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While the Milton-Madison Bridge was in the planning and early construction stages in 1928 there was talk of building yet another bridge spanning the Ohio River at Carrollton. Among the movers and shakers behind the proposed span was Joseph Lyter Donaldson, Carroll County attorney at the time. Donaldson would, in the years to come, serve as chairman of the state highway commission and was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor in 1943.
As county attorney, Donaldson and railroad commissioner Oscar Vest appeared before the state highway commission in 1928 to request a bridge be built from Carrollton to Indiana. Several major road projects were underway in the state at that time, including the construction of a major traffic route along the Ohio River between Louisville and Cincinnati, the highway that ultimately became U.S. Hwy. 42.
Donaldson and other backers hoped Kentucky would endorse a state-funded crossing of the Ohio River at Carrollton, which would link the city to Indiana cities and to interstate commerce. The proposed span was to be constructed under the terms of the Murphy Toll Bridge Act. Enacted by the state legislature earlier that year, the measure gave the state the authority to issue bonds for highway construction projects and to condemn or purchase privately owned toll bridges in Kentucky.
“Delegations from Carroll and Trimble counties, appearing before the state highway commission today, received no assurance that a contract would be made with Indiana for the construction of a bridge over the Ohio River from Carrollton to the Indiana side,” The Courier-Journal reported on Sept. 18, 1928.
The newspaper reported that the Trimble County delegation had appeared to discuss with the commission the bridge then already under construction from Milton, Ky., to Madison, Ind. That bridge was originally a private toll bridge built by a private concern at Madison, Ind.
“Reports here say that while Kentucky is willing to construct a toll bridge at Carrollton, across to the Indiana side of the river, Indiana has not yet signified her willingness to sign any such contract,” The Courier-Journal reported.
Although no formal action was taken at that time, the plan did not go away. Two years later, on Sept. 25, 1930, The Trimble Democrat reported that state highway commissioners had “opened and considered bids on the bridge across the Ohio River at Carrollton. Approximately 50 citizens of Carrollton and Carroll County were present at the opening of the bids, which was held in the United States courtroom at Frankfort.”
The Trimble editor and Bedford banker D.L. Bell accompanied J.M Lee, managing editor of the Carrollton News-Democrat, to the proceedings and reported that the Carrollton contingent “were very optimistic in regard to the plans for construction of a bridge at this point. The low bid received totaled $1,009,000 for the completed bridge and was submitted by a Cincinnati company. According to plans, a part of this sum would be realized from the sale of bonds, and the remainder furnished from the fund set aside by the highway commission for the purpose of building bridges.”
Immediately after the bids were opened and read, the commission went into executive session to consider the proposals on Carrollton’s and several other bridges around the state. No contract was awarded for construction at that time.
A year before the stock market had crashed on Wall Street sending America into the throes of what became known as the Great Depression. A number of civil service projects were funded by the government during ensuing years including the construction of facilities we now enjoy as General Butler State Resort Park. But funding for a bridge at Carrollton apparently seemed to be needless expense in light of the depressed economy and the fact that the new bridge at Milton had opened to traffic at the end of 1929.
“As yet the contact has not been awarded for the construction of the Carrolton bridge but it is expected that some action will be taken in the near future,” The Trimble Democrat reported on Sept. 25, 1930.
Carroll County residents are still waiting.
Dave Taylor is managing editor of The Trimble Banner in Bedford and author of several books on the region’s history.