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Broadway Railroad Bridge

Kentucky River Railroad Bridge

Broadway Railroad Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Dave Michaels

Bridge Documented: October 22, 2008

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Railroad (R. J. Corman / CSX) Over Kentucky River
Frankfort: Franklin County, Kentucky: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1929 By Builder/Contractor: American Bridge Company of New York, New York

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
Not Available
Structure Length
Not Available
Roadway Width
Not Available
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

It is impossible to visit or document this bridge without noticing the highway bridge directly next to it. Throughout the course of the industrial era, railroads and highways have often utilized common paths of travel. The reasons that a highway owner might want to route a road in a certain direction, or bridge an obstacle at  certain point, were often the same reasons that a railroad owner might want to do the same. There might be similar goals in a very broad sense, such as the need to connect major cities, or to connect a natural resource to a city, for example. These goals would be sufficient to bring highway and railroad into the same general area. However, more specific situations would often bring these different modes of travel directly next to each other. In hilly or mountainous areas, railroads and highways often took the easiest path of travel that required the least amount of curving and elevation changes, which might funnel railroads and highways alike into narrow passes and river valleys. In other cases, railroad and highway would form a mutual relationship and utilize the same space and grade work to conserve space and resources, a situation that is most visible in situations where a railroad line actually runs right down the middle of a street.

In the case of Broadway Street, the railroad and the highway seem to have found themselves next to each other as they run through a narrow gap in the Benson Creek valley, which has sheer rock on the side at the point where the road and railroad emerge to cross the Kentucky River directly beside each other.

One of the things that makes the Broadway Street Bridge and its companion railroad bridge stand out as a noteworthy pair is that both the railroad and the highway are historic truss bridges. While this was very common in the past when truss bridges were a common bridge type, most of the highway bridges in such pairs have subsequently been replaced with ugly modern slabs of concrete, which  destroys the sense of a "pair" of bridges, leaving only a single historic bridge behind. Further, as railroad bridges age, the historic bridge community is realizing that despite the traditionally massive design of railroad bridges and the preventative maintenance they may have received, railroad bridges are beginning to be demolished much in the way that highway bridges are. This only puts such pairs further at risk. In the case of this pair, it appears the highway bridge is most at risk. It has been closed to vehicular traffic, although  pedestrians are still allowed on the bridge. However, the bridge remains in an un-restored condition and it may come under risk of demolition in the future.

However perhaps the most distinctive aspect of this pair of bridges is the difference in the size of the main railroad truss span to the highway truss span, with the railroad truss bridges being much larger. This is a result of a longer railroad main span as well as increased load requirements for the railroad bridge versus what would have been required of a vehicular truss. This difference is size is expressed quite profoundly because the two bridges are directly beside each other, with essentially no gap between the bridges at all.

Aside from being riveted truss bridges, the railroad and the highway truss bridges are quite different from each other.

The highway truss is a 156 foot pin-connected Baltimore through truss. It is a relatively late example of its technology, having been built in 1910. With spans under 200 feet, moving into the 20th Century, pin-connections and complex truss configurations were replaced with riveted connections and the simpler truss configurations such as the Pratt and Warren. The highway bridge also features several approach spans including deck plate girders for a total bridge length of 516 feet.

In contrast, the railroad truss bridge has a much larger main truss span of perhaps 250-300 feet in length. The truss has riveted connections and a Pennsylvania truss configuration. There is also a small Warren through truss approach span  as well as a deck plate girder approach span. The railroad bridge was built in 1929 by the American Bridge Company of New York, New York


Photo Galleries and Videos: Broadway Railroad Bridge

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