The Daniel Carter Beard Bridge, also known as the Big Mac Bridge, is a remarkable structure that captivates the eye with its simple design and bold colors. The bridge carries Interstate 471 over the Ohio River between Cincinnati, Ohio, and Newport, Kentucky, and was dedicated in 1977 after years of construction and controversy.
The project was initiated stemming from discussions held regarding the construction of a second interstate bridge between Cincinnati and Kentucky. Plans were eventually settled on building a bridge between the base of Cincinnati’s Mt. Adams neighborhood and Newport, with the proposed Interstate 471 connecting to Interstate 71 in Ohio to Interstate 275 in Kentucky. Land acquisition began in 1968, and plans for the project were approved in 1970.
Construction began in 1971, and in 1974, workers had finished building the first arch. To save money and resources, they decided not to construct a separate set of falsework towers for the second arch. Instead, on August 23, they used a hydraulic jack system to move the arch span 70 feet, nine inches upstream, a process that took approximately five hours to complete. Afterward, they began working on the second arch using the same falsework as the first.
The downstream bridge opened to two-way traffic in January 1976, with the upstream bridge opening for northbound traffic in October, with the downstream bridge reconfigured for southbound traffic. It was formally dedicated in February 1977 and named after Daniel Carter Beard, the founder of the Boy Scouts of America.
The bridge was controversial because the construction of ramps on the Cincinnati approach in 1973-74 caused the hillside in Mt. Adams to collapse. Comprehensive studies into the hillside topography and geology were not conducted because of its high cost. While the solution seemed simple, to simply pile dirt back at the base to stabilize the hillside, the state preferred a different approach, which involved demolishing properties in the lower Mt. Adams neighborhood.
They planned to construct a conventional retaining wall on bedrock on the downhill side of Baum Street, but it would have cost $8 million and required the demolition of several homes. To preserve the houses, the city enlisted a geotechnical engineering firm that proposed a unique wall and tunnel design. The plan involved building a 1,280-foot retaining wall along the south edge of Kilgour and anchoring it to a 1,000-foot tunnel located nearly 100 feet below the surface. It would be more expensive at a cost of $10 million and not without risk.
Construction of the wall and tunnel began in 1979, but additional land movement caused by the project necessitated the demolition of 13 out of the 27 buildings intended for preservation, necessitating the city and state to spend $2.5 million to buy up property and relocate 75 residents. Two others were later removed. In total, the mistake cost taxpayers at least $30 million more than the $16 million needed to complete the Interstate 71 connection.