Newsflyer: 31 May, 2013

Fifth Avenue Bridge in Des Moines (now closed until further notice). Photo taken in August 2011

One bridge was altered and restored to traffic. Another bridge’s future is in limbo after inspections reveal structural issues, and another bridge will be torn down if no one claims it by July. These are the top three headlines that the Chronicles has for its Newsflyer on the last day of May. This is in addition to what Mother Nature has been giving people on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Already places along the Mississippi River are experiencing high water signaling another Grand Flood of enormous proportions similar to 1993. In Germany, and parts of Europe, heavy rains in the last two days, combined with more to come over the weekend may set the stage for flooding of biblical proportions- the first since 2002. And with that, many of the bridges will be in the way of floodwaters. But before tallying up bridges that may be in danger (let’s hope not), let’s have a look at these headlines:

Two Des Moines Bridges to be gone- Fifth Avenue Bridge the third one to go?

In the past six months, the City of Des Moines has seen a change in landscape as far as bridges are concerned. While the Red Bridge will be raised four feet to accomodate potential floodwaters, the CGW Railroad Bridge, located at the south end of the city center will be no more. According to sources closest to the Chronicles, the last of the original four spans of through trusses will be dismantled bit by bit, with the goal of wiping the bridge off the map by the end of July.  This will be the second historic bridge behind the Grand Avenue Arch Bridge spanning Walnut Creek to be demolished. The arch bridge is currently undergoing bridge replacement after the 1926 arch bridge was demolished in November.

It is possible that the three-span truss bridge, spanning the Raccoon River, carrying the name Fifth Avenue and Jackson Avenue, may be the next bridge to be demolished despite the fact that the structure was converted to a pedestrian crossing 15 years ago. The Pratt through truss bridge with Howe portal and strut bracings, built in 1898 by King Bridge Company and two Des Moines engineering firms was closed to all traffic in March of this years due to reports of structural issues involving rust and corrosion. Yet this bridge, which is well lit at night, is part of the city riverside development and is a top concern for many preservationists, who do not want to see the bridge gone. The future is in doubt as questions are being raised as to how to handle this problem, so that the bridge can be reopened to pedestrians. More to come in the Chronicles.

Photo taken by James Baughn







Wilton Springs Bridge to be torn down if no one claims it

Spanning the South Fork southeast of Marshall in Saline County, the 1899 Central Bridge Company structure featured a Pratt through truss span with A-frame portal bracing. It has been sitting abandoned for six years, but now, the county wants to relieve itself of the burden. People wanting the bridge have until July 1 to claim the bridge and relocate it for reuse. Should no one come to claim it, the once ornated structure will be torn down when the contract is let, which should be no later than 2015.  More information on the bridge and how it can be purchased can be found here as well as through James Baughn’s website.

Checkered House Bridge in Vermont widened and reopened:

Built in 1929 by the American Bridge Company, the Checkered House Bridge, which spans the Winooski River near Richmond is a Pennsylvania petit through truss bridge with a length of 350 feet long. Its despite its green color, its origin came from the Checkerboard House, located adjacent to the bridge and like the giant structure, is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The bridge was the focus of an enormous rehabilitation effort that was completed last weekend, as the bridge was widened by 10 feet, making the structure’s width be 30 feet long. This year-long task consisted of cutting the upper chord in half, moving one half over 10 feet, adding steel to support the widened structure, adding an additional X-frame portal bracing, putting a new decking on, and lastly, painting the bridge red in color. In addition, the road, US Hwy. 2 was also widened and realigned to help control the flow of traffic across the bridge. The bridge was reopened three days ago and Kaitlin O’shea has some pictures and highlights of the event, which can be seen here.  The project page will feature some information on the project. While a couple truss bridges have been widened in the past, including one in New Jersey and the Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, this one is the only one of its kind in the US that was widened because of the magnitude of the structure.


One thought on “Newsflyer: 31 May, 2013

  1. Comment from one of the readers:

    I want to correct the bridge’s name. Its the Southwest 5th Street Bridge. The city of Des Moines has attempted to rename it, the Jackson Ave Bridge which is appalling.

    In walking on the south side trail last night, we noted a huge pile of debris which looks like it was “placed” there. The city was removing debris after the recent flooding from near another pedestrian bridge adjacent to Principal Park and Mullets Restaurant last week. It looks like they may have just relocated the debris pile to the SW 5th Street Bridge? The huge debris pile we noted last night was not there in the week leading up to last night. And the huge pile near Mullets is gone? Hmmmmm. Is the city trying to make a case for demolishing the bridge and/or purposefully causing damage to the bridge for some nefarious purpose?

    The city attempted unsuccessfully to demolish this bridge prior to the big ugly concrete bridge/overpasss being built in the 70?s. The State Historical Society of Iowa became involved & the SW 5th Street Bridge survived. In looking at the bridge, which will be 115 years old on June 17th, it looks structurally sound. Why would the city abruptly put up locked gates on both sides of this solid pedestrian bridge without any notice to the public, other than the notice they attached to the locked gates on March 15 2013?

    The city has also demolished most of another former railroad bridge near Scott Street without any apparent notice? That process was stopped and you can see half of that bridge still standing. That former railroad bridge had not been used or converted with extensive rust. Even so, who is giving permission for our important history to be destroyed without any accountability??


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