Burnside Bridge (KY 90)

The Burnside Bridge carries KY Route 90 over the South Fork Cumberland River and Lake Cumberland in Burnside, Kentucky.


For decades, travelers between Burnside and Monticello had to deal with a ferry to cross the South Fork of the Cumberland River. On July 4, 1913, F. J. Manley announced that contracts were let to the Virginia Bridge & Iron Company for the construction of a steel bridge across the waterway. 4 The project had previously received the approval from the Acting Secretary of War Henry Breckenridge as the structure was proposed to cross a navigable waterway. The new privately owned, tolled Burnside Bridge opened in 1914 alongside the ferry that remained in operation.

By 1930, travelers along KY Route 90 had a choice in crossing the South Fork of the Cumberland River at Burnside: the private toll bridge now owned by W. J. Davidson of the Burnside Bridge Company or a private toll ferry partly owned by Davidson. 1 Adding to the complexity for motorists was a toll ferry that operated over the North Fork of the Cumberland River for travelers along US Route 27 just 200 yards away.

To improve travel conditions for motorists along both KY Route 90 and US Route 27, the state proposed the construction of new two-lane toll bridges over the South Fork and North Fork of the Cumberland River which would cost $250,000 and $312,000, respectively. 1 The crossings would be funded through the Murphy Toll Bridge Act, legislation that was passed in 1928 that allowed the State Department of Highways to erect highway bridges across the state and allowed the state to sell construction bonds that would be paid back by tolls.

That July, the State Highway Commission offered to purchase the circa 1914 Burnside Bridge from Davidson for $46,000 which he counter-offered with a price of $100,000; 1 3 Davidson also offered to sell the companion ferry for $25,000. 3 The state refused to budge and Davidson walked away from negotiations. The state initially went ahead with plans for the construction of the new KY Route 90 bridge. 5

In December 1932, the Commission authorized the expenditure of $25,000 to purchase Davidson’s bridge. 6 It was projected that it would cost the state an additional $30,000 to rehabilitate the structure. Toll rates, which were controlled by the Commission, were reaffirmed; Davidson had requested an increase in rates to balance the decline in traffic. However, by July 1933, Davidson’s bridge company was in default, 2 with banks claiming $23,533 against the Burnside Bridge Company. 8 The Burnside Bridge was bringing in average daily revenues of just $20 to $40 per day from motorists. 2

The Burnside Bridge was purchased by the Commission in 1934 at the cost of $30,000. 7

Authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1938 and the River Harbor Act of 1946 as part of a comprehensive plan to develop the Cumberland River basin, Wolf Creek Dam was constructed between 1941 and 1951 in Russell County. The damming of the Cumberland River formed Lake Cumberland and required the construction of seven new highway and railway bridges across the impoundment.

As part of the project, the circa 1914 Burnside Bridge was replaced with a 1,105-foot-long deck truss bridge at the cost of $833,725, with construction starting in 1949. 9 After the gates on the new Wolf Creek Dam were closed in December 1950, it was projected that it would take two years for the 101-mile-long lake to fill, but the waters rose more quickly than expected before the bridges were ready for motorists. 12 A temporary ferry was put into operation until the new Burnside Bridge was formally dedicated on March 31, 1951. 9

Construction started in 2003 on a four-lane replacement of the aging circa 1951 Burnside Bridge. A Warren through truss design utilizing Corten weathering steel was selected for its aesthetics and value. 11 The new $64 million bridge was dedicated in September 2005 and fully completed in June 2006. 10



  • State: Kentucky
  • Route: KY Route 90
  • Type: Warren Through Truss
  • Status: Active - Automobile
  • Total Length: 1,592 feet (1951); 1,712 feet (2005)
  • Main Span Length: 786 feet (2005)
  • Roadway Width: 24 feet (1951); 83 feet (2005)
  • Height: 214 feet (2005)


  1. Trout, Allan M. “Bridge Tangle Study Starts.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 11 Jul. 1930, pp. 1-2.
  2. “Seek Receiver for Bridge Corporation.” Kentucky Post and Times-Star [Covington], 22 Jul. 1933, p. 1.
  3. “Refuses $46,000 Bid for Bridge.” Lexington Herald, 9 Jul. 1930, p. 1.
  4. “Contracts Let for Pretentious Buildings.” Lexington Herald, 5 Jul. 1913, p. 1.
  5. “Waynesburg.” Interior Journal [Stanford], 20 Nov. 1931, p. 2.
  6. “Commission Plans to Purchase Bridge.” Kentucky Post, 14 Dec. 1932, p. 1.
  7. “State Road Body Paying Sales Tax.” OWensboro Messenger, 2 Aug. 1934, p. 3.
  8. Interior Journal, 1 Sept. 1933, p. 1.
  9. “Four Lake Cumberland Bridges to be Opened Formally Today.” Lexington Herald, 31 Mar. 1951, p. 7.
  10. Mardis, Bill. “Bridge Over Traveled Waters.” Commonwealth Journal [Somerset], 1 Dec. 2016.
  11. Mueller, Lee. “It’s ‘Weathering’.” Lexington Herald-Leader, 12 Oct. 2005, pp. B1-B3.
  12. Mardis, Bill. “Visible tunnel in lake an intriguing reminder of the past.” Commonwealth Journal [Somerset], 12 Jul. 2015.

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