Project Overview

The purpose of the US 51 Bridge Project is to improve cross river mobility between Wickliffe, Kentucky and Cairo, Illinois, by addressing the safety and reliability issues caused by the narrow lane widths, lack of shoulders and tight curve of the existing bridge and its approaches.

In 2013 KYTC began a long-range planning study to determine the preferred location of the future crossing of the Ohio River between Wickliffe and Cairo. The results of the study can be found HERE.

During the first phase of the project, KYTC identified Alternative 2 as the preferred alignment based on the needs of the communities, impacts on the environment, and ability to improve the safety and long-term mobility of the traveling public.
Preferred Alternative
In the current phase of the project, KYTC will evaluate different bridge types and conduct geotechnical studies to aid in the selection of a preferred bridge type. A public meeting will be held in 2022 to gather public input on the options.
Project Status

US 51 Bridge History

The Cairo Ohio River Bridge is a cantilever truss bridge carrying US 51, US 60, and US 62 across the Ohio River between Wickliffe, Kentucky and Cairo, Illinois.
Of all the Ohio River crossings, it is the furthest downstream; the Mississippi River can be seen while crossing the bridge and looking westward.
The Ohio River Bridge was designed by Modjeski and Masters. Built between 1936 and 1938, the US 51 Bridge was necessary to provide a vehicular crossing of the Ohio River between Wickliffe, KY, and Cairo, IL. The substructure was built by the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company, with the superstructure built by the Mount Vernon Bridge Company.
US 51 Bridge Western View from Cairo, IL looking East towards Wickliffe, KY
US 51 Bridge Kentucky Looking West towards Illinois
US 51 Bridge Eastern View from Wickliffe, KY looking West towards Cairo, IL
US 51 BridgeKentucky Looking West towards Illinois
US 51 Bridge Western View from Cairo, IL looking East towards Wickliffe, KY



Cantilevered Warren through truss

Largest span length

800 feet

Total length

5,865 feet


22.5 feet

Vertical clearance above deck

19.5 feet

Additional Information

The US 51 Bridge is the longest bridge in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and is the westernmost crossing of the Ohio River. The existing bridge deck is 22.5 ft wide with narrow 10 ft lanes and 1.25 ft shoulders and does not accommodate pedestrians. The 2013 planning study also noted inadequate vehicle headlight sight distance and a tight horizontal curve on the Kentucky approach which does not meet national or state design standards. Between October 2008 and September 2012, there were 18 vehicle crashes on the bridge between the 20 mph curve in Kentucky and the US 60/US 51 intersection in Illinois. Of these crashes, there were no fatalities and one injury collision. The crashes were largely concentrated at either end of the bridge. The primary crash types were sideswipes and single-vehicle collisions.
The bridge was designed before much was known about earthquake engineering. However, the New Madrid fault line underlies this geographic area. Applying current seismic design criteria, preliminary estimates indicate that severe damage or collapse is probable in the event of a major earthquake
Currently, the bridge does not allow oversize or overweight permit loads.