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Calhoun Bridge

Calhoun Bridge

The Calhoun Bridge carries KY Route 81 over the Green River in Calhoun, Kentucky.


Proposals to build a fixed crossing across the Green River at Calhoun had been ongoing since the late 1800s, but the advent of the automobile emphasized the need for the replacement of the overburdened and slow Calhoun-Rumsey Ferry. 2 4 It was not until April 1926 that citizens of the area met at the courthouse and formed a committee to devise ways of obtaining a bridge over the river.

In March 1927, the War Department approved a permit for the Rogers Bros. to construct a bridge over the Green River at Calhoun, with construction to begin no later than May 7. 2 4 Its specifications included that the bridge was to be 35 feet above the high water mark of the flood of 1913, and include both a 325-foot navigation span and a 125-foot channel span.

After engineers employed by Rogers Bros. checked the approach sites, they determined that the bridge was not economically feasible. 2 Almost immediately, the Nashville Bridge Company, with the backing of Stranahan, Harris & Oatis investment bankers of Toledo, Ohio, agreed to build and finance the bridge. The company hired Harrington, Howard & Ash to design the high-level crossing. 1

After construction on the foundations began on May 5, the bridge company requested that a vertical lift bridge type be considered and that the location of the bridge be shifted to the end of Calhoun’s Main Street. 2 Both requests were denied as the location was too close to a bend in the Green River and because the bridge type change was considered too late in the process.

The new Calhoun Bridge, dedicated in honor of McLean County native Corporal James Bethel Gresham, the first American killed in action in World War I at the Battle of Sommerviller on November 3, 1917, 1 3 opened on October 20, 1928. 3 4 An estimated 10,000 people attended the dedication ceremonies that began at 1:30 pm and extended well into the evening. A toll of 50 cents one-way or 75 cents for a round-trip was levied.

Designed by Harrington, Howard & Ash, it consisted of a main Pennsylvania Petit through truss span, two Pratt deck truss spans, and two steel beam approach spans. 1

The Calhoun Bridge was notable as it remained the only bridge constructed by the Nashville Bridge Company in the state. 1 It was also the only large vehicular bridge in western Kentucky except for at Munfordville. 3 4 The completion of the crossing also jumpstarted approvals and proposals of other bridges in western Kentucky. 3 Within six months, construction of a bridge across the Green River at Spottsville had been started and a bridge at Livermore had been approved. A bridge or ferry across the Pond River at Ashbysburgh had been proposed.

The state bought the Calhoun Bridge from private interests for $250,000 on December 31, 1936. 4 The final $8,200 principal and interest on the purchase bonds were paid off during the night of January 28, 1944, and at 6 am on January 29, the crossing became toll free.

The only modifications made to the bridge came in 1975 when the steel grid roadway deck was filled with concrete. 1

In December 1998, construction began on a replacement crossing by Faulkner Construction of Lousiville 5 which opened to traffic on March 30, 2000. 7 It was completed months ahead of schedule because of a mild winter. The new 1,138-foot Calhoun Bridge cost $9.3 million to construct. 5 7

The old crossing was imploded at 7 am on June 1, 2000. 6


  • State: Kentucky
  • Route: KY Route 81
  • Type: Warren Through Truss
  • Status: Active - Automobile
  • Total Length: 1,048 feet (1928); 1,138 feet (2000)
  • Main Span Length: 327 feet (1928);
  • Spans:
  • Deck Width: 21 feet (1928);


  1. Fiegel, Jayne H. “James Bethel Gresham Memorial Bridge.” Historical American Engineering Record, Apr. 1999.
  2. Ward, Ken. “Meandering through McLean… building bridge over Green.” McLean County News [Calhoun], 27 Oct. 1983, p. 1.
  3. Ward, Ken. “Bridge over Green dedicated on ‘red-letter day’, October 28.” McLean County News [Calhoun], 10 Nov. 1983, pp. 1-2.
  4. Ward, Ken. “Thoughts on a bridge’s upcoming demise.” McLean County News [Calhoun], 4 Jun. 1998, pp. 3A-12A.
  5. Martin, David. “Bridge work to be complete in 2000.” McLean County News [Calhoun], 7 Jan. 1999, p. 1A.
  6. Revlett, Teresa. “Old Calhoun bridge demolished.” Messenger-Inquirer [Owensboro], 2 Jun. 2000, pp. 1A-2A.
  7. Revlett, Teresa. “New bridge opens in McLean.” Messenger-Inquirer [Owensboro], 31 Mar. 2000, p. 1A.

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