Clays Ferry Bridge (Interstate 75, US 25, US 421)

The Clays Ferry Bridge, carrying Interstate 75, US 25 and US 421 and spanning the Kentucky River, connects Fayette and Madison counties in Kentucky.

The first bridge at Clays Ferry dated to 1792 when Valentine Stone received a license from the Madison County government to operate Stone’s ferry across the river between Fayette and Madison counties.1 In 1798, Stone sold the ferry operation to General Green Clay who gave the crossing its name today.

His descendant, Brutus J. Clay and R.C. Rogers, sold the ferry to the Richmond and Lexington Turnpike Company in 1865. The organization maintained the ferry for four years before constructing a low-level wrought-iron toll bridge in 1871. The turnpike was purchased by the Fayette and Madison county governments in 1897, however, this did not include the tolled crossing. The company was allowed to operate the bridge until 1906 when W.S. Moberly, James Erskine and Thomas J. Smith purchased the bridge at public auction for $4,755.1 The three new proprietors organized the Clays Ferry Bridge Company and operated the span until April 1, 1929 when the state of Kentucky purchased the bridge for $200,000. On December 24, 1930, the state removed the tollgate from the span, which at the time was part of US 25.

In August 1946, as part of ongoing improvements to modernize US 25, the Kentucky State Highway Department completed a new two-lane, three-span, continuous Warren-truss bridge. At the time of its completion by the Mt. Vernon Bridge Company of Mt. Vernon, Ohio, it was the seventh highest crossing in the United States.1

In 1951, US 421’s route was extended north from Bristol, Tennessee to Bedford, Kentucky and utilized the US 25 alignment over the Kentucky River.A twin span was constructed when Interstate 75 was constructed through central Kentucky in 1963. Both bridges were widened and joined in 1998, to form a single six-lane freeway as part of an on-going highway widening project.