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Cross that bridge

Louisvillians have never let the Ohio River keep them from crossing over to Indiana, whether by boat or bridge or even by swimming. Today, many travel easily back and forth across the river for employment, education, housing, and entertainment opportunities.

But in January of 1937, the rise of the Ohio River due to the Great Flood made it risky to travel between Louisville and southern Indiana. Four bridges served the area at the time.

The oldest of the bridges, the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge/14th St. Bridge (pictured above), spans the river between Louisville and Clarksville, Indiana. The drawbridge was built in the 1860s to give burgeoning railroad companies a way to cross the river.

The second bridge across the Ohio River at Louisville was the Kentucky and Indiana Terminal RR Bridge (K&I Bridge). The bridge opened in 1886 with one railroad track and two wagon ways, making it the first time a vehicle could cross the river other than on a ferry boat. Accessed at 31st Street and (then named) Western Parkway, the bridge crossed over to New Albany, Indiana. Tolls in 1937 were $.25 for vehicles and $.05 for pedestrians. The bridge remains open for railroad use, but lanes for vehicular traffic closed in 1979.

The Big Four Bridge opened in 1895, taking the nickname of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis Railway, the "Big Four Railroad." Desired at the time by various concerns in Jeffersonville, Indiana, the bridge was built to access Louisville more easily by rail, and then rebuilt in 1928 to accommodate trolley (interurban) traffic. The bridge closed in the 1960s and has been converted for pedestrian and bicycle use.

The Municipal Bridge (Second Street/Clark Memorial Bridge), only seven years old at the time of the flood, provided the first roadway between downtown Louisville and Jeffersonville, Indiana. On January 22, 1937, the raging river poured over and broke down the levee at Jeffersonville, flooding the town. The Municipal Bridge remained cut off until the water receded.

All of the bridges eventually closed for safety reasons. Until that time, a procession of trains, trucks, and automobiles, filled with fleeing refugees, made the perilous crossing from Louisville to towns farther north in Indiana, where help awaited.

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