Kentucky & Indiana Terminal Bridge

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Kentucky & Indiana Bridge
KI Bridge 1.jpg
Coordinates 38°16′58.21″N 85°48′5.83″W / 38.2828361°N 85.8016194°W / 38.2828361; -85.8016194Coordinates: 38°16′58.21″N 85°48′5.83″W / 38.2828361°N 85.8016194°W / 38.2828361; -85.8016194
Crosses Ohio River
Locale Louisville, Kentucky and New Albany, Indiana
Maintained by Norfolk Southern Railway
Total length 6,000 ft (1,830 m)
Width 70 ft (21 m)
Opened 1885

The Kentucky & Indiana Bridge is one of the first multi modal bridges to cross the Ohio River. It is for both railway and common roadway purposes together.[1] By federal, state, and local law railway and streetcar, wagon-way, and pedestrian modes of travel were intended by the City of New Albany, City of Louisville, State of Kentucky, State of Indiana, the United States Congress, and the bridge owners.[2] The K & I Bridge connects Louisville, Kentucky to New Albany, Indiana. Constructed from 1881 to 1885 by the Kentucky and Indiana Bridge Company, it opened in 1886. Originally, it included a single standard gauge track and two wagon ways, allowing wagons and other animal powered vehicles to cross the Ohio River by a method other than ferry for the first time. At the time motorized vehicles were virtually nonexistent. The K&I Bridge company also owned a ferry boat operation during both the 1st and 2nd bridge; eventually that operation was sold as the bridge's success largely outmoded boat usage.

Unique features[edit]

The bridge also featured a rotating swing span opening for the passage of ships in high water. The bridge was only opened four times, twice for testing in 1913 and 1915, then in 1916 for the passage of the steamer "Tarascon" and in 1920 for passage of the Australian convict ship "Success". In 1948 it refused opening of the span for passage of the steamer "Gordon C. Greene" citing inconvenience and costs of cutting power and communication lines, an action for which K&I and LG&E both paid damages to that ship's company. In 1955 the K&I sought and received permission to permanently tie down the swing span from the Corps of Engineers.[3]


Purpose of the Kentucky and Indiana Bridge[edit]

The Kentucky & Indiana Bridge, which spans the mighty Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio, was designed to connect the cities of New Albany, Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky, and to bring their residents closer together. Citizens of New Albany and Louisville who conceived the bridge described its purpose in Articles of Association for the Kentucky and Indiana Bridge Company filed with the Recorder of Floyd County, Indiana March 7, 1881. The bridge founders declared, the object and purpose of the Kentucky & Indiana Bridge Company is to construct, own, and operate a bridge from a point in the City of New Albany, Indiana across the Ohio River to a point in the City of Louisville, Kentucky for both railway and common roadway purposes together.[1].

Source of funds[edit]

This bridge and its approaches cost $1,500,000 and is a monument to the enterprising citizens of Louisville and New Albany, who devised and carried out the financial plans for its erection. It is adapted for railway, streetcar, wagon-way, and pedestrian travel.[2]

Alignment with the national heritage of the United States[edit]

The alignment of the K & I is along America's ancient roads known as the Great Buffalo Trace and Wilderness Road. Early Americans crossed at the limestone and coral rapids for 8,000 years. This strategic location has the only waterfall cascade on the 1,000 mile Ohio & Mississippi River. The location of the K & I is of enormous historic and sentimental importance and reflects the pioneer roots in our national destiny. America can commemorate the eighteenth-century migration of hundreds of thousands of settlers into Kentucky and Indiana via the Buffalo Traces by reopening the footpath across the Kentucky and Indiana Bridge. Today, some 48 million Americans have ancestors who moved through the Cumberland Gap and into Kentucky and Indiana along these pioneer trails.[4]

In Louisville, this route offered the most rapid connection to U.S. Highway 150 or Dixie Highway heading southwest and Lexington Road heading southwest. In Indiana between Vincennes and New Albany, the road follows the original route of the Buffalo Trace.[5]

Public right of way[edit]

Each level of government, federal, state, and city, preserved their right of way and established speed limits across the Kentucky and Indiana Bridge. In doing that, Louisville city leaders also mandated that the purpose of the bridge was for four modes of transportation: railroad, street-car, vehicle, and foot-passenger purposes. The City of Louisville[6] and Federal Government also declared the Kentucky and Indiana Bridge a postal route and retained its right of way in perpetuity.[7]

Safety in design[edit]

Designer Mace Moulton, Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, highlighted the K & I Bridge design, which included thoughtful safety innovations at the National Conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1887. He chose the best Ohio River location in Louisville across the Falls of the Ohio, were it has the least width. This gave residents of New Albany and Louisville a shorter and independent entrance to their cities.[8] The railroad track was placed in the center between two trusses; one roadway on the outside of each truss, supported upon projecting brackets, and the sidewalks on either side of the railroad track and inside the main trusses. Designers used high visual screens along the roadway - to calm horses, livestock, and to keep drivers focused on the roadway and not distracted by trains.[9] On both the Louisville and New Albany sides, the common roadway and railway tracks are grade separated or completely independent. This is the safest type of all roadway and railway intersections.

Publicity for opening[edit]

Publicity for the opening of the Kentucky and Indiana bridge was substantial as even the Library of the United States Congress joined in advertizing the grand opening of the bridge. They wrote "There is in the course of construction at this time (1885), and about completed, a bridge across the Ohio, between Louisville and New Albany, Indiana. The bridge at Louisville is to have a railroad track, a passageway for the vehicles, streetcars, and a walk-way for foot passengers".[10]

Safety of the common roadway in use[edit]

Kentucky & Indiana Bridge has a remarkable safety rating. Experts would rank it among the safest of any major bridge in the United States. This was due to the narrow roadway lanes, which induce slow driving speed and grade separated crossings which kept the trains and roads on different vertical elevations where the road and rail routes crossed. The K & I Bridge Board of Directors reported, "The common roadway has been operated with remarkable freedom from accidents. The few that have occurred have been of trivial character with no loss of life or limb to any person.[11]

Light Rail[edit]

Upon opening, the bridge company also offered the Daisy Line, an early steam locomotive commuter train service. In 1893, the Daisy Line trains became electrified, the first steam to electric conversion in the U.S.[citation needed] This train was subject of feature articles in technical journals and was pictured in "Engineering News".[citation needed] Louisville's heavy rail electrification even preceded the electrification of the famous Chicago's 'L' trains by two years.

Passengers traveled in multi-unit three-car elevated electric trains from 1st, 4th and 7th Street elevated stations and other stations en route between Louisville and New Albany. This rapid transit service was wildly popular, with its 15-minute service and convenient schedules from 6am to midnight, ridership soared exponentially from day one. The rapid transit aspect of these trains took Louisvillians by storm and was wildly popular. By 1906 a ridership survey found 3,425 commuter passengers crossing daily and 1,250,000 passengers per year,crossing the K&I Bridge on these rapid electric trains.[citation needed] Even by modern standards this would be considered a heavily used line.

Expenditures made for replacing wooden bridge railings and retrofitting west Louisville wooden el segments with steel, resulted in receivership for the Kentucky and Indiana Bridge Company. The company reorganized in 1899 now renamed the Kentucky and Indiana Bridge and Railroad Company. There was no interruption of the electric commuter train or other bridge heavy rail, line hauled freight and passenger trains.

In late 1907, the K&I Bridge and Railroad Co sold its commuter train equipment to another company, completely exiting the commuter rail business. By spring of 1908, the elevated west Louisville, the downtown Louisville elevated trackage and elevated stations were no longer used.

In March 1908 the new operator changed all of the equipment gauge, making crossings via a broad gauge gauntlet track over the bridge, with a down ramp immediately afterward, to connect to Louisville's 5 ft (1,524 mm) gauge streetcar tracks. The 1908 version of service was essentially converted to trolleys including single car runs, but two car trains were retained for rush hour to meet the heavy patronage and ridership expectations built up over the decades.

In 1910 the bridge company was renamed the Kentucky & Indiana Terminal Railroad Co. From 1910 to 1911, the bridge was rebuilt and double tracked to handle increasingly heavier train and now automobile traffic, eventually receiving the U.S. 31W designation.[12] In 1952, creosoted wood block roadways of the second bridge were eliminated and replaced by a steel gridwork roadway.

1979 closing of the common roadway[edit]

In 1979, an overweight dump truck caused a small segment of the steel grate roadway on the bridge to sag about 1 foot (0.30 m). A quick survey promised to reopen the roadway, but automotive traffic was banned thereafter by the bridge owner.

Even though Louisville and New Albany City Ordinances, Kentucky, Indiana and U.S. law record the K & I bridge is open to public access memories faded over a century regarding the laws and rules that pertain to the bridge. Louisville public officials provided little effort to reopen the bridge.

To provide perspective on the closing, a longtime employee of the Kentucky and Indiana Bridge Company was interviewed at 1:30 P.M., January 22, 2013, in his home on Northwestern Parkway, Louisville, Kentucky regarding the K & I Bridge.

He worked his career for the K & I Bridge Company and wrote a history of the Kentucky & Indiana Bridge Company. He asked that his name not be publicly released for fear that the railroad may take away his pension.

He said that J.J. Gaynor, President of the K & I Bridge Company, exaggerated the roadway deflection from an overloaded truck, which crossed the K & I in 1979. Gaynor used the 1979 truck incident as an excuse to eliminate the toll collection cost. He said workers quickly repaired the roadway deck, and the truck was never in danger of falling into the river as reported.

He said the Kentucky & Indiana Bridge Company was negligent in how it had configured the toll collection. People could drive vehicles across the bridge without payment, and there was no method or signage to protect against overweight vehicles. That negligence allowed the 1979 truck incident that caused the deck to sag nine inches.

He said no regulation permitted Kentucky & Indiana Bridge Company to close the roadway lanes to the public. Public perception and public officials simply bought into the 1979 overloaded truck story.[13]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Schmantzel, Chaz. Articles of Association - Kentucky & Indiana Bridge Company, New Albany, Indiana, USA. Floyd County Recorder - New Albany, Indiana, March 7, 1881, p. 25 - 26.
  2. ^ a b Woods, J D. Seventh Annual Report of the Railroad Commission of Kentucky . Commonwealth of Kentucky Railroad Commission, Volume 7, 1886, p. 11.
  3. ^ The Swing Spans operational history is from both the official K&I history records and Nautical history records of the convict ship "Success". Old photographs of the bridge opened are in postcard form and pictured in The Courier-Journal. The University of Louisville's Ekstrom Library has a picture of the Convict Ship docked at 5th Street Wharf in Louisville.
  4. ^ Dr Raitz, Carl. Mapping Kentucky's Frontier Trails Through Geographical Information and Cartographic Applications . The Geographical Review, 2010, p. 312-335.
  5. ^ Daughters of the American Revolution. Piankeshaw Chapter. The Story of the Northern Approach to the Kentucky and Indiana Bridge. In A. -D. Payne, Sketches of New Albany, Indiana and Vicinity, 1813-1893. . Daughters of the American Revolution. Piankeshaw Chapter (New Albany, Indiana).,1893, p. 1.
  6. ^ Burnett G. The Louisville City Code - Laws of the Corporation in Force October 1, 1884, Chapter VI - Bridges and Ferries, Section 28 - An Act to Incorporate the Kentucky & Indiana Bridge Company, April 1, 1880 . City of Louisville General Council, 1881, p. 41-48.
  7. ^ Library of the United States Congress. Chapter IV – An Act to Authorize the Construction of Bridges Across the Ohio River, and to Prescribe Dimensions of the Same. United States Congress, 1872, p. 1.
  8. ^ Moulton, Mace. The Kentucky and Indiana Bridge, Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Volume XVII, July to December 1887 . American Society of Civil Engineers, 1887, p. 111-168.
  9. ^ LA Williams & Company. History of the Ohio Falls Cities and Their Counties with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches . L.A. Williams & Company: Cleveland, Ohio, 1882, p. 55 - 56.
  11. ^ Secretary of the Kentucky and Indiana Bridge Board of Directors Kentucky and Indiana Bridge Company Annual Report". December 31, 1890, p. 1 - 3.
  12. ^ Official State Highway Map (Map). Indiana State Highway Commission. 1973–1974. Falls City Area inset. Retrieved 2012-10-24. 
  13. ^ Interview with long time employee of the Kentucky & Indiana Bridge Company. Interview Notes, January 22, 2013, p. 1.


  • Kleber, John E. Encyclopedia of Louisville. (University Press of Kentucky). pp. 460–461.

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