Looking Back: Viaduct provides valuable link to downtown

August 17, 2003|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

The new $551,127 viaduct that took West Main Street over the Southern Railroad System tracks was dedicated 54 years ago on a warm sunny morning in September. The viaduct was built to provide a more convenient route to motorists who were stopped many times during the day by locomotives and trains on the tracks.

The bridge is scheduled to be dedicated again in September 2003 after the deck is renovated. The project began in June. The design is basically the same as the old one but will be wider and have a longer turning lane at the Maple Avenue intersection.

It also will keep its original church window architecture and arched piers.

The bridge dedication in 1949 was a gala event that honored World War II veterans.

When the ribbon extending across Main Street and Maple Avenue was severed, it marked the realization of the project that had been a dream of Danville and Boyle County citizens for more than 40 years, according to information in The Danville Advocate-Messenger.


A major architectural and engineering improvement in the city, the viaduct was dedicated Sept. 7, 1949, to 67 Boyle County men who lost their lives in World War II. The names were placed on a bronze table attached to the bridge. (The plaque was stolen in recent years.)

Local Mayor Henry L. Nichols welcomed the guests - state, local and county government officials, Southern Railway officials, Gold Star mothers and other dignitaries from Kentucky cities. Gold Star mothers lost a child in combat.

Nicholas said the work actually began 13 years earlier and was made possible through the cooperation of state and federal agencies, city and county, and Southern Railroad. The bridge eventually was named for Nichols.

W.J. Wilkins of Cincinnati, vice president of Southern Railway, praised those who made the viaduct a reality. He said the first Southern Railway train came through Danville in July 1877. He added that during the 72-year span, the progress of the railroad reflected upon the congenial cooperation of local citizens.

The dedication also marked another great date, Wilkins said.

"The new viaduct provides a new approach to your charming city. ... a project that will be admired by all visitors. It will provide the free flow of traffic to and from the city. It will provide the finest safeguard possible for you own citizens as well as visitors." He also said it would eliminate two dangerous crossings on Parksville and Perryville roads.

Others on the program were Lt. Gov. Lawrence Wetherby; state Adj. Gen. Roscoe Murray; P.H. Best, a local businessman who represented the veterans; the Rev. Stephen Radtke of SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church; a firing squad composed of Boyle Post 46 and Wallace Fisher Post, American Legion; and Wilderness Post 6037, Veterans of Foreign War. The Danville High School band played.

Murray paid tribute to Kentucky soldiers who, he said, "have acquitted themselves like men."

He said it is fitting that the new viaduct was dedicated to the memory of those who gave lives in the war.

"Let us remember," he said, "that the finest tribute we can pay our hero dead is not a rose wreath in memory of the blood they shed, but the pledge to stand beside the principles they died to defend and preserve." The viaduct was 756 long and had a 28-foot roadway with 5-foot sidewalks on each side. The substructure was reinforced concrete, while the superstructure included nine 45-foot concrete spans, one 112-foot steel span, one 156-foot steel span and one 66-foot steel span.

The bridge had been in the planning stages several years before construction began, according to local newspaper coverage.

The city paid $21,505, the county $20,505, and Southern Railroad, $70,000. Contractors were Tye and Wells of Carrollton and R.R. Dawson Construction Co. of Bloomfield. L.M. Hart Co. of Lexington did the grading and surfacing of the approaches.

There have been other renovations and repairs made to the bridge over the past 50 years including work prior to the vice presidential debate in 2000.

The $1.8 million renovated viaduct is scheduled to open to traffic Sept. 1. The project includes replacement of the deck, resurfacing the highway from Maple Avenue to 100 feet past the bridge, and sidewalk replacement.

American Contracting and Services Corp. in Jeffersonville, Ind., is the contractor.

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