Kennedy Memorial Bridge

    Kennedy Memorial Bridge

    The John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge carries Interstate 65 southbound over the Ohio River between Louisville, Kentucky and New Albany, Indiana.


    The Kennedy Memorial Bridge was designed by the Louisville engineering firm of Hazelet & Erdal. Construction of the six-lane crossing began by the Allied Structural Steel Company in the spring of 1961 and was finished in late 1963 at the cost of $10 million.

    The bridge was unnamed when U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Four days later, Kentucky Governor Bert T. Combs announced that the crossing would be named after Kennedy. The bridge was dedicated and opened for northbound traffic on December 6 and opened for southbound traffic a few weeks later.

    Bridge Painting Scandal

    The Kennedy Memorial Bridge was last repainted in January 1977 and was requiring repainting by the close of the century. 1

    The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) awarded a $13.7 million contract to repaint the Kennedy Bridge to the Abbe & Svoboda Inc. in 1999. 1 A unique tri-color paint scheme of tan, brick red, and dark green was chosen by an art consultant with the Waterfront Development Corporation, which oversaw the Waterfront Park in Louisville.

    Progress was slow because of concerns over lead-based paint that coated the bridge. 2 When workers began blasting away the paint with water and steel grit, too much of it escaped onto the ground, creating a potential health hazard. The company had to devise a way to capture the paint chips. To keep the lead from falling into the river or on the ground, workers used a steel platform suspended under the bridge. The platform, covered in a layer of felt and mesh, captured the old paint but allowed water to fall through. The recovered paint chips were vacuumed, placed in barrels, and sent to a recycling plant in Missouri.

    Kennedy Memorial Bridge

    A view of the Kennedy Memorial Bridge during its failed painting project in 2005.

    Owing to a lack of progress, KYTC fired Abbe & Svoboda from the bridge painting project in 2000. 3 Federal Bonding, which had posted a bond on the work, took over the contract and hired Brighton Painting Company as a subcontractor. But workers from Brighton encountered difficulties cleaning paint off of the higher portions of the bridge according to state specifications and walked off of the job. Federal Bonding wanted more money and time to comply with the specifications, but after encountering resistance from the state, Brighton Painting walked off of the job on October 22, 2001.

    In December, it was alleged KYTC inspectors Kevin Lee Earles, Bill Strader, and Scott Kring solicited bribes from Abhe & Svoboda and Brighton Painting with the promise to reduce delays in payment from the state over the painting project. 4 The issue was concluded when the state settled a lawsuit with the painting contractors and Federal Bonding for $12 million for the extortion attempts and breach of contract in May 2003. 1 5

    A new $17.8 million to paint the bridge was awarded to the Atlantic Painting Company In June 2004. 5 In July 2005, bridge painter Jaime Antonio Mendez was killed when he fell 50 feet off of the bridge onto the ground near the Ohio River. 1 Owing to the slow pace of work and other safety concerns, KYTC terminated the contract with Atlantic Painting in May 2006. According to terms of the settlement, the company was allowed to keep the $2.1 million it had been paid for work it had completed, as well as $350,000 for equipment removal from the bridge.

    A new $13.4 million contract to finish the painting of the bridge in a beige color was awarded to Intech Contracting on August 2, 2007, 6 and the project was completed in May 2008. 7 The total cost to paint the bridge between 1999 and 2008 cost the state $60 million.

    Ohio River Bridges Project

    The Ohio River Bridges Project, a multi-state project to relieve traffic congestion in the Louisville region, involved the construction of the Abraham Lincoln Bridge over the Ohio River for six lanes of northbound Interstate 65 traffic. The Lincoln Bridge opened in December 2015. Afterward, the Kennedy Memorial Bridge was closed to traffic while the bridge deck was replaced. It reopened to carry six lanes of southbound Interstate 65 traffic in phases between October 10 8 and November 14. 9 Tolling on the Kennedy Bridge was implemented in December 2016. 10


    • State: Indiana, Kentucky
    • Route: Interstate 65
    • Type: Warren through truss
    • Status: Active - Automobile
    • Total Length: 2,498 feet
    • Main Span Length: 700 feet
    • Deck Width: 86 feet
    • Above Vertical Clearance: 28 feet


    1. Adams, Brent. “Kennedy Bridge to be painted one color.” Business First [Louisville], 13 Jun. 2006.
    2. Poynter, Chris. “Bridge painting behind schedule.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 2 Aug. 2000, p. B1.
    3. Shafer, Sheldon S. and Matt Batcheldor. “Kennedy Bridge painters stop work.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 23 Oct. 2001, p. B6.
    4. Wolfson, Andrew. “Transportation inspector indicted on extortion counts.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 4 Dec. 2001, p. B3.
    5. Shafer, Sheldon S. “Paint job starts on Kennedy Bridge.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 8 Oct. 2004, p. B3.
    6. Shafer, Sheldon S. “Kennedy painting set to finish.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 12 Aug. 2007, p. B1-B3.
    7. “Bridge painting takes 9 years, $60 million, plus single conviction.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 21 May 2008, p. 2A.
    8. “Kennedy Bridge to reopen to one lane of traffic starting Friday.” WDRB [Louisville], 28 Sept. 2016.
    9. “UPDATE: All lanes of Kennedy Bridge, including ramp to I-64 West, now open.” WDRB [Louisville], 14 Nov. 2016.
    10. “What you need to know before tolling starts on 3 Louisville bridges.” WDRB [Louisville], 13 Nov. 2016.

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