Luther Draffen Bridges

Luther Draffen Bridges

The Luther Draffen Bridges are a pair of steel through arches that carry Interstate 24 over the Tennessee River in western Kentucky.

The early 1970s were boom times for interstate construction in western Kentucky. The state had expended approximately $17.6 million to construct Interstate 24 between Illinois and Tennessee by 1972, with an additional $30 million under construction or advertised for bids. 2 It had hoped to have its 91 miles of interstate finished by 1978. 3

The centerpiece of Interstate 24 was a bridge over the Tennessee River near the Kentucky Dam. Construction began in early 1972 8 by the Allied Structural Steel Company of Chicago, Illinois. 7 The first of the two 1,500-ton arch spans were lifted into place on July 10, 1973. 5 6 The process involved barging the span to the site, lifting the span 84 feet into the air with hydraulic jacks over a 12-hour timeframe, and sliding the span into place. 5 The second span was moved into place on September 25. 6

The bridges over the Tennessee River were completed at the cost of $13.5 million 1 4 in July 1975. 4 They were not immediately opened to traffic as the adjoining approach roadways were not finished until 1977. The bridges are named after Luther Draffen who was considered the “Father of Kentucky Dam” for his relentless pushing to have the facility constructed.


  • State: Kentucky
  • Route: Interstate 24
  • Type: Steel Arch
  • Status: Active - Automobile
  • Total Length: 2,108 feet
  • Main Span Length: 534 feet
  • Deck Width: 39 feet
  • Above Vertical Clearance: 19 feet


  1. “Interstate 24 is taking shape.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 9 Aug. 1973, p. C1.
  2. Powell, Bill. “Tennessee I-24 plans are set back.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 12 Feb. 1972, p. B1.
  3. Powell, Bill. “First section of I-24 opens between Illinois and Kentucky.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 19 Oct. 1974, p. C1.
  4. “Spanning the Tennessee.” Paducah Sun, 17 Jul. 1975, p. 1.
  5. “Bridge boost.” Messenger-Inquirer [Owensboro], 12 Jul. 1973, p. 9C.
  6. “Second Span Rises.” Paducah Sun, 27 Sept. 1973, p. A15.
  7. Russell, James R. and Bill Powell. “Engineers hoist massive span out of Tennessee River.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 12 Jul. 1973, p. B18.
  8. Vaughn, Ernest. “Property Acquired By Agency.” Sun-Democrat [Paducah], 20 Oct. 1971, p. 2A.

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