The bridge was originally built between 1886 and 1889 by a predecessor of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. The bridge cost $3,348,675, an enormous sum. By 1929 it was obsolete, and a replacement was built on extended piers immediately adjacent to the original structure. This new bridge was given the same name as the original and is still in use, carrying the CSX Railroad (the C&O's successor) across the river. The original bridge was sold to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and retrofitted as an automobile bridge. In 1974 that converted original bridge was demolished, the northern pier was extended, and the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge was built on that and the remaining preexisting piers.