Posts Tagged ‘Eggners Ferry Bridge’

Highway 80 Has A Halt

Posted by: cory.ramsey | February 7th, 2012

From Columbus to Elkhorn City, Highway 80 is Kentucky's Longest Road.

I love the old roads. You know what I’m talking about. 31W. 31E. US 23, 62, 68, 51, 431, 27, 127, 60 and on and on. If only the potholes and patch marks in these roads could talk. Usually, these were old buffalo trails, later hiked by Indians, then galloped with stagecoach. Railroad tracks run alongside, many of these trails were eventually graveled over to solve the mud puddle issue. These old roads were the first paved in the commonwealth, beginning with the Dixie Highway south out of Louisville. Along came the sputtering sounds of the early internal combustion engine. And with the newfangled highway system crisscrossing the bluegrass, modern bridges had to be constructed where a ferry or old wooden bridge could no longer handle the increased traffic volume. One such location existed across the Tennessee River at Aurora. A long spanning bridge first appeared in 1932, raised for the newly minted Kentucky Lake in 1943. Across came the white walled tires of future classics. The Thunderbird, the ‘57 Chevy, the ‘65 Mustang. ‘Cudas, Impalas, Monte Carlos, Matadors. On up through the modern SUV and Hummer. To many in recent years, the bridge was a moment of truth. If you could drive across it in oncoming traffic, you could drive a car anywhere. This bridge outlasted a World War, the Great Depression, the Space Race, the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, several Presidents, Governors, and Congressmen. It seemed to outlast time itself, a standing symbol of history and progress.*

Eggners Ferry Bridge

But finally, it could not outlast a cargo ship that crashed into it just two weeks ago. Its mighty span ripped from its adjoining rivets, draped neatly across the bow of the ship as a flag is delicately draped across the front of a casket.

Who helps the bridge over troubled waters when the bridge itself has been troubled? Crews from several agencies began combing over the wreckage within hours of it taking place. Luckily, no one was injured though cars were traveling across at the time. I came to the scene after the crowds had come, taken their novelty picture, and left. I felt for the towns and small shops that depended on the traffic the bridge provided. The layoffs that had already begun to occur. The state park that sits within earshot of the waves lapping against the bridge piers.

1940s Charm

KenLake State Resort Park sits on highway 80, surrounded by panoramic views of Kentucky Lake. It was built nearly 20 years after the span. By then, the Tennessee had been dammed and along with the Cumberland River being dammed, Kentucky was two lakes richer. Visiting KenLake is about like visiting history itself. The hotel building still holds onto 1940s charm and looks like it belongs on a naval base in Key West. Go around back and find a faded shuffleboard plot and a basketball court that has no doubt seen jump shots since Adolph Rupp was still coaching in Memorial Coliseum. But wait a minute. That’s what makes this place so great and nostalgic. It’s not another cookie-cutter chain hotel that looks the same as a hundred others. KenLake has style. And along with its steel shod neighbor down the hill, it will make it through this tough stretch of road just like it has weathered times good and bad for nearly 60 years.

Free Sunrises at KenLake

Show your support by visiting the lakes area. KenLake has over 30 cabins and dozens of rooms on site. Free breakfasts and free sunrises every morning. And if you squint your eyes just right, you can still see a ‘53 Corvette driving over a bridge into the horizon, a young couple cuddling after a day at the park.

Thanks again, Kentucky.

-Special thanks also to John Rittenhouse and Tammy Nanny for a great stay at KenLake.

-*Note: Prior to recent events, the Eggners Ferry Bridge was scheduled to be replaced by a new span in 2017. The timetable may now be moved forward.

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