BOONEVILLE, IOWA- It had been touted as one of the longest multiple-span through truss bridges in the state of Iowa. Four spans with a total of over 700 feet. It was one of the last of the quadrangular Warren through truss bridges as well. Now the Booneville Railroad Bridge is all but a memory. According to multiple stories, the last span of the historic railroad bridge came down this past week after having served two different railroad companies for 120 years. The new railroad bridge, a combination concrete and steel plate girder bridge was built alongside the historic railroad bridge and opened to traffic on June 30th of this year.
It was christened the William Duggan Bridge, named after the person who salvaged the railroad when he took over at Iowa Interstate in 1989. The line had once been operated by Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad from 1900, the year the bridge was built, until its bankruptcy and subsequent liquidation in 1980. The line sat idle for four years before Iowa Interstate took over in 1984, and when Duggan took over five years later, he led efforts in revitalizing the line, which runs through central Iowa from Council Bluffs to the Quad Cities.
The new railroad bridge was needed as the truss bridge had met the end of its functional use. Two of its piers had tilted due to years of flooding and erosion. Others had cracks and were spalling. The new 661 foot multiple-span bridge will carry train traffic of up to 40 mph- double of that of the railroad bridge)- and trains will be able to carry taller and heavier loads. The $3.5 million project was half funded by the federal government through the Federal Railroad Agency through the use of Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant. It took only 17 months to build the new span. It’s part of the 20+ year project to modernize the entire line and will include additional bridge replacements in the future, including three bridges in Davenport- the 3rd and 4th Street Overpasses and the Arsenal Bridge.
The loss of the Booneville Railroad Bridge is a big one for Dallas County, as it is one that people would see when crossing the Raccoon River enroute to West Des Moines. Yet with Des Moines sprawling and the need for transporting goods by rail increasing, the replacement was needed. Whether the bridge would have been used for a pedestrian crossing instead of being scrapped remains open, yet this loss will serve as a reminder that no historic bridge is safe and that action is needed to save the remaining bridges, even those that continue to serve the railroads that travel through Iowa.
Photos and further description of the railroad bridge can be found by clicking here.