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Brookport-Paducah Bridge

Brookport-Paducah Bridge (US 45)

The Brookport-Paducah Bridge carries US Route 45 over the Ohio River between Brookport, Illinois, and McCracken County, Kentucky.


A need for a fixed crossing over the Ohio River at Paducah became paramount as automobile use increased in the region during the 1920s. The Paducah-Ohio River Bridge Company was formed, with Richard Rudy acting as president of the committee that also included Charles G. Vahlkamp, Con W. Craig, W. F. Bradshaw, president of the First National Bank, and Harry L. Meyer, a local jeweler. 4

A $2 million construction contract was awarded in 1927 for a bridge over the Ohio between Paducah and Brookport, Illinois. 3 Designed by Harrington, Howard & Ash and constructed by the Rouse Construction Company, Union Bridge & Construction Company, and Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company, the ten-span crossing opened to traffic on May 8, 1929. 4 5 The tolled bridge consisted of three Warren pony trusses, one Parker through truss, nine Warren through trusses, and four deck trusses. A small ceremony for those involved with the planning of the bridge was held at the Hotel Irvin Cobb in Paducah.

There were increasing calls to remove the 50¢ toll on the Brookport-Paducah Bridge with each passing year by the 1940s. The issue finally came to a boiling point on October 15, 1943, when commissioners in Massac County, Illinois threatened to sell the Illinois approach of the Kentucky-owned toll bridge for nonpayment of $29,000 in taxes. 2 The threat was due to Kentucky’s refusal to pay taxes on the Brookport-Paducah Bridge or any other publicly owned bridge that crossed the Ohio River into other states.

It was a moot point as on November 24, Kentucky Governor Johnson attended a ceremony to remove the tolls from the crossing as the original construction bonds had been paid off. 2 Johnson noted that a fire had crippled the bridge in the spring of 1942 and that the damage was so extensive that the bridge might not have become toll-free for a number of years had it not been for the continued support from the motoring public. The de-tolling ceremony was Johnson’s sixth as construction bond were retired on other tolled bridges across the state. 2

The Brookport-Paducah Bridge was later ceremoniously renamed for Irvin Cobb, a famous author from Paducah. 2 5

After the Paducah Bridge carrying Interstate 24 opened nearby, the Brookport-Paducah Bridge was closed to traffic between August 1975 8 and late 1976 so that the floor beams and driving deck could be replaced. 6 Edwards & Webb Construction Company of Danville was awarded the $2.9 million contract 7 which involved replacing the concrete deck with steel grid decking and replacing the decking on the Kentucky approach with concrete. 8 The project was made a top priority because of numerous issues over the years of bridge deck issues caused by heavy traffic loads. 6



  • State: Illinois, Kentucky
  • Route: US Route 45
  • Type: Deck Truss, Warren Pony Truss, Parker Through Truss, Warren Through Truss
  • Status: Active - Automobile
  • Total Length: 5,386 feet
  • Spans:
  • Deck Width: 19.7 feet
  • Above Vertical Clearance: 14 feet


  1. Bridge plaque.
  2. Johnson, Keen. “Paducah-Brookport Bridge Becomes Toll Free.” The public papers of Governor Keen Johnson, 1939-1943. Ed. Frederic D. Ogden. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1982. 283.Print.
  3. Robertson, John E. L. “World War and Depression.” Paducah: Frontier to the Atomic Age. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2002. 76. Print.
  4. Powell, Bill. “Transportation.” Mccracken County, Kentucky History Book. By McCracken County Genealogical-Historical Society. N.p.: Turner Publishing Company, 1989. 25-26. Print.
  5. Channing, Steven A. “Paducah.” Encyclopedia of Kentucky. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. St. Clair Shores, MI: Somerset Publishers, 2003. 240. Print.
  6. “Irvin Cobb Bridge will be closed for two years for major repairs.” Paducah Sun, 9 Feb. 1975, pp. 1C-6C.
  7. Matlock, Bill. “Ohio River much wider now for residents of Brookport.” Paducah Sun, 7 Sept. 1975, p. 13B.
  8. Matlock, Bill. “Brookport manages to cope with closing of Cobb bridge.” Paducah Sun, 16 Jun. 1976, pp. 1A-2A.

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