Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Bridges

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Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Bridges
The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges, usually referred to as simply The Twin Bridges, connect Henderson, Kentucky and Evansville, Indiana along U.S. 41, one mile (1.6 km) south of the terminus of I-164. The bridges carry nearly 40,000 vehicles a day across the Ohio River. The northbound bridge opened to traffic on July 4, 1932 and the southbound bridge opened in December 1966. Both of the Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Bridges are cantilever bridges. The northbound bridge stands 100 feet (30 m) over the Ohio River with a main span of 720 feet (220 m), with the steel gridwork extending 100 feet (30 m) above the driving surface. The southbound span has a main span of 600 feet (180 m). An unusual fact about the Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Bridges is that they are entirely within Kentucky. Although the Ohio River forms most of the border between Kentucky and Indiana, the state border is based on the course of the river as it existed when Kentucky became a state in 1792. Due to the New Madrid earthquake of 1812, the Ohio changed course to the south, leaving the land where the Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Bridges cross the river within the Kentucky border.

History
The northbound span of the Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Bridges was the second of three bridges built in Henderson County in 1932, a building novelty during the Great Depression. It was originally named the John James Audubon Bridge, or Audubon Memorial Bridge, after naturalist painter John James Audubon, who lived in Henderson in the 1810's. It was built by notable bridge designer Ralph Modjeski. The 5,395-foot (1,644 m) long cantilever bridge cost $2.4 million to build, with the federal government paying half, with the states of Kentucky and Indiana paying the remainder. The dedication ceremony featured the governors of the two states, Kentucky governor Ruby Laffoon and Indiana governor Harry G. Leslie, shaking hands with one another, as twenty-two military planes under the command of Jimmy Doolittle flew overhead and with cannon fire and boat whistles in the distance celebrating the occasion. A flotilla of boats passed under the bridge, taking forty minutes to do so and a two mile (3 km) parade lasting two hours also celebrated the occasion. More than 100,000 visitors attended the celebration and 111,091 vehicles crossed the bridge in its first two days of operation, creating delays of up to two hours to go from Henderson to Evansville. With the influx of tourists using US-41 to cross the Ohio River, the city of Henderson decided to take advantage of the bridge by establishing John James Audubon State Park in 1936. Originally, crossing the bridge required paying a toll, usually 30 to 35 cents for cars, and a nickel for pedestrians. The toll was removed on March 20, 1941.

Renovations
In 2007, the Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Bridges underwent $22 million in renovations involving maintenance and painting. Kentucky governor Ernie Fletcher directed that at least two lanes in each direction should remain open during the construction. The maintenance ended in the summer of 2008. The last time the northbound bridge was rehabbed was in 1983. After the I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapsed in Minnesota in August 2007, officials stated that the main threat to the safety of the Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Bridges would be a "catastrophic earthquake". This statement was made before the 2008 Illinois earthquake. After the 5.2 earthquake hit, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Keith Todd said that such a quake "would not be expected to cause damage to well-engineered structures." However, both bridges were inspected as a precaution. The bridges are located at 37°54'15" N, 87°33'02" W. Although they are not currently on the list, they have been ruled eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

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