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
In 1927, a $2 million construction contract was awarded to the bridge company for a crossing over the Ohio River near Paducah. 3 The firm Harrington, Howard & Ash served the engineering firm for the bridge which was constructed by the Rouse Construction Company, the Union Bridge & Construction Company, and the Wisconsin Bridge & Iron Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The ten-span crossing, which consisted of three Warren pony trusses, one Parker through truss, nine Warren through trusses, and four deck trusses, opened to traffic on May 8, 1929. 4 5 A small ceremony for those involved with the planning of the bridge was held at the Hotel Irvin Cobb.
There were numerous requests throughout the years to name the bridge after Irvin Cobb, a famous author from Paducah. The New York Times wrote of the movement to name the bridge in Cobb’s honor in August 1938: 5
“There is a brass marker in the sidewalk before the house where he was born sixty-two years ago. A cigar has been named for him, a beauty shop, a barber shop. Even a Kentucky mint julep honors Irvin S. Cobb.”
There were increasing calls to remove the 50¢ toll on the Brookport-Paducah Bridge with each passing year by the 1940s. On October 15, 1943, commissioners in Massac County, Illinois threatened to sell the Illinois approach of the Kentucky-owned toll bridge for nonpayment of taxes that amounted to $29,000. 2 The annual 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.
On November 24, Kentucky Governor Johnson attended a ceremony to remove the tolls from the river 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 ceremony was Johnson’s sixth since his inauguration. 2 He had previously attended a “free bridge” ceremony in Catlettsburg when the Catlettsburg-Kenova Bridge (US Route 60) became toll-free.
The Brookport-Paducah Bridge was later ceremoniously renamed for Irvin Cobb. 2
- 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
- Deck Width: 19.7 feet
- Above Vertical Clearance: 14 feet
- Bridge plaque.
- 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.
- Robertson, John E. L. “World War and Depression.” Paducah: Frontier to the Atomic Age. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2002. 76. Print.
- Powell, Bill. “Transportation.” Mccracken County, Kentucky History Book. By McCracken County Genealogical-Historical Society. N.p.: Turner Publishing Company, 1989. 25-26. Print.
- Channing, Steven A. “Paducah.” Encyclopedia of Kentucky. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. St. Clair Shores, MI: Somerset Publishers, 2003. 240. Print.