The Carroll Lee Cropper Bridge carries Interstate 275 over the Ohio River between Dearborn County, Indiana and Boone County, Kentucky.
The planning for a freeway beltway around Cincinnati, Ohio began in earnest in the early 1950s, and separate plans in Ohio and Kentucky eventually merged to form the Greater Cincinnati Metropolitan Area Bypass. 1
Renamed as the Circle Freeway by the late 1950s, the project conflicted with a plan for a toll bridge between Petersburg, Kentucky, and Lawrenceburg, Indiana. 9 That proposal began in April 1956 when U.S. Representative Earl Wilson of Indiana introduced a bill for the establishment of the Lawrenceburg Bridge Company, which would be in charge of building a new bridge with a bond issue and paying the bond off with tolls. 1 The bill passed, but with costs of construction estimated at $10 million for the new bridge, progress was slow.
Unsurprisingly, officials in both states were concerned that the proposed Circle Freeway would reduce traffic on the proposed Kentucky-Indiana connection by 40%. 9
As the result of the potential impact toward the bridge, Kentucky and Indiana officials began a drive to move the Circle Freeway’s alignment ten miles west to include the proposed alignment of the toll bridge. 9 The bridge could be built without tolls, financed with 90% federal funds as part of the Interstate Highway System. Although the proposal received the support of Boone County Judge Carroll Cropper and Wilson, 1 the idea was downplayed by Ohio officials who lamented the loss of industrial development along the freeway. 9
In March 1962, the highway departments of Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana unveiled plans for an 80-mile, $153 million freeway to encircle Cincinnati. 11 Plans called for the inclusion of the 21.3-mile Circle Freeway being built in the northern reaches of Hamilton County and another 33 miles that the Bureau of Public Roads had previously approved of. The revised alignment would include a crossing over the Ohio River 1.4 miles east of Lawrenceburg, essentially replacing the earlier toll bridge proposal. 10
The Federal Bureau of Public Lands approved the alignment of the bridge site in northern Kentucky in March 1963, 1 followed by approval for the bridge from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1964. 10 Land acquisition for the new river crossing began in 1967. 1
Ohio River Bridge
Bids for the construction of the $10 million bridge 4 were let in March 1968, and construction of the four central piers in the river were underway by June. 1 The piers were completed by the Dravo Corporation of Pittsburgh at the cost of $2.2 million in March 1969. 3
The Kentucky Highway Department opened bids for the completion of the superstructure of the bridge on September 18, 1970. 2 Designed by Hazelet + Erdal of Chicago, Illinois, the crossing employed the use of a steel arch with a deck over the main span suspended via cables. The Nashville Bridge Company of Nashville, Tennessee was awarded the construction contract.
At the same time, Kentucky was constructing Interstate 275 from Interstate 75 westward to the new bridge, however, Indiana had just begun right-of-way acquisition on its 3.7-mile segment of the beltway 2 because of budgetary reasons. 4 The state received $55 million annually in federal allocation for interstate highway construction, and completing its portion of Interstate 275 would consume nearly $22 million alone because of the amount of earthen fill required to bring the roadway out of the river flood plain. 5
Indiana began construction of its portion of Interstate 275 in January 1973. 4 6 The bridge’s superstructure was mostly completed by May 1974, with the deck the only component remaining to be completed. 1 7 The paving contracts for the interstate in Indiana were awarded not long after.
The new Interstate 275 bridge was dedicated to Carroll Cropper by Governor Julian Carroll during a ceremony held indoors on December 6, 1977. 1 8
More recently, the Carroll Cropper Bridge underwent a $6.7 million bridge deck rehabilitation project between November 2014 and the fall of 2015. 12
- State: Indiana, Kentucky
- Route: Interstate 275
- Type: Steel Arch, Warren Through Truss
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 3,258 feet
- Main Span Length: 750 feet
- Deck Width: 62 feet
- Navigational Clearance:
- “Interstate 275 – Cincinnati, Ohio Beltway.” Interstate-Guide.com, 27 Sept. 2016.
- Renneisen, Jim. “Kentucky Set To Finish Job On I-275 Bridge.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 26 Aug. 1970, p. A4.
- “Bridge Work is Under Way.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 15 Mar. 1969, p. B1.
- Ford, Stephen. “Kentucky, Ohio unhappy over Indiana I-275 lag.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 7 Aug. 1972, pp. A1-A13.
- Fagan, Steve. “$12 million bridge across Ohio River may stand unused.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 5 Nov. 1971, p. Indiana-5.
- “Circle Freeway Bridge Span Takes Shape.” Cincinnati Enquirer, 27 Jan. 1973, p. 19.
- “A bridge over river waters.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 14 Mar. 1974, p. Indiana-8.
- “New Bridge Links Circle Freeway.” Marion Star, 7 Dec. 1977, p. 24.
- “Ohio Agrees To Look West On Circle Freeway.” Cincinnati Enquirer, 1 Sept. 1959, p. 4D.
- “Circle Freeway Bridge Site.” Cincinnati Enquirer, 29 Aug. 1964, p. 2.
- “Governors Urge Freeway To Encircle Cincinnati.” Cincinnati Enquirer, 31 Mar. 1962, p. 1.
- “Carroll Cropper Bridge construction begins.” Cincinnati Enquirer, 30 Oct. 2014, p. A2.