justification. Admittedly, there is possible risk and some inconvenience to allowing the public on the bridge. Barricades to keep people off the bridge and out of the way of workers are certainly appropriate. There is no danger and minimal inconvenience in allowing people to view the site from the lake shore, for example, at the Fenton Boat Ramp. The public is not the enemy. The bridge belongs to the citizens, not to the government workers, although their efforts are appreciated. Even the most cautious of minds could not successfully argue that there is any danger to the public from viewing the bridge from the shore.
In the long run, the government workers on the bridge are likely to proceed more efficiently when the eyes of the public are directly on them. People will generally stay behind barriers, if not they can be cited. There is no reason to keep people miles away from the site as is now being done on the eastern side of the bridge. Any possible inconvenience is outweighed by the public’s right to view activities that affect them and to know what their government is doing. It is in the public’s interest that people be allowed to view the damage, even if the government finds the duty of keeping the public informed to be inconvenient.
Citizens are at times inconvenient for government, but government serves the citizens. The people who have been injured are, by and large, not the people who will be working on the bridge. They are the citizens of Western Kentucky. At issue is public land, a public road, a public boat ramp, and a public bridge. Rather than blocking citizens from observing, I think the government should take steps to provide for as much safe citizen access as is reasonably possible.
The opinions in this letter are mine and are not necessarily shared by any other person or by any organization.
Geneva F. Parris