Transportation has been a major concern of the people of Madison County since the settlement period. At first, the Kentucky River and the navigable streams were primary routes. In fact, the river served as the major transportation route for agricultural produce to market in New Orleans as early as the 1780s.

The only roads giving access to the area in the early history of the county were the Wilderness Road, buffalo traces, and pathways alongside creek banks. Roads and bridges were constructed and improved during the 1800s. The Wilderness Road was maintained by the county court, and new roads, such as Barnes Mill Road, Goggins Lane, and Hagan's Mill Road, were given the names of the county magistrates who requested the construction to provide access to their land or millsites. Many private toll road companies constructed gravel roads called "macadam" to improve road conditions during the mid-nineteenth century. Toll gates and houses were erected every five miles to collect money to pay for the toll keepers' profits and the construction of the improved roads. Only one state-owned turnpike, the Lexington-Richmond Pike, operated in 1852.

Ferry rights at the Kentucky River were granted in 1779 to Col. Richard Calloway, one of the original settlers of Boonesborough. Other ferries were soon established, so that fifteen operated in the county by the 1840s. Ferries continued in several locations on the Kentucky River in Madison County until the 1950s, at which time the Valley View Ferry became the only one left in the county.

Bridges gradually replaced ferries during the nineteenth century. Two new bridges--one across Paint Lick between Madison and Garrard Counties and one over Silver Creek--were constructed in 1857. A wood and steel bridge was built in 1870 over the Kentucky River at Green Clay's ferry landing. In 1946 this bridge, called Clay's Ferry Bridge, was replaced by a high, reinforced concrete bridge which later became the northbound lane of Interstate 75. In 1994 construction began on making the bridge into six lanes with the widening of I-75.


Although stage coach lines, running on narrow dirt roads, linked Madison with neighboring counties from the 1840s until the early twentieth century, their popularity ended with the advent of the railroad. During the last quarter of the century, several railroad lines were built throughout the county, one of which, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, served as a major North-South line between Cincinnati, Ohio, and Atlanta, Georgia. Railroads connected the established towns and allowed for the development and growth of settlements along their routes.

Richmond and Berea both experienced tremendous growth due to their accessibility by rail. Warehouses were built along the tracks, and Richmond and Berea both constructed freight depots. Two railroads intersected in Richmond in 1900, the Louisville and Atlantic line and the Louisville and Nashville line, each with its own passenger depot. Mule-drawn street cars, buggies, or wagons carried travelers from either of the two depots to any one of a number of hotels. By the 1920s many miles of first-class track penetrated a large area of the county. Railroads flourished until the Great Depression of the 1930s, when automobiles and trucks began to supplant them. The only railroad line that remains today, the Louisville and Nashville (now CSX Railroad), has had no passenger service since 1968.

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