Introducing: The 2013 Smith Awards for Spectacular Disasters

Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Green Bay, Wisconsin: One of many bridges that was in the news because of a collapse of an approach span. Photo courtesy of Robert Thompson, used with permission

Aside from new categories for the 2013 Othmar H. Ammann Awards, the Smith Awards, where the author picks the best and worst news in the world of (historic) bridges, also has a new category that will be featured this year. With all the bridge disasters that have happened so far this year, caused by Mother Nature, recklessness and freak accidents, the Smith Awards will introduce the category for Spectacular Disasters. And unlike other categories for the Smith Awards, you will have an opportunity to vote to see which story should receive the award. Already nominated for this year’s Award includes the following (click on the link for more details):

The Sagging of the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge in Green Bay, Wisconsin

The Destruction of the Big Bureau Creek Bridge in Bureau County, Illinois

The Destruction of a Railroad Trestle through fire in San Saba County, Texas

The Collapse of the I-5 Skagit River Bridge in Washington State

Bridge Collapse caused by train wreck in Rockview, Missouri

Destruction of the Canadian River Bridge by tornado west of Oklahoma City

Do you have any other bridge disaster stories that are worth nominating? If so, you have until December 1st at 12:00am Central Standard Time to submit your stories to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. The nominations are open to all bridges in the US, Canada, Europe and elsewhere, and you must include a link to the bridges, so that people can have a look at the entries and vote for them. Bridges destroyed by arson are not included for they belong to the Bonehead Category. Voting will commence at the same time as with the Ammann Awards and the winners will be announced the same time as the winners will be announced- namely before Christmas.

This year has been an unusual year as far as bridge disasters are concerned for they have affected all bridges, young and old and regardless of bridge type. We’re hoping that we can work to address the safety on the bridges, which starts off with maintaining them to ensure that they are safe to cross. Then it is followed by addressing the rules of crossing them, and lastly ensure that their importance in history and as a reference to bridge building is stressed. Only then will disasters like these (and more entries to come) can be avoided.

The Bridges of Des Moines Part III: The (lost) Truss Bridges

18th Street Bridge over the Raccoon River (now extant). Photo courtesy of IaDOT Archives

There are more bridge types that make Des Moines one of the most populous bridges in the Midwest. As we will see in this part, truss bridges were just as popular of a bridge design as the arch bridges that were built by James Marsh and company. As many as 30 truss bridges were reported to had been built during the time span between 1870 and 1930 along the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers as well as other tributaries, including those mentioned in the first two parts of the series. The majority of them featured two or more spans. And while more than half of them were Pratt designs, there were many exceptions to the rule. Already mentioned in part II there was the Post through truss design that had existed at Court Avenue before its replacement in 1917. But like this bridge, the majority of the structures lack the information regarding its history, including the date of construction and the bridge builder. This was in part because of the fact that they were gone prior to the urban renewal period in the 1960s and after 1993.  This is not good for many of these structures, like the 18th Avenue Bridge featured some decorative designs on the portal bracings, which were common during the period of bridge construction prior to 1920, when bridge builders could afford to leave their marks with ornaments and builders plaques. After 1920, with the standardization of truss bridges and the letter-shaped portal bracings (A, M and X-frames), these were seldomly used and can rarely be found today when travelling on Iowa’s highways.

Today, eight bridges are known to exist in Des Moines that have a truss design, at least two thirds of the number that had existed prior to 1970. This does not include the CGW Railroad Bridge, which was demolished in its entirety last month. While some of the structures have already been mentioned earlier, the tour of Des Moines’ truss bridges will feature the ones not mentioned. Each one will feature a location, when they were built (and replaced), what they looked like and if there is no concrete information on the bridge builder, some assumptions will be made. As they will mentioned in the Iowa Truss Bridge Book project that is being compiled by the author, any information on the bridges will be useful.

Without further ado, here are the bridges worth mentioning on the tour:

UP (Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific) Railroad Bridge at Hartford Avenue. Photo taken by John Marvig in 2012

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Bridge at Hartford Avenue:  This bridge can be seen from Hartford Avenue on the southeast end of Des Moines. The three-span subdivided Warren through truss bridge with X-frame portal bracings is the fourth bridge to be located at this crossing, for the earliest crossing was dated 1871. It was rebuilt in 1890 and again in 1915 with a four-span through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings and pinned connections. While it can be assumed that the reconstruction in 1890 and 1915 may have to do with either flooding that damaged the spans or the increase in rail traffic, the current span was built in 1920 by the American Bridge Company and it most probably had to do with the destruction of the 1915 bridge, albeit more research and information is needed to confirm that claim. The bridge is 469 feet long and is owned by Union Pacific Railroad. However, it was part of the Rock Island Railroad with had a line connecting Indianola and Kansas City to the south, going through Des Moines enroute north to Albert Lea and Minneapolis. When the railroad company was liquidated in 1981, the line was acquired by Chicago and Northwestern, which in turn was bought by Union Pacific in 1995. 20 trains a day use this bridge.

18th Street Bridge: As seen in the picture at the very top of the article, this bridge crossed the Raccoon River at what is now Fleur Drive, southeast of the Central Academy. Before its demolition in 1936, the bridge featured four Camelback truss spans and was one of the most ornate bridges in Des Moines, let alone along the Des Moines River. More information is needed as to when the bridge was built (and by who) and why it was demolished. It is known that today’s Fleur Drive Bridge serves four-lane traffic and serves as a key link to Martin Luther King Drive and all points south of downtown Des Moines.

Inter-Rail Bridge Photo taken by John Marvig in 2012

Inter-Urban Trail Bridge:     Built in 1902, this bridge spans the Des Moines River south of the Euclid Avenue Bridge. The structure features four spans of Pratt with pinned connections, yet three of the spans feature lattice portal bracings with curved heel bracings, while the fourth and easternmost span features V-laced portal bracings with a 45° angle heel bracing- quite possibly a span that was either brought in or built on-site to replace an earlier span destroyed. This bridge used to serve the Inter-Urban Rail Line, one of eight in Iowa accomodated commuters through the 1950s. This route connected Des Moines with Colfax in Poweshiek County, a length of 23 miles. Service continued until 1949, when the freight railroads took over and people resorted to the car or bus. 33 years later, the railroad line and bridge was abandoned, but the City bought both of them to be converted into a bike trail, which was opened in 1998. With the exception of the replacement of the approach spans in 2012, the bridge today retains its integrity and still serves bike traffic, while providing access to the Neal Smith Bike Trail, which combs the Des Moines River.

Commerce Bridge: Spanning the Raccoon River, this bridge featured four truss spans which included three Camelbacks with Howe Lattice portal bracings with subdivided heels and a Pratt through truss with M-frame portal bracings. The latter was built at a later time, whereas the three Camelbacks were reportedly to had been built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company, one of many Iowa bridge builders that existed during the period between 1890 and 1930. It is unknown when they were built, let alone rebuilt, but records had it that the bridge was destroyed during the Flood of 1965. The bridge was later removed, and Commerce Street was rerouted to run along the Raccoon. All that remains are the abutments and the rapids where the bridge once stood. They can be seen as 105th Street southwest curves to the south.

Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge. Photo taken in August 2013

Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge:   Spanning the Des Moines River south of the Red Bridge and once part of the Rock Island Railroad, the Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge was built in 1901 by the American Bridge Company and featured eight spans of pony girders totalling 625 feet. While it used to be a double-tracked bridge, the eastbound track was abandoned and fenced off in the 1980s and today, only one track is used. It replaced a four-span lattice through truss bridge, which had served one-lane of rail traffic and was built 30 years earlier. The future of this bridge is in doubt due to its sparse use, combined with the city’s plans to raise the dikes. Already the Red Bridge was raised four feet and the CGW Railroad Bridge were removed as part of the city flood planning. It would not be surprising that the bridge’s owner, Iowa Interstate Railroad would abandon the bridge altogether, making it the target for scrap metal. But it is unknown if and when that would happen.

SW 63rd Street Bridge: Located over the Raccoon River between Brown’s Woods and Water Works Parks on 63rd Street in West Des Moines, this three-span truss bridge featured two pin-connected Pratt through truss bridges with portal bracings similar to the 5th Street Pedestrian Bridge, located downstream. It is possible that either George E. King or Clinton Bridge and Iron Works (because of the plaque on the portal bracing) had built the original span. Its northernmost span featured a Pratt through truss bridge with riveted connections and A-frame portal bracing. That bridge was most likely brought in to replace one of the original spans that was destroyed either through flooding or an accident. Little information was gathered about the bridge prior to its demolition and replacement in 1964, due to lack of interest in the history of the structure. Had the historic preservation movement started 10-15 years earlier, it would most likely have been one of the first bridges eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The National Historic Preservation Law was passed in 1966, one year after the replacement of this bridge was open to traffic.

Waterworks Park Bridge. Photo taken by John Marvig in August 2013

Waterworks Park Bridge:    Built in 1922, this Raccoon River crossing is one of the key attractions of Waterworks Park on the south end of Des Moines, as well as the city’s bike trail network. The crossing is 320 feet long and features two 98 foot riveted Pratt pony trusses that used to carry vehicular traffic until its closure in the 1990s. In 1999, the City converted the crossing into a bike trail bridge and has remained in that fashion ever since.

SW Ninth Street Bridge: This Raccoon River crossing is perhaps one of two bridges on this tour that has the least amount of information on its history, despite the fact that it was replaced with the current bridge in 1967. The structure featured three spans of pin-connected Pratt through trusses with Howe lattice portal bracings. Yet that is about it as far as further information is concerned…..

Old Highway 46 Bridge:    This is the second of the two bridges that is missing information (including dimensions) and even more detailed photos than what is shown in the link. No information was found in the historic bridge survey conducted in the early 1990s.  Located southeast of Des Moines, this multiple-span polygonal through truss bridge was built in 1938 and was removed 60 years later when the Hwy. 65 freeway opened. Other than that, there was no information as to whether a previous structure had existed before that, let alone who the bridge builder was that built the 1938 structure. It is known though that the removal of the bridge came despite protests from farmers, who wanted the bridge open so that they can haul farm equipment across it. Yet because the valley where the bridge was located was flood prone, safety precautions were taken and the bridge was removed. Today, portions of the highway exist on its original path from Avon to the river and from there to Des Moines, terminating at Hwy. 163.  Interestingly enough, a railroad bridge located adjacent to the bridge was removed in 1968 after the railroad decided to reroute the line through Indianola enroute to Knoxville. A section of the railroad line exists but makes a dead-end at the power plant located on the north side of the river.

Two Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad Bridges: Located south of the Iowa Interstate Railroad Bridge over the Des Moines River, the crossings featured two four-span through truss bridges. The northern crossing was a quadrangular through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings. The southern crossing featured Warren through trusses with A-frame portal bracings. Both of them disappeared before 1970.

Ashworth Park Truss Bridge:  This is one of three bridges that straddle Walnut Creek carrying Iowa Interstate Railroad through Des Moines (the other two are Pratt pony trusses). The 1897 Warren through truss bridge with Howe lattice portal bracings and riveted connections used to serve dual track rail traffic until the 1990s when it was reduced to only one track. The bridge still serves traffic and can be seen up close from the bike trail while passing through Waterworks Park.

This sums up the tour through Des Moines. The truss bridge portion of the tour is rather the most interesting, but the most challenging if one wants to find information and photos of the structure. As some of the structures will be included in the Iowa Truss Bridge Book project, if you have any information that is useful for the project, or for other people who are interested in bridges in general, you can leave a comment here, or you can contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.  Aside from that, it is hoped that people will have an opportunity to visit the bridges while in Des Moines and listen (or read) the stories involved with each of them, for the bridges span a total of 160 years and three periods, both in terms of materials (wood-iron/steel- concrete) as well as the period of bridge building (trusses-arch-modern bridges). Through the interest in history, you are doing more than just collect stories, you are sharing them with others as well, for there is no such thing as no interest in history. Without history, we are ignorant and a group of people with no identity, no pride and no soul. We take pride in history to ensure we know who we are and bridges are an integral part of our history.

 

Author’s Note: More info can be obtained by clicking on the links marked in the heading and text. Special thanks to John Marvig for photographing the bridges and allowing usage in this article.

 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 33: Old truss bridge in Des Moines

Old Euclid Avenue Bridge in Des Moines. Photo courtesy of Iowa DOT Archives.

Before diving into a rather large third and final part of the tour through Des Moines, Iowa looking at the history of truss bridges, there is one bridge to consider because of its rather unique history. While there were many bridges whose information is scarce and would require an in-depth research through the city and railroad archives, the Euclid Avenue Bridge is a unique structure that should not be ignored. The three-span Pratt through truss bridge spanned the Des Moines River from 1931 until its removal as part of the urban renewal project that was initiated after the Great Flood in 1993. Yet according to records found in bridgehunter.com, the bridge was located in two different places: the first crossing was at Euclid Avenue but only lasted two years. A haunched concrete arch bridge took its place and has been serving traffic for over 80 years. The bridge ended up at the location of 2nd Avenue, where it served as a replacement to an earlier truss bridge from 1935 until its eventual removal.

Photo courtesy of Iowa DOT Archives

The reason for the assumption? The spans between the span at 2nd Avenue and the one at Euclid Avenue are identical according to the photos. Yet looking more closely at the 2nd Avenue site, the bridge served inter-rail traffic, a streetcar service which transported people from point A to point B for three decades until it was discontinued. However, photos from the 2nd Avenue site showed that the bridge was narrowed, making one researcher interpret that it might have a different structure that was built at that location and not the one at Euclid Avenue.

Even more puzzling is the entire structure itself, for it featured three spans but whose portal bracings and other features were totally different: the outer spans had Town Lattice portals and appeared as if they were King Bridge Company structures, whereas the center span had an M-frame design. This leads to the conclusion that the bridges may have been imported to Des Moines from elsewhere and assembled by the local bridge building company.

This leads to several questions that need to be clarified, namely:

1. If the bridge was brought in from outside the community, where were they originally built and when?

2. Who was responsible for bringing in the three spans to be erected in 1931 at the Euclid Avenue site, let alone relocate them to the Second Avenue site in 1933-35?

3. Were the trusses narrowed to accomodate rail traffic at the 2nd Avenue site, or was there another bridge built next to the 2nd Avenue Bridge that accomodated rail traffic?

4. What did the 2nd Avenue Bridge look like prior to its removal in 1993 and was that year the correct date of the bridge’s removal?

This case would require any research in the form of newspapers, oral stories and most importantly, photos. Do you have the information on this bridge? If so, please send them to the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com and help out on solving this rather unique mystery involving this bridge.

While the Euclid Avenue Bridge was unique in itself, there are other truss bridges that deserve as much recognition as this one, even though some of them have vanished into the history books. More on them in the next article….

 

2013 Othmar H. Ammann Awards- Nominations

Charles City Suspension Bridge spanning the Cedar River in Charles City, Iowa. Built in 1896, destroyed in the 2008 Floods, later replaced. Photo taken in December 2007

New Categories Introduced. Nominations being accepted between now and December 1st

Time sure is flying when you are having fun. Already 2013 is on its last two legs, with October being over with next week and thoughts of Thanksgiving and Christmas looming on our minds. We’re already wrapping up what was a rather interesting year as far as bridges are concerned, and with that, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will have its third annual Othmar H. Ammann Awards, scheduled to be given out in December.  Between now and December 1st at 12:00am  Central Standard Time, you will have a chance to nominate your favorite bridge photo, and/or bridges for the categories of  Best Photo, Best Kept Secret, Mystery Bridge and Bridge of the Year. This is in addition to the Lifetime Legacy Award given to the person who devoted his/her time and energy to saving historic bridges.

However, a new category has been introduced for the Ammann Awards, which is for Best Bridge Preservation Practice. This will be awarded to a group for their successful efforts in preserving a historic bridge for future purposes, be it for a bike trail, a monument or even for reuse on the highway.

As usual, nominations will be for bridges in the US as well as those on the international scale. However, when voting takes place in December, the Ammann Awards will be divided up into three strands, featuring US bridges, European and International Bridges and Overall. The voting scheme will also be changed for this year’s Awards, but that will be mentioned once the nominations close on December 1st.

Send your nominations to Jason Smith at the Chronicles using the following e-mail address: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. You can also use the messenger on facebook or LinkedIn to submit your entries. Please note however that all photos must be submitted in JPEG.

Information on the Ammann Awards as well as the winners of the 2011 and 2012 Awards can be seen here, as well as on the header of the Chronicles’ front page.  Hope to see a lot of entries for this year’s Ammann Awards.  Happy Bridgehunting and Adieu. 🙂

 

Twin Spans in Minnesota: The Answer

Photo courtesy of Minnesota Dept. of Transportation

And now to the answer to the question of Twin Spans in Minnesota, which is in connection with the recently published article on the Winona Bridge (see here). Some people may contest to the fact that there are three such twin spans- consisting of the original span and a sister span built alongside it to alleviate traffic. It is true that there is another pair of bridges located 60+ miles down south along the Mississippi River in LaCrosse, Wisconsin with a cantilever truss bridge (built in 1939) and a tied arch bridge (built in 2001), the latter of which carries eastbound traffic featuring US Hwys. 14 and 61 and Wisconsin Hwy. 16.  However, the crossing is only a mile southeast of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, ironically crossed by another pair of bridges built in the 1970s. Technically, when speaking of borders, the LaCrosse Bridges do not count.

The first crossing that featured an original bridge which later had a sibling span to serve traffic is the Hudson Bridge, spanning the St. Croix River at the Minnesota-Wisconsin Border, west of Hudson.  Originally carrying US Hwy. 12, which was later superseded by I-94, the Hudson Bridge’s history dates as far back as 1911, when the first crossing was built and christened The Hudson Toll Bridge. A product of the Central States Bridge Company of Indianapolis, the 1051-foot long bridge was built on a causeway which started from the business district and ended with the driver making a 10° incline up the Warren deck truss approach spans, before crossing the 136-foot long polygonal Warren through truss span with Lattice portal bracings and riveted connections.  After that and crossing the approach span the driver ended up in Minnesota. Tolls were collected on the causeway on the Hudson side.

Photo courtesy of MnDOT

Yet because of the increase in boat and auto traffic and the coming of the freeways that would later shape the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, it necessitated the construction of a new bridge, located a half mile south of the Toll Bridge. When completed in 1951, the truss span was relocated to LeFarge, Wisconsin, where it spanned the Kickapoo River before its removal for safety concerns in 1986. The causeway itself was retained and now serves as an observation point with many piers from the old bridge to be seen on both sides of the river.

The Hudson Interstate Bridge was completed in 1951 and featured two lanes of traffic encased in seven spans of Warren through truss bridges with riveted connections and X-frame portal and strut bracings. The main spans, featuring a cantilever through truss span totalled over 700 feet with the entire structure totalling 1,700 feet. The Interstate Bridge served as a single entity until 1973, when a girder span was built to the south of the bridge and accomodated eastbound traffic of US Hwy. 12. The truss span served westbound traffic. Both spans were reconstructed in the 1980s when US 12 was converted to I-94.

Person crossing the Interstate Bridge. Photo taken by MnDOT

Unfortunately when flooding occurred in 1993, both states made haste to build a new span to replace the truss structure for floodwaters damaged the structure to a point where it not only could no longer carry heavy traffic, but it was literally falling apart, with cracks appearing in the steel. In fact the situation was so dire that an emergency lane on the newer structure was made for heavier vehicles going westbound was created. Officials claimed that had this not been done, the bridge would literally have fallen into the waters of the St. Croix, taking many lives with. When the new span opened in 1995, little effort was need to push the 1951 truss spans into the water and cut them up unto scrap metal. The truss spans did not last even a half century because of the wear and tear that had occurred on the structure. Yet had the flooding not occurred in 1993, chances are likely that the bridge would still have been retained even though plans would have been in the making for a new bridge anyway because of the high volume of traffic combined with the events that happened on the I-35W Bridge in 2007. How long the bridge would actually have survived remains unclear.

Since 1995 there has not been a double-span arrangement similar to the Hudson Bridge in Minnesota, but with plans in the making for a sibling span in Winona, we will have the second such arrangement ever built in the state, but the first one in 21 years when completed in 2016. Given the height of the 1940 cantilever truss span combined with the scheduled rehabilitation to follow, it is highly doubtful that the Winona Bridge will suffer the same fate as the bridge in Hudson, but that depends on how the structure handles traffic both on the highway as well as those in the water when passing underneath. If people treat the bridge with care, the bridge will perhaps last a generation or two longer than expected.

Some information and write-ups can be found by clicking on the links marked in the text, including those by John Weeks III.  Special thanks to Minnesota DOT for the information and photos provided for this article.

St. Anthony Parkway Bridge spans for sale

Side view of the Warren trusses and its skewed configuration. Photo taken in August 2010

Meeting on Bridge Project scheduled for 29 October at River East in Minneapolis.

The St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, spanning the railroad yard in the Minneapolis suburb of Columbia Heights, has been a focus of concern for transportation officials, historians and locals alike, for although the bridge is historically significant, rust and corrosion was revealed on the bridge, prompting measures to ensure that the bridge is replaced as soon as possible.

Over five months after the article was written (see link here), the project appears to have moved forward. Plans have been approved to replace the five-span Warren through truss bridge, built in 1925 and features a set of skewed portal bracings, with a crossing featuring a through truss span and girder spans. The original trusses are being offered for sale by the City to be used for several purposes. The lone exception is one of the spans will be salvaged and used as an interpretive memorial located on the western end of the bridge. That means four spans are available for grabs to be reused on a local road or bike trail.

If interested, there is an informational meeting on Monday 29 October, 2013 from 6:00- 8:00pm at the River Village East, Community Room, located at 2919 Randolph St NE in Monneapolis. There, the public can discuss about the project and express their interest in the purchase of the old bridge. There will be more meetings to come between now and the time construction actually starts, which is next fall. The new bridge is expected to be open to traffic by the end of 2015.  More information about the project can be found here. This includes the contact details in case of any questions.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge, but in case you know someone who wants a historic bridge for a bike trail, park or road, there are four spans available for you to get while they are still there…

Pella Bascule Bridge

Photo taken in August 2013

While in Marion County, going 10 miles east from the abandoned Hwy. 14 Bridge at Red Rock Lake, one should take some time and visit Pella. With a population of 10,400 inhabitants and a small private college, there are many things that make the city proud. The city is home to Pella faucets, windows and doors. It has the largest windmill in the western Hemisphere with the Vermeer Mill. And given the architecture in the city center, Pella prides itself on its Dutch heritage, as it was founded by Dutch immigrants in 1847.

And when it comes to Dutch architecture, one has to include a double-leaf bascule bridge, right? Like its European cousin, Friedrichstadt, Germany, a Dutch community without a bascule bridge just isn’t Dutch. This has to do with the popularity of these bridges in the country, with a huge concentration of them to be found in the country’s capital, Amsterdam. And while the mayor of Friedrichstadt got his wish with the Blue Bridge, built in the 1990s but functions as an ornament- a gateway to the town- this bridge (in the picture) serves as one of the jewels of the architecture one can see while in Pella.

Located in front of the Hotel Amsterdam between Main and First Streets, this double-leaf bascule bridge has been around for only a short time, spanning a man-made canal. This white-colored bridge does not appear to function as a bascule bridge but as a fixed span with pedestrians using the structure on a daily basis. The bridge is decorated with lighting and flowers, making it an attractive place to visit and even photograph. Yet there is no further information as to when the bridge was built or what the motives were behind this bridge. Was this part of a bigger project, or did the Dutchmen miss their beloved structure so much that they needed a replica to add to the heritage?

This leads to the questions of the origin of the bridge and the Dutch’s obsession towards a bascule bridge. Specifically:

1. When was this bridge built? Was it part of a project to reconstruct the city center?

2. Why are Dutchmen so obsessed with bascule bridges in a community outside the Netherlands? Could the bridge in Pella be one of those bridges that fall into the category?

3. Is the bridge used for a festival or for some other function? Or is it just a ornament to cross, a symbol of the town’s city center?

Put your comments down here or in the Chronicles’ facebook page, together with that of the social network pages dealing with History and Marion County and share your thoughts and facts about this bridge.  More photos of the Pella bascule bridge can be found here.

Many of us indentify ourselves based on a piece of heritage we cannot leave behind when emigrating to a new country. For the Dutch, it’s the architecture and in particular, their double leaves. It makes the author wonder what piece of heritage we cannot live without when moving to another place…. Any thoughts on that in addition to the questions already posted above?

 

 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 32: A Bridge in a Lake

Photos taken in August 2013

Our next mystery bridge takes us back to Marion County, Iowa and precisely to this bridge. Located on the north side of Red Rock Lake just east of Hwy. 14, one finds this unique structure. From a bird’s eye perspective, the bridge is low enough that it may be considered a pontoon bridge. But it does seem weird that the roadway is low enough that it is on the same level as the water level of Red Rock Lake, making it prone to flooding. Yet looks can be deceiving. Have a look at the following pictures of the bridge when up close….

Judging by these angles, one can see that the bridge and road have not been used for a long time. These are the remnants of the old Hwy. 14 Bridge and highway, all of which are either partially or completely inundated by the waters of Red Rock Lake.

Here are some facts we do know about these remains. There were at least two bridges that carried the old highway (but guesses are three or four): this one and the Des Moines River crossing. Both of which were built in the 1940s replacing earlier structures that were most likely steel truss bridges. But this happened before plans for Red Rock Lake were revealed in the 1950s, sentencing this highway and the bridges, together with a dozen other bridges and at least six towns located along the Des Moines River to be inundated. While the removal and relocation of some structures in the area were successful, other streets and some places like this one were left to be covered in water. The new Highway 14 Bridge was opened in 1965 and featured three bridges, the longest one is over a mile long, making it the longest bridge in the state. Once the bridges were opened and the Red Rock Dam, located 10 miles east of there was completed, all of the obsolete Hwy. 14 and its bridges were left to be taken over by water. Today, once can access this bridge and the highway remains on the north end by foot only as well as fish from the bridge- a piece of history to be reminded of what the region looked like before Red Rock Lake was created.

What is missing about this bridge and old highway is the history: namely what the bridges and road looked like before they were inundated. Furthermore, information is needed about their construction history and the truss bridges that existed prior to their replacement in the 1940s. Photos and any information are welcomed. If you have any information that is useful, please send it to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. You can also put your thoughts about the bridge in the comments section here as well as on facebook. More photos of the bridge and region can be found by clicking here.

The Chronicles will provide some information on this bridge as it comes.

Winona Bridge to receive a sister

Photo taken in September 2010

Parallel span to be built beginning in 2014; cantilever structure to be rehabilitated afterwards

There is something about the city of Winona, located along the Mississippi River, that makes it attractive for passers-by. The city prides itself on its historic business district, its ghost stories, its natural surroundings, and its rather open-minded culture. No wonder why the parents of actress Winona Ryder named her after this city, even though she was born in neighboring Olmsted County.

The city also takes pride in its lone Mississippi River crossing, which takes travelers into a highly wooded state of Wisconsin.  Built in 1940, the 1.5 mile long bridge features a 1000 foot cantilever Warren through truss, a 1,500 foot south approach span, which glides the drivers into the city of Winona, going over a nearby gas station, and the north approach which features wide berms that account for the rest of the bridge’s length, crossing sloughs along the way.

This icon, a product of the Minneapolis Bridge Company, is about to receive a sister.

Beginning in 2014, work will start on a two-lane structure, made of steel girders, which will alleviate traffic on the 1940 structure. Once completed in 2016, the cantilever truss span will be rehabilitated which includes replacing the approach spans and strengthening the trusses. During the time of renovation, traffic will be diverted onto the new bridge for a few months. In the end, two lanes of traffic will flow in each direction, with the cantilever truss bridge carrying eastbound traffic. The reason is two-fold: 1. The cantilever truss bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and is an integral part of the historic city center. And 2. Less traffic travels across the bridge than the neighboring bridges along the Mississippi River, namely the Dresbach Bridge at LaCrosse, which is being replaced this year, and the Wabasha Bridge to the north. That combined with age contributed with the decision of MnDOT to leave the 1940 bridge in place and give it a sibling, although an identical cantilever through truss bridge would make the area more aesthetically appealing.

Despite agreements on this plan, the new bridge will come at the cost of some buildings, including a nearby Sinclair gas station, where I was getting a picture of the bridge from this angle:

While the gas attendants found the angle shot to be impressive during my visit in 2010, they did not know about the bridge when asked about it. They will now for the new span will be to the west of the bridge and encroaching their station. And while not even the toughest of gas attendants (who boasted about being a female wrestler taking down drivers refusing to pay for gas) cannot resist the machine known as land acquisition for the new sibling, it is highly conclusive that they are not alone and a new home will be made for them. Disgruntled? Perhaps. But while some will say that the Winona Bridge will be the one that cost us our jobs because of the new sibling, others will beg to differ and say, “Winona (Bridge) Forever! The bridge is our icon, a part of our lives.”  While it is too early to speculate how the new bridge will look like once it is completed, it will be interesting to see how the new bridge will change the way we enter and exit the city once it has been completed, two years from now….

The Winona Bridge will be the second bridge in Minnesota that will have a new span to alleviate traffic. There was another bridge that used to have a replacement span that served side-by-side the original structure. That was until it was demolished in the 1990s. Can you name that bridge and its location?  The Chronicles will have the answer very soon!

And lastly, as we’re on the same topic, a pair of questions pertaining to Winona Ryder:

1. Whereabouts in Olmsted County was she born?

2. Of the numerous films she starred in over the course of over two decades, which film was your favorite?

While the first question can only be answered by the actress herself, the second question you can post in the Chronicles’ comment section, in addition to your thoughts on the Winona Bridge receiving a sibling for a bridge.

More pictures of the Winona Bridge (half of which were taken in 2010) can be found by clicking here.

 

Hastings Bridge being dismantled

A couple weeks ago, a question for the forum was asked as to how the main span of the Hastings High Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River north of Hastings, Minnesota, was going to be removed once the approaches are demolished. Two variables were eliminated for reasons that the risk was too high, especially given the fact that the old bridge is next to its successor, known to many now as Big Red: imploding the structure and removing the arch span using a series of cranes. The former was used on the Hastings Spiral Bridge in 1951 but only because Big Blue was more than 300 feet away.

This is how Big Blue is going down:

All photos courtesy of David Youngren, Hastings Bridge Watch, c. 2013 Used with permission

The last photo is the most recent, taken today, showing most of the arch bridge gone. The bridge is being dismantled, piece by piece, with the parts being lowered onto barges to be shipped away for scrap. This type of bridge removal has required the use of at least four cranes plus enough manpower with blow torches to take the structure apart. For many who have grown up with the bridge, it is clearly an emotional way to say good-bye to an old friend. For me, who used the bridge frequently as a key link to southern Minnesota, where I grew up, it was a blessing to have paid homage to the structure, learning about its history and its identity to the community. The city park was the best place to watch the structure and how it caressed over the river like a rainbow, rain, fog or even shine.

This farewell to another piece of history led me to another question: will there be a monument honoring the bridge? According to Dave Youngren, the answer is yes. The city has already hired a sculptor and put some bridge parts aside so that a memorial is made in the bridge’s honor. It had been done by preserving one of the foundations of the Old Spiral Bridge, but it looks like something will be done for this bridge too. At least for the younger generation who will never see Big Blue, it provides us with a chance to tell them what the bridge was like, and how adventurous it was to cross it. But most importantly, they will know how the bridge, like the Old Spiral Bridge became and has remained an icon for the City of Hastings, the State of Minnesota and beyond…

The author would like to thank David Youngren for allowing use of the photos. A photo of Big Red and Big Blue  can be ordered by clicking on the link here.