Recently our community learned of plans by the Kentucky Department of Transportation to demolish the historic (but currently closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic) Broadway Bridge. As part of the recently adopted Downtown Master Plan, we encourage local leaders to find an alternative to preserve the bridge as an important historic landmark of our community, and a vital component of our future.
The Broadway Bridge reflects the history of our community. The original bridge spanning the river was constructed in 1851 as part of one of the first railroads in the county. Three more bridges were built prior to the construction of the current bridge in 1893.
This railroad crossing supplied materials to build Frankfort prior to the Civil War and exported local goods to markets worldwide. During the Civil War it helped ship essential supplies to a primary distribution center in Louisville, before being burnt by Morgan’s Raiders.
Following the war, the Fink Truss bridge that stands today helped supply Kentucky timber to construct much of the regions postwar buildings. This is a bridge that built America, and is worthy of preservation and rehabilitation.
In February, the Franklin County Trust for Historic Preservation, in partnership with WalkBike Frankfort and many citizens, employed Working Bridges, a consulting group specializing in preservation of historic iron truss bridges, in an effort to explore options to bring this bridge back to life. Their review of the structure proves that the bridge can be renovated for a pedestrian and bicycle crossing at an affordable rate in comparison to previously stated cost estimates.
Like the Big Four Bridge in Louisville and the Purple People Bridge in Newport or even the High Line in New York City, our Broadway Bridge can become a catalyst for local tourism and recreation. It is an integral connection from the east and west banks of the Kentucky River, expanding River View Park and increasing accessibility to the Benson Creek pedestrian bridge and the Buttimer Hill and Bellepoint neighborhoods beyond.
The renovation of the Broadway Bridge is an investment in dollars and sense that will result in increased benefit to the community. Further, if it is demolished, it is unlikely to ever be replaced.
There are three bridges over the river today that have pedestrian walks on them; however, these walks all are adjacent to noisy and dangerous vehicle traffic lanes. The refurbished Broadway Bridge would introduce a park-like atmosphere where the full view of the river can be peacefully enjoyed.
Opportunities to fund this project have been presented in the form of federal and state grants, public-private partnerships and other private investment. All of these options should be further explored, but cannot be until the bridge is stabilized and out of way of the danger of demolition.
We ask our city commission to work with the Department of Transportation to “mothball” the Broadway Bridge and find a creative way to support the project and build on the master plan you recently adopted.
Explore Kentucky Initiative
Franklin County Trust for Historic Preservation
Kentucky Trust for Historic Preservation