Reconstruction of Green Bridge Set to Begin

Fifth Avenue/ Jackson Street Pedestrian Bridge in Des Moines. Photo taken in August 2013
Fifth Avenue/ Jackson Street Pedestrian Bridge in Des Moines. Photo taken in August 2013

City Council Approves Plan to Restore Vintage Bridge and Key Des Moines Landmark

DES MOINES, IOWA- It was only two years ago that the Fifth Avenue Bridge, an 1896 product of local bridge builder George E. King, was fenced off to all cyclists and pedestrians, and the Des Moines City Council was seriously considering tearing the entire structure down, which is a National Register Landmark.

At about this time next year, this bridge will be reopened, and connections between downtown and the southern part of the city will be reconnected again. 🙂

The Des Moines City Council yesterday approved the proposal to restore the bridge, which will consist of narrowing the bridge deck to 14 feet, adding observation decks and providing LED lighting. It will include some work on the superstructure, which includes strengthening truss points and repainting the entire bridge, while removing debris from previous flooding.

The cost will range between $1.75m and $3.5m, according to information by the Des Moines Register, yet $2.3m has been raised privately through fundraising efforts by Friends of the Green Bridge, with donations from the City Council, the Polk County Board of Supervisors and a grant by the Iowa State Recreational Trails. The Meredith Corporation hired a contractor to inspect the bridge and provide a report, while raising $200,000 for the bridge as well. A list of other key contributors can be found here.

Contract will be let out in the next week with the project expected to begin next Spring. Should all run as plan, the bridge will be open by the Fall, thus reintegrating it with a well-knit Meredith Bike Trail network, which snakes through Des Moines along the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers, while providing direct access to the parks in the north, the State Capitol Building and the suburbs to the south and west, just to name a few. With the Iowa Cubs Baseball Stadium located at the confluence of the two rivers, it may provide people with an incentive to bike to the baseball game instead of driving the car there.

In the face of the upcoming demolition of the BB Comer Bridge in Alabama and flood damage to the recently restored Riverside Bridge in Missouri, the Green Bridge success story is bucking the trend, providing hope for other bridge preservationists to save their bridges. This includes the Green Bridge in Waverly, located 140 miles NE of Des Moines, where residents are fighting to have the bridge fixed and reopen to traffic. The success story in Des Moines will perhaps provide more leverage for the cause.

More information will follow on the restoration of the Green Bridge with a story on the Waverly crossing and Riverside Bridge to come soon.

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Amman Awards Entry Deadline Extended to January 2016

Hartley Drive Bridge in Allamakee County, Iowa. Photo taken in August 2011

Deadline for Submissions of Photos and Entries extended to January 6th 2016. Voting to Commence in January.

2016 will be the year that the Othmar H. Ammann Awards will be voted on twice. In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, to show solidarity for the people affected by these attacks (including the refugees), to allow for more time for people to submit their entries for the Ammann Awards, and finally to allow time for the author to prepare for the awards, the 2015 Ammann Awards will entend well into 2016. That means between now and January 6th, entries will be taken for voting purposes in the categories of best photo, best example of a preserved historic bridge, lifetime achievement, region with a high concentration of historic bridges, and mystery bridges. More information can be found via link here. Voting will commencence on January 8th and last through January 29th. The winners of the Awards will be given out on February 1st.  The Author’s Choice Awards will be given at the same time.

This decision is unusual, but given the situation at hand, it not appropriate at this time to keep to the December 1st deadline, while in the midst of events that occurred on 13 November 2015, which killed 130 and injured scores of others in Paris alone. In addition, the Chronicles also welcomes any entries of bridges in France and Lebanon to be posted in the online column, and entered in the Ammann Awards. The author visited Paris in 1999 and will present a tour guide of the city’s bridges before the deadline in January, in addition to the bridges in Brussels, where he visited in 2010. That city has also been a focus on the purge of neighborhoods to arrest more suspects involved in the bombings.  It is strongly encouraged that other bridges in France and Lebabon are entered by others to show solidarity and pride towards the infrastructure of both countries.  This in addition to bridges submitted originating from the US and other places.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, together with sisiter column The Flensburg Files are showing solidarity in times of trouble. A pair of articles about the events and the war on terrorism can be found here and here. As mentioned in previous articles, the logos representing France, Lebanon and peace will be presented in every article for the rest of 2015, to show support towards families and friends of people affected by the bombing attacks, with the goal of finding a peaceful way to end the bloodshed and find some sort of co-existence that all sides can benefit from. Some say war cannot be won. That is true, but on both sides. Yet there is always a way to find peace and love. It’s a matter of time before the sides come to a table and find a solution that will satisfy everyone.

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BB Comer Bridge to become History

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer
Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

SCOTTSBORO, AL (USA)-  As a general rule, democracy works when the majority of the population favor a project that is for the benefit of the community; even if it means putting it to a vote. The campaign to save the BB Comer Bridge garnered massive amount of support from people within Jackson County, as well as many throughout Alabama and parts of the US. It was hoped that the Jackson County Commissioners would put the issue up to a vote, to assume responsibility over a historic bridge with over 80 years of history.

Sadly, County Officials not only rejected the proposition for a vote or even a referendum, but they rejected calls for any measures involving the cantilever span, once and for all. The notion at the council meeting on 9 November effectively closed the last doors to any opportunity to convert the bridge into a recreational area. The contract was signed yesterday to remove the bridge as soon as the new span opened to traffic next spring.

According to a statement by the BB Comer Foundation released yesterday: “It’s sad to see a piece of history destroyed for lack of positive vision.  The hurdles could have been met and crossed if people put their minds to it.  Without doing anything to the bridge it would stand for generations. We are just about to throw a 12 million dollar resource in the trash because efforts to figure out absurd ownership requirements from ALDOT did just what they were supposed to do, stop the preservation of this bridge.”

County officials were concerned about the liability it would have to undertake to preserve the bridge, which includes its maintenance. In addition, some officials questioned the credibility of having a third owner take over the bridge, especially with regards to requirements presented earlier by the Alabama DOT. For cost reasons alone as the official reason, they decided that the effort was not worth it, despite the benefits of using the 1930 bridge that was built by the Kansas City Bridge Company.

“Saving your bridge required the establishment of a governmental entity to assume ownership of the bridge,” stated officials at the bridge foundation. “It would have required no funds from the county or city.  The Comer Bridge Foundation, in concert with the authority, that we were asking them to form could have carried out fundraising activities and, as a government entity, been eligible for grants and other funding mechanisms.  The Bridge could have been used by movie companies for filming at a rate of up to five  thousand dollars a day.  There are many other revenue producing items that would have been available to the Tourism Authority. We were never able to convince the city or the county, despite all efforts, to create the necessary government entity to work with ALDOT on the rest of the conditions.”   Several examples of bridges that became part of a joint cooperation with a private and public sector exist in the United States, including the Sutliff Bridge in Johnson County (Iowa), especially after the bridge was rebuilt in 2012 after sustaining substantial damage in the 2008 flood. This 1896 three-span Parker through truss bridge was one of several examples of historic bridges in Johnson County alone that were saved and reused thanks to efforts by both the private and public sectors. Other examples can be found at FW Kent Park west of Iowa City.

Still, it is unclear how county officials had a change of heart, and how members of the foundation plus other proponents for the preservation of the historic bridge were given the cold shoulder and their pleas were quashed. But apparently the culture of fear factor, combined with behind-the-door politics may have played a key role in sentencing the bridge to death, without any chance to put the proposal up for a vote. A show trial where the defendant is pre-programmed to die is the motto for the bridge.

And with that, time is short; get your photos of the bridge between now and the time the new bridge opens in March- and the historic iconic bridge becomes a memory.

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To show solidarity towards the French and Lenabese and the families who were killed in a series of terrorist attacks on 13 November, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, together with sister column The Flensburg Files, will present a special logo to show support in these dark times. These logos will be used for the rest of 2015. While the photo shows the Bridge of Friendship at the German-Danish border in Flensburg, Germany, the lettering represents the colors of the French national flag.

BB Comer Bridge: Decision Day

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer
Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

Voting on the allocation of funds to restoring the bridge to take place on November 9th.

SCOTTSBORO, ALABAMA-  At their Monday working session, the Jackson County Commission agreed to place the proposal to work with Comer Bridge Foundation and NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges on the agenda for a vote on Monday, November 9. The proposal agreed to put 1 million dollars into a county account to start the fund for eventual removal of the 1930 B.B. Comer Bridge, if necessary, and to start the process of design and planning bridge preservation.

Marie Bostick of the Land Trust of North Alabama wrote today, “I just feel so helpless. I know you and so many others have fought hard to save this bridge and it is so obviously the right thing to do.  Unfortunately, if it is demolished, we will regret it. And one day, we’ll be looking for the money to build a new bridge across the river for peds and bikers.  You can just see it coming!” The Economic Impact Study showed that the trail makes economic sense for the region, with a quarter of the impacts directly attributed to the trail crossing over the Tennessee River at Scottsboro.

At this time there are no plans for the Scottsboro City council to take this matter up. However, Scottsboro City Councilman, Brent Miller stated in a response to Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF) outreach, “I’ll be glad to discuss efforts to save the bridge and request that it be added to the next work session so the council can possibly discuss adding it to the agenda. I’ll make a conscious decision based on what I believe is in the best interest of Scottsboro. I’ll be glad to discuss this issue with anyone who would like to express their opinion.” Miller’s office is located at 121 North Broad Street, one block north of Willow Street. He will be out on city business at the end of this week, but if the sign says open, he will be there. We urge citizens to talk to all of their elected officials about how to build Scottsboro using the bridge as an asset and a resource, rather than an old bridge that needs paint. Comer Bridge Foundation board Chairman, Arnold Wheeler stated, “Let’s just hope these political leaders, who have refused to get involved, will now come forward and help us, all of us, save our bridge.”

The Jackson County Commissioners can be reached at 256 – 574 -9280.
Governor Bentley can be reached on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GovernorRobertBentley, or by calling 334-242-7100 or Faxing 334-353-0004. He can also be reached on Twitter under the name @GovernorBentley.  Ask for his input in working with ALDOT to accept the counter offer to his requirement of $5 million dollars in a fund somewhere for something.

The B.B.Comer Bridge, completed in 1930, is the last of the 15 memorial toll bridges enacted by legislation in 1927 that were built by the Kansas City Bridge Company but contracted through the Alabama State Bridge Corporation. Selected for the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in October 2013, the B.B. Comer Bridge was  also included in the 2015 Places in Peril list from the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation.

Contact Charles Holderfield  with any questions: (256) 486-1940 or Comer Bridge Foundation Media at media@comerbridge.org.

For more information about the CBF and efforts to save the bridge, visit the CBF website at http://www.comerbridge.org and consider liking CBF’s Friends of B.B. Comer Bridge at https://www.facebook.com/comerbridgefoundation.

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