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Cairo Ohio River Bridge

Cairo Ohio River Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: November 2, 2013

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
US-60 and US-51 Over Ohio River
Cairo: Alexander County, Illinois and Ballard County, Kentucky: United States
Structure Type
Metal 22 Panel Rivet-Connected Warren Through Truss, Fixed and Approach Spans: Metal 10 Panel Rivet-Connected Warren Deck Truss, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1937 By Builder/Contractor: Mount Vernon Bridge Company of Mount Vernon, Ohio and Engineer/Design: Modjeski and Masters

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
800 Feet (244 Meters)
Structure Length
5,865 Feet (1,788 Meters)
Roadway Width
20 Feet (6.1 Meters)
5 Main Span(s) and 27 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge's future is at risk!

Bridge Status: This historic bridge is at risk for demolition and replacement!

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

View A Historical Biographical Memoir of Ralph Modjeski


At this special point, where two mighty rivers meet, the Ohio and the Mississippi, a truly unique historic bridge presentation is also present, with one historic cantilever truss going over the Mississippi River and another cantilever truss of considerably different appearance crossing the Ohio River. View the other bridge's page. Given the staggering rate in which cantilever truss bridges in the United States (which were never overly populous to begin with) are being demolished, the historic significance and rarity of these two bridges is rapidly increasing. Indeed, even this bridge has entered into the crosshairs of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, an agency that seems to believe that Kentucky would be best served by the annihilation of all large truss bridges, having engaged in a witch hunt against long-span metal truss bridges in the western part of the state over the past few years. This is a disappointing decision, since many of these bridges could be rehabilitated for continued use. Bridges like this are also good candidates for having a second bridge built next to them to form a one-way couplet of bridges, thereby preserving the historic bridge while increasing traffic capacity. This solution also provides redundancy: if one bridge needs to close for repair, the other one can temporarily serve two-way traffic. This factor should be important for large river crossings which tend to be few in number.

This bridge is visually and structurally notable among cantilever truss bridges because it has multiple "towers" in the truss layout. Traditional cantilever through truss bridges have only two towers, between which are cantilever arms and a suspended span over the navigation channel. This particular bridge however has four towers. The graphic below shows the layout of the bridge. Note that the largest span is between the two westernmost towers.

The designer of the bridge was noted firm Modjeski and Masters. Ralph Modeski was one of the most famous bridge designers in the United States and was involved in the design of some of the greatest spans in North America.  Modjeski and Masters was for a time known as Modjeski Masters and Case, and the original plans for this bridge list that name, while the bridge plaques list the name as Modjeski and Masters. Ralph Modjeski died in 1940, and by the late 1930s when this bridge was designed, Frank Masters was reportedly playing the greater role in design of bridges.


Photo Galleries and Videos: Cairo Ohio River Bridge

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Bridge Photo-Documentation
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos. This gallery offers photos in the highest available resolution and file size in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
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Bridge Photo-Documentation
Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Video
CarCam: Westbound Crossing
Full Motion Video
Note: The downloadable high quality version of this video (available on the video page) is well worth the download since it offers excellent 1080 HD detail and is vastly more impressive than the compressed streaming video. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.


Maps and Links: Cairo Ohio River Bridge

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