The Carl D. Perkins Bridge carries OH Route 852 and Truck US Route 23 across the Ohio River between Kentucky and Ohio.
In 1978-79, the U.S. Grant Bridge along US Route 23 between Fullerton, Kentucky, and Portsmouth, Ohio, was closed for emergency repairs. This closure prompted discussions about building a new bridge in the area. While the Grant Bridge was closed, traffic had to take alternative routes: either using an overburdened ferry at South Shore, Kentucky, or taking a 50-mile detour via the Ironton-Russell Bridge at Russell, Kentucky, and Ironton, Ohio. 1 2 3
In August 1978, the Kentucky Department of Transportation (KYDOT) and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) agreed to begin project planning for a new bridge to relieve traffic on the U.S. Grant Bridge. 13 Section 147, “Acceleration of Bridge Projects,” of the 1978 Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), authorized funding for a bridge project to demonstrate the feasibility of reducing the time required from project inception through completion of construction. It granted permission for the construction of a new bridge spanning the Ohio River near Portsmouth. During the planning phase, fifteen options were evaluated, including thirteen different potential crossing sites.
On July 23 and 24, 1979, KYDOT) and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) held public meetings in South Shore and Portsmouth to discuss the alternatives. 13 Alternative 4 was presented at the public meetings as the preferred alternative of KYDOT and ODOT because of the high cost of Alternative 7 and the limited funding of $30 million then available for the project.
- Alternative 4: This option suggests constructing a new bridge parallel to the U.S. Grant Bridge, slightly upstream. 13 The proposed bridge would be 2,450 feet long and initially accommodate two or three lanes. If necessary in the future, the three-lane design could be expanded to four lanes, with two lanes in each direction. This alternative would directly affect Shawnee State College. The estimated cost for implementing this option is $19.7 million, later revised to $33 million.
- Alternative 7: This option involves building a two-lane bridge approximately 1.1 miles downstream from the U.S. Grant Bridge. 13 The total length of the bridge and its approaches would be 5,600 feet. Additionally, it would require widening 1.2 miles of KY Route 10 to four lanes and reconstructing the interchange between US Route 52 and OH Routes 73 and 104 in West Portsmouth. The proposed improvements on KY Route 10 would have an impact on mature, 200-year-old trees, 100 acres of forested land, 22 residences, and six businesses. However, this alternative would extend the lifespan of the U.S. Grant Bridge by reducing truck traffic on it. The projected cost for implementing this alternative is $54.8 million, later revised to $155 million.
There were several alternative approaches considered, including the acquisition of residential and commercial properties in Portsmouth and South Shore, constructing through Riverfront Park in Portsmouth, and excavating hillsides on unstable slopes in Kentucky. 13
There was significant opposition to Alternative 4, and local leaders from Kentucky and Ohio pressed for Alternative 7 as it would re-route truck traffic out of downtown Portsmouth and provide future economic development in underserved areas. 13 After a diligent effort by the local government, citizens, Congressman, and Senators from the two states, legislation was passed by Congress and signed by President Carter in November 1978 that amended Section 147 of the 1978 Surface Transportation Assistance Act that removed the funding limit from Section 147 and assured that additional funds may be necessary to complete the bridge project.
On September 25, 1980, KYDOT made the decision to construct a new four-lane bridge 1.1 miles away from the U.S. Grant Bridge rather than building it alongside it. 4 5 The chosen downstream location came with a significantly higher cost of $155 million, whereas the parallel Grant Bridge site had an estimated cost of $33 million. However, due to opposition from the Portsmouth city council and others who did not want more congestion downtown, the downtown Portsmouth site was no longer feasible. The city council passed a resolution supporting the downstream site and denying permission for the state of Ohio to build the parallel bridge. This change was driven by Ohio’s home-rule law, which required the state to obtain the city’s consent before constructing any project within its limits.
As part of the new bridge construction, KY Route 10 between US Route 23 and South Portsmouth would require the completion of approximately two miles of a four-lane highway. 4
In 1984, Kentucky lawmakers approved a resolution to name the proposed bridge in honor of the late U.S. Representative Carl D. Perkins. 10 That October, U.S. Representative Bob McEwen announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation had approved a $57.1 million grant to the KYDOT for the construction of the downstream bridge. 6 However, it was later discovered that the KYDOT had overestimated the construction costs, and by mid-1985, the project was estimated to cost just $71 million. 8
The Traylor Brothers’ Evansville Marine Division completed the construction of the new Carl D. Perkins Memorial Bridge. 7 This project introduced a new concrete thermal curing program for KYDOT. Additionally, an archaeological study of a suspected Indian campsite resulted in no access between piers A and B for the first six months of the project.
In September 1986, workers encountered an issue during the placement of the final sections of steel over the river. 9 They discovered that two temporary beams, which were supposed to be part of the structure, were 18 inches longer than they should have been. This mistake occurred due to incorrect fabrication. To rectify the situation, the workers had to remove multiple beams to remove the problematic sections. These beams were then reworked and properly installed later in the month. 11
A summer drought in the summer of 1987 helped speed up the construction of the new bridge, shaving at least a half year off of the project schedule. 12
The Warren cantilever through truss bridge was completed at the cost of $39.2 million 12 and opened to traffic on January 28, 1988. It is named after the late Kentucky Congressman Carl D. Perkins.
- State: Kentucky, Ohio
- Route: Truck US Route 23, OH Route 852
- Type: Warren Through Truss
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 2,991'
- Main Span Length: 900'
- Deck Width: 48'
- “Historic span shut for reconstruction.” Paducah Sun, 9 Jul. 2001, p. 2A.
- “Reopened bridge revives Portsmouth.” Chillicothe Gazette, 5 Jan. 1980, p. 1.
- “Ferry Service Resumes in Portsmouth.” Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, 14 Dec. 1978, p. 17.
- Taylor, Livingston. “Greenup bridge to be built downriver from old span.” Courier-Journal, 26 Sept. 1980, p. B1.
- “Ohio River Bridge Location Selected.” Times Recorder, 27 Sept. 1980, p. 7B.
- “Grant awarded for bridge.” Cincinnati Post, 1 Oct. 1984, p. 10A.
- “Traylor Brothers paves way for future success.” Evansville Courier and Press, 14 Aug. 1988, p. J3.
- “Bridge funding sought.” Cincinnati Post, 26 Jun. 1985, p. 1B.
- “New bridge turns up a little short.” Springfield News-Sun, 11 Sept. 1986, p. 11.
- “City finds renaming overpass owned by the state isn’t easy.” Courier-Journal, 17 Jan. 1985, p. B2.
- “A new Ohio span.” Herald-Leader, 19 Sept. 1986, p. C3.
- “Drought speeds bridge work.” Messenger-Inquirer, 19 Sept. 1987, p. 1D.
- Environmental Impact Statement: New Bridge Over the Ohio River Near Portsmouth, Ohio and South Shore, Kentucky. Kentucky Department of Transportation Office of Planning and Programming Division of Highway Systems, 1981.