Smithland Bridge is a through truss bridge that carries US Route 60 over the Cumberland River in Smithland, Kentucky.
A privately operated ferry had operated over the Cumberland River at Smithland since the 1780s with the founding of the community. Following the rise of automobile usage and the designation of US Route 60 across the state on November 11, 1926, the ferry became increasingly overburdened.
On July 11, 1928, engineers from the Kentucky Highway Commission began surveying work to construct a fixed crossing across the Cumberland River. 1 The bridge was proposed to be built under the recently passed Murphy Toll Bridge Act.
Modjeski & Masters of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania was selected to design the new bridge. The Dravo Contracting Company of Pittsburgh was awarded a $144,470 contract for the substructure, and the Nashville Bridge Company was awarded a $212,862 contract for the superstructure on October 2, 1930. 3
The new Smithland Bridge was completed at the cost of $350,000 and opened to traffic on November 15, 1931. 2 At a dedication ceremony held on November 28, it was dedicated to Lucy Jefferson Lewis, a sister of Thomas Jefferson who was buried in Livingston County. 2 4 5
The new 1,815-foot crossing comprised of a main Warren through truss and girder approach spans.
The Murphy Toll Bridge Act was amended in 1930 to provide for the financing of bridges with bonds issued solely against tolls. 11 12 When enough revenue was collected to retire the bonds against it, the bridge was to be freed of tolls forever. The collection of tolls at Smithland ceased on August 18, 1945, which was a week in advance of the time statisticians had figured the bridge, along with seven others at Boonesboro, Burnside, Canton, Eggner’s Ferry, Paducah, Spottsville, and Tyrone, would have collected enough tolls to pay off their construction bonds. 11
The Smithland Bridge was rehabilitated in 1954. It was closed at night for two weeks, beginning on November 1, 2019, for structural repairs to replace beams that were damaged by overweight trucks. 10
The Smithland Bridge was given the honorary designation as the Lucy Jefferson Lewis Memorial Bridge.
In 2017, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) selected a consultant to study possible options for replacing the Smithland Bridge. The state determined that the structure was functionally obsolete because of its narrow deck width of 20 feet and its structural deficiencies. The narrow width and lack of shoulders made transporting agricultural equipment, such as wide combines and tractors, inconvenient and dangerous. Additionally, its load restrictions made carrying heavier equipment impossible.
KYTC began preparation work for constructing the new Smithland Bridge in June 2020. 8 Jim Smith Contracting of Grand Rivers was selected as the prime contractor for the $63.6 million project, while the American Bridge Company was awarded a contract for the superstructure. 6 7
American Bridge began work on the 700-foot main span at the Paducah-McCracken County Riverport Authority on the Tennessee River in July 2021 with the first structural steel installed that September. 9 The truss was assembled atop seven barges provided by Paducah Barge & McDonough Marine Service. During construction, the truss and the barges it rested on had to be rotated about ten times in the river to allow access from the riverport’s crane and to keep the load balanced.
The completed truss was then floated 14 miles upstream on the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers to Smithland via three towboats. 7 9 Hydraulic lift towers jacked the main truss 90 feet into the air on September 13 and 14 before it was lowered about 15 feet onto bearings atop the new concrete piers. 9
The new Smithland Bridge was dedicated by Governor Andy Beshear, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray, and state and local officials on May 15, 2023. 13 At the ceremony, the crossing was dedicated to the late Jim R. Smith, the founder of the Jim Smith Contracting Company that constructed it. The former bridge will be demolished in August, and crews will finish the final roadway resurfacing and work by December.
- State: Kentucky
- Route: US Route 60
- Type: Warren Through Truss
- Status: Active - Automobile
- Total Length: 1,817 feet (1931); 1,912 (2022)
- Main Span Length: 501 feet (1931); 700 feet (2022)
- Spans: South approach: 445 feet (1931); north approach: 868 feet (1931)
- Deck Width: 20 feet (1931); 40 feet (2022)
- Above Vertical Clearance: 13.8 feet (1931)
- “Start Bridge Survey Today.” News-Democrat [Paducah], 10 Jul. 1928, p. 1.
- “Set Dedication of 2 New Spans for November 28.” Paducah Sun-Democrat, 16 Nov. 1931, pp. 1-8.
- “Western Kentucky and Its Residents are Becoming More Strongly Linked With the Other Parts of State Through New Spans.” Sun-Demorat [Paducah], 14 Aug. 1931, p. 3.
- Pitkin, Dwight, L. “Under the Dome of The State Capitol.” Paducah Sun-Demorat, 29 Nov. 1931, p. 6.
- “Dedication of New River Span Attracts Hundreds of Visitors.” Paducah Sun-Demorat, 30 Nov. 1931, p. 3.
- Byrne, Shelley. “Construction Of New Cumberland River Bridge Remains Ahead Of Schedule.” The Waterways Journal Weekly, 20 May 2022.
- Todd, Keith. “Truss for New U.S. 60 Cumberland River Bridge at Smithland to be Floated on Barges to Construction Site in Mid-September.” Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, 30 Aug. 2022.
- Heller, Marsha. “$63.6M bid approved to build new U.S. 60 Cumberland River Bridge at Smithland.” KFVS12, 23 Jun. 2020.
- Byrne, Shelley. “New Smithland Bridge Truss Floated Into Place.” The Waterways Journal Weekly, 20 May 2022.
- “U.S. 60 Cumberland River Bridge at Smithland closing Nov. 1 for night repairs.” The Lane Report, 29 Oct. 2019.
- “Celebration Held at Spottsville as Toll Taking Ends.” Owensboro Messenger, 26 Aug. 1945, pp. 1A-2A.
- “‘Milestone of Progress’ Willis Calls Freeing of Eight Bridges.” Owensboro Messenger, 26 Aug. 1945, p. 1A.
- “Gov. Beshear, Transportation Secretary Gray, Local Officials Cut Ribbon on New U.S. 60 Cumberland River Bridge in Smithland.” Marshall County Daily, May 15, 2023.