The Simeon Willis Bridge connects U.S. Routes 23 and 60 Ashland, Kentucky to U.S. Route 52 at Coal Grove, Ohio and spans the Ohio River.
Planning for a second Ohio River span between Ashland and Ohio began in earnest in the early 1970s, to supplement or replace the two-lane Ben Williamson Bridge. As late as 1970, however, the Kentucky Department of Highways reiterated that it had no plans to construct a second crossing at Ashland.(1)
On February 6, 1972, a proposal was floated to construct a new span at 45th Street, which would connect U.S. Route 52 in Ohio to a proposed Ashland bypass. The projected average-annual daily traffic count was 17,000 vehicles, and the bridge would be paid for with a ten cent toll. The existing Ben Williamson Bridge would also be retolled. The bridge, if constructed, would be built before 1990, which coincided with the date in which tolls on the Ironton-Russell Bridge and the Ben Williamson Bridge would expire.
Downtown merchants desired a new bridge at 13th Street, whereas city leaders preferred a span at 34th or 45th Street.(1) The second crossing was shelved for several years, however, as the bypass was canceled.
In 1971, 12th and 13th Streets in Ashland were widened and realigned between Oakview Avenue and Lexington Avenue, with 12th Street carrying U.S. Route 60 westbound and 13th Street carrying U.S. Route 60 eastbound.(1) Both streets carried U.S. Route 60, however, only 12th Street connected directly to the Ben Williamson Bridge. In 1977, U.S. Route 60 south of Ashland to Interstate 64 was widened to four lanes. After the highway’s completion to the interstate, traffic counts through Ashland increased considerably, congesting the Ben Williamson Bridge.
A new bridge parallel to the Ben Williamson Bridge was proposed in the late 1970s. Construction began in 1981 on a span from 13th Street and Winchester Avenue, which coincided with the widening of 12th and 13th Streets from Lexington Avenue to Winchester Avenue.(1) The new three-lane cantilever crossing was completed in 1985.
For fifteen months between 2006 and 2007, the Simeon Willis Bridge was repainted at a cost of $4,212,880.(2) The painting contract involved repainting the bridge to a blue color, which contrasted with the Ben Williamson Bridge’s green hue. Together, they comprise the city of Ashland’s colors.
- Crosses: Ohio River
- Bridge type: Cantiliver
- Number of lanes: 3