Newsflyer 2 October, 2013

Bunker Mill Bridge southeast of Kalona, Iowa- victim of arson that occurred on 11 August, 2013 and whose future is in doubt. Photo taken in August 2011

 

Bridgefest in Iowa; Bridge Closures due to Concerns

Let’s start off with a simple question for this Newsflyer: If you see a bridge that is unstable, who do you go to to address these concerns? Naturally a local government agency who oversees responsibility for the structure and passes it on to the state in hopes money will come their way for repairs or replacement. Yet with the US Government at a shut down due to impasses between the Republicans and Democrats on how to free up money to pay Washington’s employees, a chain reaction from Washington to the local levels occurs. And then we have the next problem, which is “We don’t have any money, sorry!”

Imagine that the number of unstable bridges increases into the hundreds and they include major crossings. This will be the case unless politicians at the House and Senate come together to resolve the fiscal issues that have faced them for weeks, or face recall elections that would be the largest ever in history.  Three bridges represent examples of pressing issues that need to be addressed.

Green Bay Interstate Bridge Closes- approach span collapses: Motorists last week woke to a nasty surprise as the commute across the Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge was impossible. Reason: A pier in the southern approach span sagged, pulling the section down by four feet. The closure happened on the 25th of September and will remain that way indefinitely. Already people are developing bridge-phobia because of the height of the bridge, consisting of concrete slab approaches and a steel through arch main span over Fox River. But Gov. Scott Walker and transportation officials reassured the people that the bridge will be fixed and reopened, albeit it make months to even a year to fix the problem. Built in 1981, this is the third 80s style bridge in the country that has collapsed this year.

Barge rams Matthews Bridge, closing it indefinitely: Jacksonville, Florida is known for numerous large steel truss bridges spanning St. John’s River carryinmg massive volumes of traffic. When one bridge closes, the others endure more stress by extra portions of cars having to take a detour, causing jams and structural strain to the bridge. The Matthews Bridge, carrying FL Hwy. 115 (a.k.a. Matthews Expressway) represents a clogged artery needing to be opened again, after a ship carrying cars rammed the cantilever truss bridge on 26th September, forcing the closure of the bridge indefinitely. No one was hurt on the bridge, but the damage to the decking of the 1951 span was substantial, meaning it may take weeks until the bridge can be reused again.

Historic Bridge in Pennsylvania closed- future uncertain

Wolf Bridge, located over the Conodoguinet Creek near Carlisle, is a Pennsylvania through truss bridge with pinned connections, one of many examples of bridges built by Nelson and Buchanan, as it was built in 1895. Yet the 192 foot long bridge is in trouble as it was closed for safety reasons on the 26th of September. County officials are now determining whether the bridge should be repaired or remain closed until 2016 when it is scheduled to be replaced. This has put more strain on motorists who had relied on this bridge to access the community because another bridge is still closed for reconstruction. And that’s not all: the county is strapped for money for bridge repairs, which makes it a chore for people to find new alternatives. And this apart from the interest in saving the bridge….

Yet if the government cannot do something about the deficiencies, then it is up to the people, who are suffering from the effects of a governmental shutdown, to step in and get the job done. In Kalona, Iowa, the preservation group working to save the Bunker Mill Bridge, an 1887 wrought iron truss bridge that was severely damaged by arson last month, is making strides in saving the bridge. Already, the Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge, an umbrella group of Workin Bridges (WB), a Grinnell-based company that specializes in preserving historic bridges, has raised over $5000 to carry out inspections to determine the needs for the bridge, with the goal of rehabilitating the bridge and keeping it in its place. Yet more is needed to actually carry out the work, pending on what work is needed for the bridge.

Apart from donations being accepted through WB, the Friends of the Bunker Mill Bridge and WB would like to invite you to join them for the 2013 Bridgefest, which is scheduled to take place this Saturday, October 5th beginning at 7:00pm at the Kalona Brewing Company and Restaurant, located at 405 B Avenue in Kalona. Proceeds from the festival will go to the restoration of the bridge. For more information or if interested in coming, click onto the link and contact Suzanne Micheau, who is in charge of the festival.

 

Hastings High Bridge (Big Blue) Coming Down, But How?

Hastings High Bridge at sunrise. Do you notice anything strange here? Photo taken by Dave Youngren, used with permission.

It has not been that long ago that Big Red, known as the new Hastings Bridge spanning the Mississippi River north of the largest city in Dakota County, Minnesota opened to traffic, ending two decades of concerns towards its predecessor, the 1951 Hastings High Bridge known as Big Blue, which was too narrow for traffic and too rusty to maintain. Once a treat to cross while leaving the Twin Cities for southern Minnesota, one now has the longest tied arch bridge in North America to contend with, but the memories of Big Blue will last forever. As of present, demolition has commenced on the old steel arch bridge with both the approach spans being completely removed and the main span being left over.

It’s now a question of what to do with it. Because it is a navagation hazard, the main span will have to be removed. Imploding it is not an answer without having to severely disrupt traffic going through the city and even damaging the new structure. Dismantling it the way it was built in 1951 would be quite a challenge. And using cranes to lift it, carry it to shore and allow people to dismantle it on land would be physically impossible and the costs for the work would be exorbitant.

This leads to the question of what’s next for the bridge. Dave Youngren, who runs a facebook page called Hastings Bridge Watch, has been eyeing the events and presented this picture of both bridges at sunrise, perhaps the last time the bridges will stand side-by-side in this fashion. This leads to the question of what will happen to the old bridge. Look at the picture and see what’s different than the ones provided via link here, based on the author’s multiple visits.  How will the main span go down and why? Put your comments here or on the Chronicles’ facebook and LinkedIn pages and share your thoughts about the bridge.

More information on the bridge will follow on the Chronicles.