The Paducah Bridge is a twin span tied-arch bridge on Interstate 24 over the Ohio River between Paducah, Kentucky and Metropolis, Illinois.
The section of Interstate 24 between Chattanooga and Nashville, Tennessee was part of the original Interstate Highway System plan enacted in 1956, although it was decided to extend the route into Kentucky and Illinois to connect to Interstate 57. 7 The first section of Interstate 24 in Kentucky to break ground was in Lyon County in December 1967 and the final segment of the highway was completed in the state in May 1980. 8
Central to the completion of the interstate in Kentucky was the construction of the Paducah Bridge, a modern Ohio River crossing to replace the narrow and dangerous Brookport-Paducah Bridge along US Route 45 near Paducah. A $6.7 million contract was awarded in June 1968 for substructure work on the new crossing which was completed by December 1970. 3 In May 1969, the Nashville Bridge Company of Nashville successfully submitted the low bid of $11.472 million for the erection of the superstructure. 2
High waters, poor weather, and construction mishaps in 1970 slowed the construction of the bridge. 3 Originally scheduled for completion in December 1971, the finish date was moved to September 1972. Its opening was delayed further after painters discovered cracks caused by faulty welding in hanger bars that connected steel cables to the top of the arch. 6 It cost $1.8 million to replace the welded hanger bars with hanger bars that were bolted in place.
Finally, the twin steel arch crossing, with main spans of 720 feet and 620 feet, was finished at the cost of $18.5 million 1 5 and opened on October 18, 1974. 5 No formal dedication ceremony was held. At the time of its completion, river traffic flowed under the Illinois side of the Ohio River under the 620-foot span, but after the dam at Mound City, Illinois was built, river traffic shifted to the Kentucky side of the river and under the 720-foot span. 3
In 1977, cracks were discovered in force bars under the bridge deck. 6 The force bars, which absorb impact and stress that would because by vehicles starting and stopping on the bridge that would otherwise cause the structure to move, were repaired at the cost of $1 million.
In August 1979, 119 cracks were discovered during a routine inspection in welds in the tie girders, or the main supports of the arches over the river channel. 1 6 The bridge was closed to traffic on August 3. Repairs undertaken by the Jean Crawford Construction Company of Paducah consisted of bolting steel plates over the cracked areas. It was projected that automobile and light truck traffic would cross the bridge by October 1980 with it reopening to all traffic in mid-1981, but a new 4½-inch crack in another tie girder was discovered on May 1. 4 Finally, the Paducah Bridge reopened to traffic in late 1981 after $3 million was spent on repairs. 6
Additional cracks were discovered during a routine inspection in at least ten floor beams near porthole openings in November 1984. 6 The cracks were repaired by bolting plates around the openings to remove stress from the area and work was completed within a week.
- State: Illinois, Kentucky
- Route: Interstate 24
- Type: Tied Arch
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 5,632 feet
- Main Span Length: 720 feet
- Deck Width: 60 feet
- Above Vertical Clearance: 16.8 feet
- Bartleman, Bill. “What became of.” Paducah Sun, 22 Sept. 1980, p. 2A.
- “Nashville Firm’s Bid Low For Interstate 24 Bridge.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 10 May 1969, p. A8.
- “I-24 Bridge Rises, Stretches.” Paducah Sun, 21 Oct. 1970, p. B1.
- “I-24 bridge crack wider.” Paducah Sun, 4 May 1980, p. A16.
- “Traffic flow is improved as I-24 bridge in operation.” Paducah Sun, 18 Oct. 1974, p. A1.
- Bartleman, Bill. “Additional cracks found in inspection of Interstate 24 bridge.” Paducah Sun, 28 Nov. 1984, p. B5.
- Illinois Blue Book, 1967–1968. State of Illinois, p. 746.
- “Long-awaited interstate complete.” Williamson Daily News, 24 May 1980.