HENDERSON, Ky. — There was a time when the old Spottsville Bridge was useful, probably. Back in the days of smaller vehicles and less-bulky farm equipment, the bridge was a useful way for US 60 to span the Green River.
Those days are long gone.
The Spottsville Bridge, officially the Richard W. Owen Memorial Bridge, is over nine decades old and listed by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet as “structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.”
Farmers are tired of driving hours to find a route big enough for their machines. And drivers have had their share of side-swipe incidents on the tiny bridge.
Relief will come soon. After two years of construction, the new US 60 bridge across the Green River at Spottsville is nearing completion.
The old, notoriously narrow structure is 20 feet wide with two nine-foot lanes and has been replaced by one more than double its size, with two 12-foot lanes and 8-foot shoulders.
Background:Work for new ‘Kentucky Blue’ Spottsville Bridge about to start, may impact traffic
The new $32 million blue bridge has been built parallel to, and downstream from, the old one.
According to the state’s transportation cabinet, the bridge is expected to open to traffic by late summer to early fall of this year, at which point the old one will be demolished.
Despite the bridge’s historical longevity, locals are ready to say goodbye.
“The old one has served its purpose and I’m looking forward to the day it falls into the river,” said Stan Williams, a grain farmer from Reed who lives less than two miles from the Spottsville Bridge.
Williams, who has lived in Reed his whole life, says the current bridge is unsafe, inconvenient and bad for local commerce.
To cross the river on his tractors and combines, the farmer stops traffic on both sides of the bridge. And to transport one particularly large tractor, he travels over an hour through Owensboro, Kentucky, to get to a farm that’s just minutes away.
“I have to load (it) up on a low-boy trailer, and then come around Audubon Parkway because I’m too heavy. I have to go all the way around to go to a farm that’s three miles away,” Williams said.
But the old bridge is more than just an inconvenience. It’s also dangerous.
Chris Smithhart, a resident of Reed for over 40 years who worked construction on the bridge, says it’s a well-known location for “mirror smacks” – when two cars sideswipe in the narrow lanes and lose their side-view mirrors.
“I hold my breath every time I go over it,” Williams said.
Smithhart and Williams aren’t the only ones excited about the new bridge. At the beginning of its construction in April 2020, Smithhart created a Facebook page to share photos and progress updates on the new bridge. It has since amassed over 1,200 members.
More:Henderson history: One of this area’s worst floods dampened spirits in March 1997
“I actually created the page for people that used to live around here that don’t live here no more, so they could see that people out here are finally getting a new bridge,” said Smithhart.
The blue bridge is just a few steps away from being drivable. In the coming months, work crews will pour concrete, build approach ways, and finally, paint traffic lines.
When it opens, Williams expects the new bridge will not only make driving safer and local farmers’ lives easier, it might also bring more business to the community across the river, as some companies refuse to do service on the other side of the bridge.
“There’s a lot of commerce that goes up and down this highway, more so (with) a new bridge in,” Williams said.
“I think people will drive out here more now. They’ll use this road because they’re not scared of the bridge anymore. It intimidated a lot of people.”