The Ben Williamson Bridge connects Ashland, Kentucky to Coal Grove, Ohio and was completed in 1932. Originally a two-lane two-way span, the bridge today carries Kentucky-bound traffic from U.S. Route 52.
In 1928, the Ashland-Goal Grove Bridge Company and the Goal Grove and Ohio Bridge Company were formed to construct a span over the Ohio River between Ashland, Kentucky and Coal Grove, Ohio.(1) The bridge would replace the Winona Ferry. The companies were acquired two years later by Thomas Boggess Jr. and John T. Diedrich, and the company was subsequently renamed to the Ashland-Coal Grove Bridge Company.
In July 1928, construction of the cantilever bridge began on the Kentucky approach.(1) During the same year, the Murphy Toll Bridge Act was passed in Kentucky, which meant that companies constructing river crossings could now utilize bonds that could be paid with tolls.
Construction was quite slow on the span, and in 1929, the Kentucky Highway Commission acquired the bridge plans from the Ashland-Coal Grove Bridge Company and expedited work on the crossing.(1) Numerous contracts were awarded one year later, and the new bridge was opened in 1932 as a tolled facility.
The tolls were lifted in a ceremony that involved a small parade on August 5, 1941, at which time the bridge was dedicated as the as the Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge.(1) In 1985, the Simon Willis Bridge was completed for Ohio-bound traffic, and as a result, the Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge was converted for Kentucky-bound traffic.
In 1999, the bridge was closed for one year and was renovated with a new battleship gray paint scheme. A new concrete driving surface was installed, and aging metal guardrails were replaced with jersey barriers. In addition, lighting was upgraded during the project.
On February 1, 2007, the bridge was closed to traffic for a bridge painting project.(2) The $6.8 million painting contract involved repainting the bridge to a light green color, which contrasted with the Simon Willis Bridge’s blue hue. Together, they comprise the city of Ashland’s colors. The span was reopened in November.
- Route: U.S. Route 23X
- Bridge type: Cantiliver
- Main span length: 1,600 ft.
- Number of lanes: 2
- “A history of Ashland, Kentucky, 1786-1954.” Ashland Centennial Committee. 1954. 2 Jan., 2007.
- Blair, Allen. “Green comes with price.” Daily Independent (Ashland), Dec. 14, 2006. March 15, 2007 Article