The Simeon Willis Bridge carries US Route 23 Spur northbound over the Ohio River between Ashland, Kentucky and Lawrence County, Ohio.
Planning for a second Ohio River span between Ashland and Ohio began in the early 1970s as the result of several highway construction projects. 1
In 1971, 12th and 13th Streets in Ashland were widened and realigned between Oakview and Lexington Avenues, with 12th Street carrying US Route 60 westbound and 13th Street carrying US Route 60 eastbound. 1 In 1977, US Route 60 and KY Route 180 between Ashland and Interstate 64 was widened to four-lanes. Both changes caused traffic counts into Ashland and into Ohio to increase substantially, congesting the two-lane Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge considerably.
Proposals involved replacing the Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge, building a crossing parallel to it at 13th Street, and constructing a crossing at 45th Street to connect US Route 52 to a proposed Ashland bypass. The 45th Street bridge proposal would include a ten-cent coll and require the re-tolling on the Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge.
Downtown merchants desired a new bridge at 13th Street, whereas city leaders preferred a span at 34th or 45th Street. 1 The proposal for the second crossing was shelved for several years after the bypass of Ashland was canceled.
A new bridge parallel to the Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge at 13th Street was re-proposed in the late 1970s, and the idea gathered traction quickly. 1 Construction on the $19 million bridge began by the Bristol Steel & Iron Works 2 in 1981, 3 which coincided with the widening of 12th and 13th Streets between Lexington and Winchester Avenues. 1
The new Simeon Willis Bridge, named for an Ashland attorney who was governor of Kentucky between 1943 and 1947, opened for Ohio-bound traffic on May 7, 1985, and an official opening ceremony was held on May 9. 2 The companion Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge was converted to carry two lanes of Kentucky-bound traffic.
The Simeon Willis Bridge was repainted in a green color at a cost of $4.2 million in 2006-07. 4 The paint contrasted with the Ben Williamson Memorial Bridge’s green hue; together, the green and blue colors matched the city of Ashland’s logo.
- State: Kentucky, Ohio
- Route: US Route 23 Spur
- Type: Warren Through Truss
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 2,312 feet
- Main Span Length: 740 feet
- Deck Width: 44 feet
- Above Vertical Clearance: 21 feet
- “A history of Ashland, Kentucky, 1854-2004.” Ashland Bicentennial Committee. 2004.
- “Opening set for Ashland bridge.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 6 May 1985, p. B4.
- Taylor, Livingston. “State cites bridge firm 3rd time on safety rules.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 20 Jul. 1984, p. B1.
- Moses, Emily B. “Paint it blue.” Daily Independent [Ashland], 9 Apr. 9, 2005.