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, designed by the Louisville engineering firm of Hazelet & Erdal, was constructed by the Allied Structural Steel Company between 1961-63 at the cost of $10 million. The six-lane 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 for the late John F. Kennedy and opened for northbound traffic on December 6 and opened for southbound traffic a few weeks later.
Bridge Painting Scandal
By the close of the 20th century, the Kennedy Memorial Bridge was overdue for repainting as it had last been touched up in January 1977. 1 In 1999, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) awarded a $13.7 million contract to repaint the superstructure to the Abbe & Svoboda Inc. 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 Louisville’s Waterfront Park which rested underneath the bridge. But progress was slow in the repainting project because of lead-based paint that coated the steel. 2 When workers began blasting away the paint with water and steel grit, too much of it escaped out of its confinements and created a potential health hazard. To keep lead from falling into the river or onto the ground, workers crafted a platform of felt and mesh underneath the bridge. It captured any loose paint flakes but allowed water to flow through unimpeded. The recovered paint chips were vacuumed, placed in barrels, and sent to a recycling plant in Missouri.
But slowing progress on the painting contract led KYTC to fire Abbe & Svoboda from the project in 2000. 3 Federal Bonding, which had posted bond on the work, took over the contract and hired the 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 KYTC, Brighton Painting resigned from 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 in May 2003 when the state settled a lawsuit for $12million with the painting contractors and Federal Bonding over the extortion attempts and the breach of contract. 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 simpler, cheaper 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
- Adams, Brent. “Kennedy Bridge to be painted one color.” Business First [Louisville], 13 Jun. 2006.
- Poynter, Chris. “Bridge painting behind schedule.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 2 Aug. 2000, p. B1.
- Shafer, Sheldon S. and Matt Batcheldor. “Kennedy Bridge painters stop work.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 23 Oct. 2001, p. B6.
- Wolfson, Andrew. “Transportation inspector indicted on extortion counts.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 4 Dec. 2001, p. B3.
- Shafer, Sheldon S. “Paint job starts on Kennedy Bridge.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 8 Oct. 2004, p. B3.
- Shafer, Sheldon S. “Kennedy painting set to finish.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 12 Aug. 2007, p. B1-B3.
- “Bridge painting takes 9 years, $60 million, plus single conviction.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 21 May 2008, p. 2A.
- “Kennedy Bridge to reopen to one lane of traffic starting Friday.” WDRB [Louisville], 28 Sept. 2016.
- “UPDATE: All lanes of Kennedy Bridge, including ramp to I-64 West, now open.” WDRB [Louisville], 14 Nov. 2016.
- “What you need to know before tolling starts on 3 Louisville bridges.” WDRB [Louisville], 13 Nov. 2016.