The Clay Wade Bailey Bridge carries US Routes 25, 42, and 127 over the Ohio River between Covington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Clay Wade Bailey Bridge opened to traffic at the cost of $13.5 million on October 23, 1974, 2 5 much later than expected because of labor delays and diesel fuel shortages. 4 It was named by Governor Louie Nunn for Bailey, a reporter who spent most of his 46-year newspaper career as a Frankfort, Kentucky correspondent for The Kentucky Post. 1 5
Prior to the construction of the Bailey Bridge, local traffic flowing between Covington and Cincinnati crossed the Ohio River via the Roebling Bridge or Central Bridge. That changed in 1929 when Chesapeake & Ohio Railway’s Ohio River crossing, which was constructed between 1886 and 1889, was retrofitted for automobiles after the railroad built a new bridge over the river. The retrofitted bridge was later demolished in 1970 after having been closed for two years because of safety concerns, 3 and replaced with the new Bailey bridge. 2
Initially, the new bridge was to be financed with 80% federal funds and 20% state funds, but the Kentucky Highway Department was able to negotiate that the crossing be financed entirely with federal dollars. 6 7 In August 1971, the state awarded a low-bid $3.2 million contract for the construction of the main river piers of the new bridge to Traylor Brothers of Evansville, Indiana. 8 A groundbreaking ceremony was held on September 20, with Governor Louie B. Nunn and Kentucky Highway commissioner B.E. King speaking. 7 In November, a $5.8 million superstructure construction contract was awarded to the United States Steel Corporation.
The new Baily Bridge followed the circa 1889 bridge’s alignment, utilizing one of its river piers which in effect limited the bridge’s width to three automobile lanes. 2 A second river pier from the circa 1929 railroad bridge was extended to form a shared pier while the northern pier of the circa 1889 bridge was removed to allow for a wide 675-foot navigation channel along the Ohio.
In 2000, the Bailey Bridge’s northern approach in Cincinnati was retrofitted with a ramp to 2nd Street, and in 2004, the crossing underwent a $2.5 million rehabilitation 2 that involved replacing the deck joints and installing a new driving surface. 1
- State: Kentucky, Ohio
- Route: US Routes 25, 42, and 127
- Type: Warren Through Truss
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 2208 feet
- Main Span Length: 675 feet
- Roadway Width: 43 feet
- Above Vertical Clearance: 18 feet
- Navigational Clearance:
- Driehaus, Bob. “Clay Wade Bailey upgraded.” Kentucky Post, 24 Aug. 2004, p. 2K.
- Jensen, Shirlene, and Jerry Moore. “Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.” Campbell County KYGenWeb, 7 May 2009 Article.
- “Relief Promised Bridgeless Drivers.” Cincinnati Enquirer, 24 Feb. 1973, p. 30.
- Bills, Sheryl. “Energy Squeeze Crimps Construction.” Cincinnati Enquirer, 28 Nov. 1973, p. 12.
- “Clay Wade Bailey bridge will be dedicated today.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 23 Oct. 1974, p. 5.
- “Baily Bridge To Get Complete Federal Funds.” Lexington Herald, 18 Aug. 1971, p. 2.
- “Work to Start on New Span Replacing C&O.” Cincinnati Enquirer, 9 Sept. 1971, p. 26.
- “Contract for Baily Span Piers Given.” Lexington Herald, 4 Aug. 1971, p. 16.
- “Baily Bridge Contract is Approved.” Lexington Herald, 6 Nov. 1971, p. 17.