Locals Fight to Preserve the Frank J. Wood Bridge in Maine

frank wood bridge
Photo courtesy of the Friends of the Frank J Wood Bridge

A couple weeks ago, the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) declared the historic Frank J. Wood Bridge, a three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge with riveted connections and one-rhombus Howe lattice portal bracings to be a liability, deciding for the modernity with replacing the structure with a concrete one, to be built alongside the 1932 structure, with the old structure to be removed shortly afterwards. This was confirmed through multiple news outlets as well as the agency’s website.

In the eyes of locals, the news story is considered fake news and have an alternative news story to share, one that sheds light on MDOT’s neglect of historic structures. As the environmental surveys are going to be carried out, much of which in connection with Section 106- 4f of the Historic Preservation Laws of 1966, locals, like John Graham, a realtor in Topsham and one of the members of the committee to save and restore the bridge, are stepping up to the plate and planning to turn the heat on MDOT, to force the agency to rescind the decision and look at constructive ways to keep the bridge in service, using more than enough notable examples to go around.

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In an interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, Mr. Graham provides us with a glimpse of the historic significance of the Frank Wood Bridge, why MDOT has not taken historic bridge preservation seriously- following the path of neighboring New Hampshire- and measures that are planned to fight for the preservation of their prized historic landmark.

 

  1. First and foremost, how significant is the Frank J Wood Bridge in terms of its history and ties with the communities of Brunswick and Topsham?  

The bridge was built in 1932.  It crosses what was three natural falls, one being so high it stopped the sturgeon from going any high to spawn and was one of the best fishing areas for the Native Americans and there is recorded history as early as 1620 of settlers using it as a fishing spot.  The bridge is flanked on each side by mill building which still stand and were both in operation one into the sixties and the other into the eighties.  The mills have both been redeveloped but retain their historical nature and the three structures- the two mills and the bridge create a recognized Industrial district.  If the bridge is removed the district will no longer exist.  The bridge has been the meeting place of both towns and held Memorial day parade celebrations every year.  President Johnson crossed it in his motorcade once. Pictures of the bridge appear on numerous websites, on last year’s phonebook cover, it is the one instantly recognizable icon of both communities (Topsham and Brunswick).

  1. The bridge was named after Frank J. Wood. Who was he and how important was he to the communities/ area?

Frank J. Wood was a local farmer and paper maker- worked in the Topsham Mill.  He is credited with suggesting the current location of the bridge and died childless shortly after the bridge was completed.

A write-up on the bridge and its history can be viewed by clicking here.

  1. How long has MaineDOT been trying to replace this bridge? What are their arguments for replacing it?  

MDOT has been systematically not maintaining older thru truss bridges for decades.  The last time the bridge was painted was 1980.  They proposed removing in 2004 (?) and then again in 2015.  They have very weak arguments- mainly cost.

Note: There are some examples of historic bridges in Maine that have been taken down, solely for that reason. Click on the following bridges below:

Waldo-Hancock Bridge

Steep Falls Bridge

Bar Mills Bridge

Lisbon Falls Bridge

Sara Mildred Long Bridge

Memorial Bridge

Richmond-Dresden Bridge

Wadsworth Bridge

Stevens Bridge

Littlefield Bridge

  1. Your arguments against replacing the bridge- why should the bridge be preserved?  

Why not?  The bridge is exceptionally wide for its time (30 feet) and tall (14.8 feet).  It was built to have two lanes of traffic and a coal car trolly line down the center.  The bridge if properly maintained could be around for many more generations.  The State is rapidly losing what was once a fairly common bridge type and the location and setting of this one is exceptional.  It is also not functionally obsolete like so many are.  MDOT had a plan in the mid eighties to put three lanes of traffic across it.  It can easily handle two ten foot travel lanes and two five foot bike lanes.  Just up stream is a restored suspension walking bridge.  Maine has few economic things driving it currently and our historical downtowns and historical structures create a unique sense of place.  This drives our tourism industry and attracts both business and residence to the area.  The new “low cost” alternative does not fit the location.

  1. Maine DOT had presented four proposals for the bridge, two of which had to do with rehabilitation. Can you describe how the bridges would be rehabilitated?  Which of the two plans do most of the people favor?  

The rehabilitated bridges would both have completely new decks installed and minor repair to one bottom cord and a complete paint job.  The other alternative adds a second side walk.  It is unclear if a second sidewalk is favored or not.  MDOT has really created dialogue of only new or old and rusty. I personally do not see the need for a second side walk and look at the New Hope- Lambertville Bridge between PA and NJ as a great example of a bridge between two historical downtowns that has only one side walk and handles as many as 14,000 pedestrians in a single weekend.  That bridge is actually longer and also has a newer bypass bridge, although the bypass here is closer.

Please click here to view the page of the New Hope- Lambertville Bridge

A couple other bridge examples from Minnesota also follow the same pattern, such as the Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter as well as the Washington Avenue and Merriam Street Bridges in Minneapolis, for example.

  1. After the DOT’s decision to replace the bridge, you presented a counter-statement, claiming that the agency had not done enough to conduct feasible studies on the bridge, specifically looking at the options carefully and selecting the rehabilitation option. Can you explain further what they didn’t do that they should have done, let alone what they did which would be considered illegal in your terms?

They never have seriously considered rehabilitation and have hired a consulting firm that does not have experience in rehabilitation.  The quotes that they have made public are wildly high according to the experts we have ran the numbers by.  They have used this method to sway public opinion.  MDOT came out with a preferred alternative- the new upstream bridge before the 106 process even begin.  This is not how the process is meant to take place.  They need to hire a qualified firm to give realistic rehab and long term maintenance costs for the bridge.  The main thing they initially failed to do was to say they were going to conduct a full Environment assessment EA. They have since (this week) notified us that they now plan to do so.  If it is necessary to sue it will be after the EA is complete and the 4f process is done.  We are gearing up for the 4f process because this is the law that actually has some teeth and where we can win.  MDOT has publicly stated that it is feasible to rehab the bridge.  We had several small victories during the 106 process where we were able to get them to agree the  rehab with one side walk fit the purpose and need and that the removal of the bridge would be both a adverse affect to the bridge itself and also to the industrial district mentioned above.

  1. In light of the decision by the DOT, what steps are you considering taking at this point?

We were all fully expecting this decision as they had made it a over a year ago and we forced them to follow the law and actually do a real 106 process.  We are gearing up for the 4f and a possible legal battle there.  We are in the process of securing an engineering firm to do an independent analysis of the bridge rehabilitation costs.  This has proven very difficult because no firm in the East will go up against MDOT for they are a big client.  Many have spoken to us off record but none will actually put a report together.  We have found several from across the country that are willing.  The battle now is all in the term “prudent”.  We have forced MDOT to only rely on  life cycle costs to make this argument. Cost we believe are overstated for this sole purpose.

  1. Who else has been helping you with supporting the bridge in terms of consultancy, legal action, fundraising, meetings, etc.?

There is a core group of about 10 of us with two very generous financial backers.  We have an excellent local attorney and engineers and professors from around the country that we have been meeting with.

  1. Should the DOT be forced to rescind their decision and favor restoring the bridge, are there going to be any fundraising options, etc. for the bridge?

When MDOT is forced to maintain the historical structures they are charged with maintaining; the State and Federal government will pay for it.  The fundraising option in this case is called taxes.  That said there is talk of creating a yearly festival centered around the bridge which we would raise money for.

  1. With regard to restoring the bridge, what would the newly restored bridge look like in comparison to the proposed replacement? Would there a park area, etc.?

The restored bridge would look identical to the bridge we have but painted with a new coat of green paint.  The only difference would be the deck would no longer have metal grates down each side and would have slightly narrower travel lanes and actual bike lanes painted on.  The new bridge is a flat highway overpass bridge.  You can see pictures of both on the Facebook page.

 

  1. What is the general mood at the moment in response to the DOT’s wanting to replace the bridge?

The groups mood is one of continued optimism.  We have been expecting this day.  It is just another step closer till we can save the bridge.  The community is torn between in favor and not in favor although the not in favor have been fed really misleading information from MDOT.

While some communities and regions have stepped aside to let the DOTs and other local agencies tear down their structures, many of which had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, there are enough pocket of examples of people, like the communities of Brunswick and Topsham are working to impede the progress of MDOT, using experts from across the country to prove that just because one bridge part is bad, does not mean the whole bridge needs to come down. Instead they want to set an example for other DOTs in the US, proving that the age of wasting materials and destroying heritages is not in the best interest, no matter how the arguments are packaged and presented. It is hoped that this successful trend will force others to think about their own infrastructure and use rational thinking instead of the mentality which means, haste makes waste.

The Chroicles will keep you informed on the latest with the Frank Wood Bridge. You can also follow the Friends of the Frank Wood Bridge by clicking onto its facebook page here.

Special Thanks to John Graham for his help in the interview and best of luck in efforts to stop the replacement process, slated to begin next year.

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Section 106 & Section 4(f) Exemptions from the Exemption

Back in October, I had a chance to interview Paul Loether of the National Register of Historic Places and Christopher Marston of HABS/HAER/HALS about the policies of designating and preserving places of historic places. The NRHP has a large database of historic places, categorized based on four criteria (see the interview here), whereas HABS/HAER/HALS deals with the documentation of places of interest, which includes historical and technical aspects (see that interview here). Some exemptions apply but based on special circumstances.

But what about freeways?  How historic are they and which parts should be designated historic places?  As Kaitlin O’shea documents in this column, freeways are much more difficult to document as much of them are modern. The Interstate Highway System was introduced in 1956, ushering in the use of freeways, using the system that existed in Europe before World War II, in particular, Germany and Poland.  While historic highways, such as Route 66, Lincoln Highway, Jefferson Highway and parts of the Pennsylvania Turnpike have received some historic designation in one way or another, the Interstate highway is much more difficult to document and designate because the model used in the 1950s is still being used today, including ramps, bridges, rest areas and the roadway itself. Furthermore, the majority of the Interstate highways have been built from the 1980s onwards.

This leads to the question of whether certain exemptions can and should apply. This is where her column comes in. Have a look at it and ask yourself how an agency can and should approach this carefully.

Exemption from the exemption? If you’re in the regulatory + infrastructure world, you’ve likely come across this. If you are not, step into our world for a few minutes. By law (the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966), all projects that receive federal funding are subject to review under Section 106. Review includes identifying historic […]

via Section 106 & Section 4(f) Exemptions from the Exemption — Preservation in Pink

2016 Ammann Awards Results

MacArthur Bridge: Winner of the Best Photo Award. Photo taken by Roamin Rich

Record voter turnout for the Awards. Saxony, Route 66,  and Elvis Bridges in Kansas dominating the categories. Eric Delony and John Marvig honored for Lifetime Achievement.

Since 2011 the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has been hosting the Othmar H. Ammann Awards for historic bridges, focusing on successful efforts in preserving them as well as places with a wide array of historic bridges to see as a pontist, tourist, photographer, historian/teacher or a simple passer-by. In its sixth year of the awards, we saw records getting smashed for the most number of votes, let alone the lead changes that came about in some categories, complete blow-outs in others, thus making this race the most exciting and nail-biting in history. No matter which category you were watching, you probably saw your favorite going from worst to first in as many votes as in the category Best Photo, which saw votes in the thousands, plus a voting arms race among three candidates. We also saw some deadlocks for Tour Guide International, Lifetime Achievement (for second place) and Mystery Bridge, which got people wondering what characteristics led to the votes, because they must have been this good. For some that lucked out, the Author’s Choice Awards were given as consolation, which will be mentioned here as well.

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the results, each of whom has a brief summary:

BEST PHOTO:

This category was the most exciting and nerve-racking as we saw a battle for first place take place among three candidates:

The MacArthur Bridge in St. Louis (Taken by Roamin Rich), Bull Creek Bridge in Kansas (Taken by Nick Schmiedeler) and the Paradiesbrücke in Zwickau, Germany (Taken by Michael Droste).

Despite Zwickau’s early lead in the polls and regaining the lead for a couple days a week ago, MacArthur Bridge won the voting arms race with 38.5% of the votes, outlasting Bull Creek, which received 28.2%. Paradiesbrücke got only 16%.  Devil’s Elbow Bridge in Missouri received 4.2% with fifth place going to the same person who photographed the Paradiesbrücke but in the daytime (2.2%). The remaining results can be seen here.  For the next three months, the winner of the Best Photo Award will have his photos displayed on the Chronicle’s areavoices website (here) and the Chronicles’ facebook page (here), second place winner will have his photo on the Chronicles’ facebook group page (here), and the third place winner on the Chronicles’ twitter page (here). All three will also be in the Chronicles’ wordpress page (here), rotating in gallery format in the header.

Röhrensteg in Zwickau (Saxony), Germany

TOUR GUIDE INTERNATIONAL:

This category was perhaps the most watched by readers and pontists on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, as four cities were vying for first and third place, respectively before another city decided to crash the party within a matter of only 24 hours before the polls closed, effectively deciding the winner and third place winners. Coincidence or a plot, that remains to be seen. It is known that these five bridge cities will receive further honorable mentions in the near future. The winner of this tight race was Zwickau (Saxony), Germany, which after battling with Calgary during the competition, edged the largest city in Alberta and fifth largest in Canada by a margin of 25.1% to 24%. The reason behind that was the city’s selection of the most unique bridges, one of which, the Röhrensteg, had received the Author’s Choice Award for Best Historic Bridge Finding. There is also the aforementioned Paradiesbrücke, the Zellstoff Truss Bridge and the Schedewitz Bridge, all along the Mulde River and a stone arch viaduct near the train station. The city is worth a treat.

Third place winner goes to Canal Bridges in Brugges, Belgium, which went from seventh place to its final spot in less than 24 hours, knocking the River Tyne Bridges in Great Britain and the Bridges in Glauchau (Saxony) to fourth and fifth places. Brugges had 13.5% of the votes, followed by The River Tyne with 12.6% and Glauchau with 10.5%. Glauchau also received the Author’s Choice Award for its historic bridge find because of its many arch bridges that don’t span the Mulde, like in neighboring Zwickau, but along the railroad line and along the high road leading to the two castles located on the hill overlooking the river valley.

Beech Road Bridge in Tompkins County, NY. Photo taken by Nathan Holth

TOUR GUIDE USA:

Unlike in the international competition, this category proved to be no competition at all, for the Bridges of Tompkins County, New York, laden with various types of bridges dating back 150 years, including two iron truss bridges, a covered bridge and some arch bridges, left the competition in the dust. Even at the beginning of the race, it garnered an average of 92% of the votes. In the end, the county won an astounding 89.3%. The closest second place winner was the Bridges in Washington County, Maryland, which had 3.2% of the votes, edging the third place winner, The Bridges of Boone County, Iowa with 2.9%. Having lost the Wagon Wheel Bridge in December to demolition and removal after years of neglect, the Marsh rainbow arch bridges and Kate Shelley’s Viaduct could not compensate of the loss and therefore, people looked to its winner as their bridges are still in used, most of them after having been restored.

Colebrook Bridge. Photo taken by Ulka Kern

BEST KEPT SECRET FOR A US BRIDGE:

Some bridges deserved to immersed in water and covered in coral, used for habitat for underwater life. Others deserved to be immersed and later exposed when the weather extremities are at their worst. The Colebrook Lake Bridge in Connecticut is one that definitely is in the second category. When Colebrook Lake was made in 1969, this Warren pony truss span with riveted connections  became part of the lake bottom and a distant memory among local residents and historians. Its existence came as a surprise, thanks to a severe drought that lowered the lake to its pre-made stage and exposed this structure. Now residents and historians are finding more information on this structure while looking at ways to either reuse it or leave it for nature. Colebrook won the award in this category with 57.4% of the votes.  Second place went to the Marais de Cygnes Bridge in Kansas, one of the rarest Parker through truss bridges in the state, with 22.8% of the votes. Clark’s Creek Bridge, one of many Elvis bridges discovered by Nick Schmiedeler this past year, finished third with 15.4%, yet it was the winner in another category! More on that later. The remaining finishers had an average of 1.5% of the votes, which were a lot given the number of voters having gone to the polls.

Prince Alfred Trestle in Australia. Photo taken by Delta Charlie Images

BEST KEPT SECRET FOR AN INTERNATIONAL BRIDGE:

Australia’s historic bridges are ones that are worth traveling to visit, for many of them were built by European immigrants with ties to the bridge building and steel industries in their homeland. Only a handful were built locally. The winner and second place winners in this category come not only from the Land Down Under, but also in the state of New South Wales, which is the most populated of the states. The Prince Alfred Bridge, a nearly 150-year old wooden trestle bridge, won the race with 31.4% of the votes. This was followed by another bridge in the state, the Bowenfels Railroad Viaduct, which received 15.9% and the Ribblehead Railroad Viaduct at Yorkshire Dales in Great Britain, which got 8.7%. Tied for fourth place with 7.7% were the Isabella Bridge in Puerto Rico and the Sinking Bridge in Corinth, Greece. And sixth place finisher was the Abteibrücke in Berlin, Germany, with 6.5%, edging its inner-state competitor Röhrensteg in Zwickau and the world’s smallest drawbridge in Sanford, Nova Scotia (Canada) with 6.2% of the votes.

BEST EXAMPLE OF A RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE:

In this category, we looked at historic bridges that were preserved for reuse after being considered redundant for the highways due to age, functional and structural deficiencies and cost of maintenance. Like in Tour Guide USA, this competition was very lopsided for a covered bridge far outgained the metal truss bridges and arch bridges in the competition. The Beaverkill Covered Bridge, built in 1865 and located in the Catskills in New York, received a full makeover, using state-of-the art technology to strengthen existing bridge parts and replacing some with those of the exact shape and size. This bridge received 62.4% of the votes. Second place finisher was the Green Bridge (a.k.a. Jackson Street and Fifth Avenue Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa. The three-span Pratt through truss bridge, built in 1898 by George E. King, received its second makeover in 20+ years in order for it to continue serving a bike trail network serving Iowa’s state capital. It received 7.1% of the votes and would have soundly won the competition had one subtracted Beaverkill’s success. Third place finisher was the former Bird Creek Bridges along Route 66 in Oklahoma. The multiple-span K-truss bridges were relocated to Molly’s Landing on one side of the highway, Roger’s Landing on the opposite end, each serving as exhibits and entrances for light traffic. Bird Creek received 6.5% of the votes. Bottoming out the top six are Wolf Road Bridge near Cleveland, Ohio with 4.2%, the County Park Bridge in Hamilton County, Indiana with 3% and Houck Iron Bridge in Putnam County, Indiana with 2.4%.

Bonnie Doon Bridge in Lyon County, Iowa. Photo taken by John Marvig.

MYSTERY BRIDGE- USA:

For this category, we’re looking at bridges that are unique but missing information that would potentially make them historically significant and therefore, ripe for many accolades. Although the votes were made into one category, the winners have been divided up into those in the US and the structures outside the country.  For the US, the top six finishers originated from Iowa, with the top two finishers originating from Lyon County.  The Bonnie Doon Bridge, located along a former railroad bearing her name between Doon and Rock Rapids, won the division with 19.8% of the total votes. Not far behind is the Beloit Bridge near Canton, South Dakota, which received 13.2%. Third Place goes to a now extant Thacher through truss bridge in Everly in Clay County, which received 7.7%, 0.6% more than its fourth place finisher, the Kiwanis Railroad Bridge in Rock Valley in Sioux County.  Fifth place goes to the Pontiac Lane Bridge in Harrison County, with 6.1% of the votes. Yet latest developments in the form of photos is almost bringing the Whipple through truss bridge to a close. More later. In sixth place, we have a concrete arch viaduct built by H.E. Dudley near Richmond in Washington County, with 5.5% of the votes. According to John Marvig, that case was recently brought to a close as the now extant bridge was replaced with a steel girder viaduct in 1947.

Camelback arch bridge in Altenburg

MYSTERY BRIDGE- INTERNATIONAL:

All of our entries for the international aspect of mystery bridges were from Germany, specifically, the states of Thuringia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg.  Our first place finisher goes to the concrete camelback pony arch bridge near Altenburg. That structure was built between 1900 and 1920 and still retains its original form. Second place goes to the railroad viaduct in Grosskorbetha, located near Bad Durremberg in Saxony-Anhalt. The 1910 arch structure used to serve a local road to Wengelsdorf, but was removed in November this year, as the German Railways plan to modernize the Y-point where the raillines split to Leipzig and Halle from the south.  The Railway Station Bridge in Halle finished in third, followed by an unusual wire truss bridge in Potsdam and finally, the truss bridge at Schkopau Station, south of Halle.

Clarks Creek Bridge in Geary County, Kansas. Photo taken by Nick Schmiedeler

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

The category Bridge of the Year goes out to bridges that made waves in the headlines because of (successful) attempts of restoring them, as well as interesting findings. Our top six finishers in this year’s category consists of those by Julie Bowers and crew at BACH Steel, Elvis Bridge finder Nick Schmiedeler and those along Route 66. Clark’s Creek Bridge in Kansas came out the winner with 53.4% of the votes. This bridge was discovered by Schmiedeler and was one of the first bridges that were dubbed Elvis Bridges, meaning these bridges had been abandoned and hidden under vegetation for many decades. Clark’s Creek is a King Bridge product having been built in 1876.  Second place finisher is the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge with 18.1% of the vote. Thanks to Julie’s efforts, this 1870s structure is expected to be restored, relocated to a park and reused after years sitting abandoned, leaning to one side.  Third place finisher is the Times Beach Bridge spanning the Meramec River along Route 66 west of St. Louis, with 6.9% of the votes. This bridge was a subject of fundraising efforts to be restored as part of the Route 66 State Park Complex and bike trail. The bridge was recently given a reprieve from demolition by Missouri Dept. of Transportation. More later.  Rounding off the top six include Gasconade Bridge along Route 66 with 5.4%, Hayden Bridge in Oregon, another project by BACH, with 4.9% and Fehmarn Bridge in Germany with 3.2%. Word has gotten out that the sixth place finisher will receive a rehabilitation job, which will prolong its life by 30 years and keep its symbol as the icon of Fehmarn Island.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:

Our last category for the 2016 Ammann Awards is for Lifetime Achievement. Unlike this year, there are two winners for this prize, one emeritus and one who is the youngest to win the awards. Eric Delony, who spearheaded efforts in preserving historic bridges through a nationwide program and was director of HABS-HAER for 32 years, received the Lifetime Achievement Emeritus Award. More on his work can be seen hereJohn Marvig became the youngest pontist to win the Lifetime Achievement thanks to his efforts in identifying, photographing and working with authorities in preserving railroad bridges in the northern part of the US. Since having his website in 2010, his focus went from railroad bridges in Minnesota and Iowa to as many as 9 states. The freshman at Iowa State University received 49.3% of the votes, outfoxing the second place finishers, Royce and Bobette Haley as well as Nick Schmiedeler. Christopher Marston finished fourth with 5.4% of the votes, which was followed by Ian Heigh (4%), Kaitlin O’shea (3.5%) and BACH Steel (2.9%).

Bull Creek Bridge in Kansas. Photo taken by Nick Schmiedeler

FAZIT:

And with that comes the closing of one of the most intensive competitions involving historic bridges in the history of the Ammann Awards. It was one that got everyone excited from start to finish, and for many bridges, there is a ray of hope in their future as more and more officials and the communities have become interested in preserving what is left of their history for the younger generations to enjoy. For some profiled that have a questionable future, not to worry. If one person refuses to preserve, another one will step up in his place, just like the electors in the US elections. The interest in historic bridges is there and growing. And that will continue with no interruptions of any kind.

The full results of the Ammann Award results can be found in the Chronicles’ wordpress page by clicking here. Note there are two parts just like the ballots themselves. The links to the pages are also there for you to click on.

This is the last entry carrying the Jacob slogan. Since September 2016 the Chronicles has been carrying the slogan in memory of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year old boy who was kidnapped on 22 October, 1989 and subsequentially murdered. His remains were discovered in September 2016 bringing a 27-year old case to a close. The murderer has since been sentenced to 20 years in prison with a lifetime incarceration in a state mental hospital to follow. His house was demolished on Christmas Day. As the murder happened closer to home (the author originates from Minnesota), the Chronicles started its Ammann Awards nominations early and carried this unique slogan in his memory. To his parents and friends, he will be remembered as a boy with dreams that never came true, yet he came home to rest and now is the time to bridge the gaps among friends, family and acquaintences, while keeping in mind, dreams can come true only if we let them, and help them along the way to fulfilling them with success and respect.

From the next entry on, the Chronicles will be carrying its present slogan, which is an upgrade from its last one. Some changes will be coming to the Chronicles, which includes establishing a Hall of Fame for the bridges nominated for the Ammann Awards as well as other interesting parts that will be added. Stay tuned, while at the same time, have a look at some mystery bridges that are in the pipelines and are on the way. 🙂

2016 Author’s Choice Awards

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Boone. Photo taken in September 2010 when the bridge was closed to all traffic. It was torn down in 2016 after the western half of the structure collapsed.

While voters are scrambling to cast their last-minute ballots for the 2016 Ammann Awards by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, we have a wide array of bridges that received the Author’s Choice Awards. The awards are based on the author’s selection of bridge stories that were either the most talked about or the most unique, pending on the categories here. What is even interesting about this year’s awards is that they are being given on the eve of Donald Trump taking office as the next President of the US on January 20th. As he promised to spend billions on improving infrastructure, he has no clue as to how to allocate these funds properly, let alone specify , how these new bridges are to be built, I decided to pose a challenge to him on that to see if he’s paying attention to the needs of Americans in his quest to “make America great again.” You will see that in one of the categories…..

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the winners of these awards and their runners up…..

Most Spectacular Disaster:

US-

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Iowa

The Wagon Wheel Bridge is the tragedy story of 2016, but started in September 2015. We had an arsonist set fire to the planks which set the motion for its demise. In February 2016, floating chunks of ice in the Des Moines River rammed the western half of the bridge, tilting the already tilting cylindrical steel piers even further and creating an “S” shape in the structure. The last nail in the coffin was the collapse of one of the middle spans in March. While a pair of eyewitnesses saw the event live while fishing, neither of them were hurt.  The wrecked span and the westernmost span were removed in June, but not before saving a pair of planks awaiting display at a local historical society in Minnesota. The rest of the spans- including the longest of the 730-foot bridge- were removed shortly before Christmas.   The Wagon Wheel Bridge represented a tragedy in two parts: There was tragedy because of Mother Nature and there was tragedy because of years of neglect. While Boone County was relieved of its liability, its next step is to preserve its legacy in a form of a memorial or exhibit. That has yet to be seen.

Runner-up-

Tappan Zee Bridge in New York

During work on the replacement of the 1952 cantilever truss span over the Hudson River at Tarrytown, a crane located at one of the towers of the new bridge collapsed, falling onto the old structure, stopping all traffic in both directions for hours. No casualties were reported, but one of the propane truck drivers travelling eastbound barely missed the crane by feet! Luckily, the old structure, which is scheduled to be demolished in 2018 after the new bridge is open to traffic, sustained no damage to the super structure but minor damage to the railings on the deck the crane fell. The cause of the collapse was high winds. It was a close call and one that brings up the question of strength and effectiveness of truss bridges as they appear to be gaining favor over cable-stayed and modern beam bridges, for many reasons.

International- 

Suspension Bridge in Bali:

We had several bridge disasters on the international scale this year. The Lembogan-Ceningan Bridge was the worst of them. Built in the 1980s, this suspension bridge collapsed under a weight of pedestrians and motorcyclists who were participating in a Hindu ceremony on October 16th. Nine people were killed and scores of others were injured. The cause of the collapse was a combination of too many people, which exceeded the weight limit, and design flaws. The collapse rekindled two disasters that we’ll be commemorating this year: The 50th anniversary of the Silver Bridge collapse over the Ohio River and the 10th anniversary of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis. Both bridges had design flaws that caused their failures respectively.

Runner-up-

Mahad Bridge in Mumbai, India:

India had two major bridge failures in 2016- the Kolkatta Flyover which killed 23 people and this one, spanning the Savitri River between Mumbai and the State of Goa. This one was far worse, as the stone arch and steel structure that dated back to Colonial British rule collapsed under the pressure of floodwaters, taking with it two busses full of passengers. Nine lives were lost including one of the two bus drivers. Dozens were injured and at least 20 had been reported missing. The bridge collapse combined natural disasters with inadequate bridge design and lack of maintenance, both of which were brought up to the national government afterwards.

Biggest Bonehead Story:

US-

Broadway Bridge in Little Rock:

How many attempts does a person need to demolish a bridge? For the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, one needed three to bring down a steel arch bridge in 1987 in favor of the current suspension bridge. That bridge was 100 years old at the time of its demise. For the Broadway Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas, a multiple span arch bridge featuring a 1974 tied arch main span plus multiple span concrete closed spandrel arch approaches built in 1893, one needed EIGHT attempts! Very lame attempts to not only justify the bridge’s weaknesses prior to the demolition by government officials, but also in demolishing the structure through implosions. The bridge was finally brought down with the crane for the eighth and final time. Yet the epic failures did raise a question of whether the bridge was THAT functionally obsolete and whether the new tied arch bridge will survive as long as the downed span. I don’t think so…..

Photo courtesy of Dr. Benita Martin. Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Viadukt_Chemnitz.jpg

Runner-up-

Two-Mile Creek Bridge near Hatfield, AK:

2016 started off with the demolition of this through truss bridge over Two-Mile Creek, the last of its kind in Polk County, by an oversized truck with trailer!!! The bridge was replaced in quick time, being opened by November! Thanks, dude for your ignorance!

International-

Chemnitz Viaduct in Germany:

As part of the plan to modernize the rail track between Kassel (Hesse) and Chemnitz (Saxony) via Erfurt, Jena and Glauchau, the German Railways are trying to replace a 120+ year old historic bridge that is perfectly in good enough form to last another 120 years. Its replacement proposal: An open spandrel steel arch bridge with very little aesthetic value. Good thing the people in Chemnitz are speaking out against that proposal and for restoring one of only a handful of pre-1939 landmarks in Chemnitz. But will their voices be heard? Die Bahn macht man mobil!

Runner-up-

Eisenbahnviadukt in Linz, Austria:

Linz’s mayor Klaus Luger had it his way when he campaigned for the 1912 three span bridge spanning the Danube River to be demolished and 70% of the Linz community voted for it. However, haste made waste when one of the three spans, removed from the river and on a hydraulic lift, collapsed! That span was to be reused as part of an a plan for a park. This put the last nails in the coffin regarding any chance of saving the bridge’s legacy. Luger must’ve really hated the bridge enough to see it to a recycling complex.

Hamilton County Bridge. Photo taken by Tony Dillon

Best Use of a Restored Historic Bridge-

Molly’s Landing Bridges along Historic US 66:

While the historic bridges in Oklahoma are dwindling rapidly every year, a successful attempt was made to relocate one of the twins of the Bird Creek Bridge. Slated for demolition in 2012, Russ White, owner of Molly’s Landing found a creative way of saving the 1936 spans for their complex near the Verdigris. This led to Roger’s Landing to take the remaining spans of the bridge some time later. While the Bird Creek Bridges are no longer on Route 66, one can see them on display not far apart from each other.

Runner Up:

The Bridge at Strawtown Koteewi Park and White River Campground in Hamilton County, Indiana.

This was almost a toss-up between this bridge and Molly’s Landing. But the bridge in Hamilton County definitely deserved at least runner-up of this award because engineers and park officials managed to import three historic bridges from three different counties to form a 285-foot long super span, featuring a Pratt through truss, a Whipple through truss and a rebuilt deck girder span connecting the two spans! Indiana has been well-known for restoring and reusing historic bridges, yet this one takes bridge preservation to new levels.

Worst example of reusing a Historic Bridge:

B.B. Comer Bridge in Alabama: The multi-span cantilever through truss bridge was demolished earlier this year, after officials in Alabama rejected a proposal to even talk about preserving the 1930 span. As compensation, ALDOT offered one of the bridge’s portal bracings to be erected at a park near the bridge. If this was compensation or a strategy to save Governor Bentley’s “legacy” in the face of scandals he was facing at that time, here a simple Denglish term to keep in mind: “Ziemlich Lame!”and “Opfer eines F**k- ups!”

Photo taken by Victor Rocha. Link: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/41/Bridge_to_Nowhere%28San_Gabriel_Mountains%29.JPG

Best Find of a Historic Bridge-

US-

Bridge to Nowhere in San Gabriel Mountains (California):

California is well known for its multiple-span concrete open spandrel arch bridges, especially along Highway 101. However, this bridge, located near Azusa, can only be accessed by foot! Built in 1936, the bridge was abandoned after a mudslide blocked the key highway between San Gabriel Valley and Wrightwood in March 1938. Today, the bridge can be reached by foot, although it is seen as a liability because of a high rate of fatalities. The US Forest Service owns the bridge and has been working together with local groups on how to minimize it. Nevertheless, the bridge has a unique background worth seeing.

Lungwitz Viaduct spanning a creek and major street in Glauchau (Saxony). Photo taken in 2016

International-

The Bridges of Glauchau (Saxony), Germany:

The author visited this community in the summer 2016 and was quite impressed with its bridges. While the town is located along the Zwickauer Mulde, which is laden with modern bridges, most of the arch bridges dating back to the 1800s and earlier are located either along the railroad line, or on the hill spanning gulches and moats at or near the city’s two castles. Very atypical for a city in a river valley, where normal historic bridges would be located.

Röhrensteg in Zwickau (Saxony), Germany

Röhrensteg in Zwickau, Germany:

The Bridge of Pipes is the oldest of Zwickau’s bridges. It is also the most unique because of its design and function. It has two different truss spans- one per side- two different portal bracings and until 70 years ago, used to transport water over the river from Reinsdorf to Zwickau’s city center using wooden pipes! This was one multi-functional bridge and despite getting a much-needed facelift, one of the key landmarks people should see while in Zwickau.

Russia’s bridges:

With that, I have a “Denkzettel” for Donald Trump with regards to another runner-up, the bridges of Russia, according to the magazine Russia Today. The author there found some very unique and fancy bridges- some rolling back bridge types that had been scrutinized by many bridge engineers and politicians and some that are pure eye-openers. Donald Trump vowed to invest billions of dollars in funding to improve the infrastructure and build great bridges. How can he do that? He should use the playbook of the bridge types that have been rendered useless in the past but are being used in other countries. That means if he wants to make America great again, he needs some signature structures like the Bollmann Bridge in Savage, MD, The Hulton Bridge near Pittsburgh and even the arch bridges along California’s coast. If he continues the policies of building cable-stayed bridges, like the Kit Carson Bridge in Kansas City or the Fort Steuben Bridge near Wheeling, WV, he will make America blander and more boring than it is right now. So Mr. Trump, I challenge you to make America Great by not only preserving our American heritage and history but also build your fancy bridges that we want to see for generations to come. Put the Twitter down and get to work. Any ugliness on the landscape and we will make sure these eyesores are gone at the same time as you are, which will be much quicker than you think. If Russia and China can do it and the Europeans can preserve their past heritage, so can the United States of America, the Republic to which it stands, one nation, under God and under several prophets from Jesus Christ to Muhammad to Siddartha Buddha, indivisible, with liberty, justice and equality to all, regardless of preference.

And now to the Ammann Award results………

Interview With Kaitlin O’shea (Preservation in Pink)

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Kaitlin O’shea

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Every column needs a mascot, logo or a slogan, something that stands out in the eyes of the readers and one that shows significance to the themes we cover in society.  The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has logo with the beloved Fehmarn Bridge in Germany, and the slogan: Preserving our past for the future, bridge by bridge.  Its sister column, The Flensburg Files has a slogan the sailboat and the flags of Germany and the US symbolizing its topic on cultural affairs and current events affecting the two countries. For Preservation in Pink, their mascot is the flamingo. There is an interesting story behind this beloved animal, as will be explained by its creator Kaitlin O’shea.  A preservation consultant for a firm in Burlington in Vermont, Kaitlin has been running the online column for 10 years and it has expanded it coverage to include various forms of social media, with the goal of providing coverage on topics on preserving places of historic interests, including historic bridges. They include live examples of preserved artifacts, preservation practices and the like. Kaitlin is no stranger to preservation, as she  received her B.A. in Historic Preservation from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. and a Master of Science in the same field at the University of Vermont. In between, sheI worked for the Fort Bragg (North Carolina) Cultural Resources Program for the U.S. Army (Independent Contractor, not military), conducting a 3 year oral history project on a 10,000 former Rockefeller estate that abutted Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base, which included interviews, completed transcriptions, conducted archival research, and wrote the oral history book for the project. After obtaining her Master’s  Kaitlin  worked for the Vermont Agency of Transportation for 5 years, conducting historic preservation review of all projects. Since May 2015, she has worked as a Preservation Planner for VHB (an engineering + environmental firm) focusing on the regulatory side of preservation, except with state environmental laws.

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Pittsford Railroad Bridge in Vermont

I had a chance to interview Kaitlin about Preservation in Pink (PiP), how it has developed over time and played a role in preserving places of historic interests in the US. Given her in depth experience and knowledge in her field, I figured a little time to pick her brain and talk about preservation would give me, as well as the readers a little insight on the successes and drawbacks historic preservation is. Here are her comments to the questions I posed:

  1. What inspired you to create Preservation in Pink?

The short version. After graduating college, I missed my close preservation classmates and friends. Although I was working in historic preservation and enjoying my job, I missed the diversity of subjects from my classes and the varying conversations my friends and I would have late at night while working or studying in the preservation drafting lab. I was afraid that we might be stuck in our jobs and jaded, no longer the optimistic college students who believed in preservation and its capacity to save the world. To fill that void of conversation, I started a newsletter. The newsletter was a medium for us to share our ideas with friends and to continue to find the fun in preservation. I had experience in layout and editing and writing, so a newsletter seemed like a perfect fit. If you want the longer version, click here:  https://preservationinpink.wordpress.com/about/

  1. And what does the flamingo stand for?

The short story: In college, my classmates and I watched a video about Ashland, VA. The people in Ashland were divided over pro/anti Walmart sentiments. Those who opposed Walmart chose the tacky pink flamingo lawn ornament as their mascot. In the end, the opponents lost. And as passionate college students studying the evils of big box stores, we took this as our battle cry: We hate Walmart, we love flamingos!

From there, it snowballed. We started drawing flamingos on chalkboards, giving each other flamingo items, and even flamingo-ing our professors fronts lawns (out of love, of course). When we graduated college, the flamingo remained a symbol of friendship and our love for preservation. To this day (10 years later, we still call each other flamingos and send each other flamingo cards and tchotchkes). Pink flamingos were the whimsical, fun side of preservation.

The name Preservation in Pink references pink flamingos. I chose that name because I didn’t want it to be mistaken for a serious, academics-only newsletters. I wanted people to find preservation approachable and fun. And it was my newsletter, so I thought, why not?

A longer version of the story you can find here: https://preservationinpink.wordpress.com/2008/08/07/why-do-all-preservationists-love-flamingos/.

  1.  What was the purpose of PiP? Has that mission changed through the years?

The purpose of PiP has remained steadfast over the years, though how the mission is achieved has changed. The mission is:  to encourage communication between new and seasoned preservationists with and about the world around them. And to show everyone that historic preservation is everywhere you look and makes a positive difference in the world.

4.  When you created PiP, you had regular newsletters before switching to digital news coverage. When did you do this and why do such a change?

When I started PiP, newsletters made the most sense. Blogs hadn’t become popular yet, so it didn’t cross my mind. However, after creating the first newsletter, I realized that I needed a digital, accessible place to keep the newsletter so readers did not have to find it through a PDF in an email. However, creating a newsletter required getting articles on time from friends (whom I couldn’t pay). As the internet changed, newsletter weren’t fast enough. I wanted to be able to reach audiences on a less formal basis, a shorter format. On the blog, I could post here and there and keep people’s attention, and hopefully their interest in between newsletters.

As my writers, and I, became busier with careers or grad school, and blogs became more popular and newsletter less popular, I decided that it was time to let the newsletter go. It was an organic process. I enjoyed blogging all of the time, and a blog written mostly by me seemed more appropriate than a newsletter entirely by me.

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Proctor Marble Bridge in Vermont

5. PiP has experimented with several social apps, including that of photos. Why those and not facebook?

Over the years, the social media apps have changed in purpose, as we’ve all seen. PiP did have a Facebook page until then end of 2013. However, at that time I wanted to delete my personal FB, and I couldn’t have a PiP FB without my FB. (Maybe that’s changed, but I haven’t been interested in checking.)

I do keep the apps linked, because I know some readers use one and not the other. I do that through IFTTT, which allows an instagram post to become a wordpress post, which is then publicized on Twitter.

Yet, I do use each app for their own purposes. On Twitter, I like to find interesting stories and news, and communicate with social media friends. Instagram is my favorite app because preservation is very visual. It’s fun to see what other preservationists photograph and post, and learn about what they’re up to.

I’ve relied on Instgram to WordPress post capabilities heavily over the past couple of years. As my schedule became busier and there was less time for writing long blog posts, I could still micro-blog/photo-blog using Instagram.

  1.  What topics have you covered in PiP? 

The topics have changed as my career has changed and as I have changed, and that is quite varied as I worked in oral history in rural North Carolina for three years, and then attended graduate school and worked for the Agency of Transportation in Vermont, and now for an environmental + engineering firm, VHB, in Vermont. I’ve covered preservation news, preservation basics, preservation education, travel to historic places, abandoned buildings, oral history, road trips, preservation ABCs, guest posts, interviews with fellow preservationists…. anything and everything that can be connected to historic preservation, I’m up for writing about it.

  1. Also for historic bridges?

During my years working for the Agency of Transportation, I worked on a lot of bridge projects, and wrote about a lot of bridges: covered bridges, truss bridges, concrete bridges. I have an affinity for decorative concrete railings. I’ve written about photographing bridges, the history of particular bridges, bridges as gateways to historic districts, and I’ve posted a lot of bridge photographs over the years.

  1. While you have focused on historic places in Vermont and the New England states, you have started to “invade” Canada. Can you tell us about your adventures there? Any other countries and places in the US on your places to visit list in the future?

Your “invade Canada” observation made me laugh! My writing and my photography is, of course, going to be focused on where I live. My work is primarily in Vermont, so that accounts for many of my posts. I live in Burlington, VT, which is only 2 hours from Montreal, 4 hours from Quebec City, and 3.5 hours from Ottawa. For reference, Boston is about 4 hours from Burlington! So, by travel time alone, if I want to get to a big city, Montreal is my best bet! I love exploring new cities, and Canada has such beautiful cities. My significant other is from Montreal, which makes traveling in Canada more fun, too. He’s an excellent Canadian tour guide + travel partner.

Actually, I’ve never been out of the country, other than Canada! I would love to visit Europe: Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Ireland, Spain. In the near future? I don’t have any big trips planned, but San Francisco remains high on my list, as well as New Orleans. I love exploring the United States. One day, I’d love to take a cross-country train trip.

  1.  Word has spread that while Vermont prides itself on historic bridges, including the metal structures, other states, like Maine and New Hampshire are tearing them down systematically despite their historic significance. Can you explain why this is the case? And is this problem widespread in the US?

I can only speak to this generally. Many states (maybe most) delay necessary maintenance on bridges, which then adds to the repair cost. By the time the bridge comes up for repair/replacement/rehab, people just want a new bridge. I would say that this is a widespread problem in the US.

Covered bridges tend to be loved. Truss bridges don’t receive as much love. And concrete bridges have the worst fate usually, simply due to the ephemeral nature of concrete and the harsh climate conditions of the northeast (freeze/thaw cycles, and salt/sanding of the bridge). And the bridges that aren’t as loved, probably will not be high up on the preservation list.

While some of us love truss bridges; other people see just the peeling (sometime lead) paint and the hulking metal structure, rather than a beautiful historic structure. Sometimes this has to do with geometry and safety guidelines. Historic bridges have narrower lanes, no shoulders, or low clearances, and they are not always safe. On major thoroughfares, these bridges can pose problems. For those reasons, some bridges have to go.

  1. What could you say about the care and preservation of HB in Vermont (giving a grade, in comparison with nationwide)? Why?  (Based on historic places you’ve photographed that were not in the best condition)

ud to work for the Vermont Agency of Transportation, and proud of the work we did as an Agency, especially in the Environmental Section. While we do demolish historic bridges in Vermont (like I said, we cannot save them all), replacement bridges are designed with context sensitive solutions in mind. That means that if the bridge is in a historic district, the design will be compatible with the setting. Vermont is known for rehabilitating covered bridges, and we have metal truss success stories, too, such as the Checkered House Bridge in Richmond, VT.  I haven’t worked on bridges in other states, but I think Vermont should be proud of its work.

  1. When photographing bridges, what features are important, in your opinion? (Choose the main bridge types you’ve visited). 

Here’s my “How to Photograph a Bridge” post: https://preservationinpink.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/how-to-photograph-a-bridge/.

The most important features to me are elevation shots, context shots, and details. Details can include connections ( is it a pin connected truss? Bolts? Rivets? Hand hewn timber?) and date plaques.

12.When a person wants to preserve the bridge for reuse, what are some important aspects to keep in mind, especially when maintaining the structure?

  • What is the current condition of the bridge?
  • How will it be transported to the new location?
  • How will it be used? What does the load rating have to be?
  • Who will maintain the bridge? Is there an annual maintenance agreement? Who will pay for it?
  • Will the location benefit the public?
  1. Do you still talk history over a coffee? (I owe you one for this interview if you come to Germany, BTW)

Yes, I do! Okay, often it’s preservation over wine – depending on the time of day, of course. I will take you up on that when I make it to Germany.

14. What is your favorite bridge in VT? US? North America? The World?

Oh, that is a tough one. In Vermont, I have an attachment to the new Lake Champlain Bridge because working as the Historic Preservation Monitor for the bridge replacement project was my first job in VT. But, as for historic bridges? I’m not sure I can pick a favorite. I love finding bridges on back roads that most people wouldn’t see. The Proctor Marble Bridges (rehabilitated) is one of my favorites: https://preservationinpink.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/proctor-marble-bridge/

In the US? I love the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in New York, because I have many memories of driving over it with my parents + sisters to visit family, and later with college friends on our many routes up and down the east coast.

In the world? I’d love to see the Fourth Rail Bridge in Scotland.

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Close-up of the ballustrades of the Proctor Marble Bridge

If you want to know more about PiP, check out her website and follow her to get updates on some preservation successes and policies. You can follow PiP on twitter, instagram and other social networks. Some of her articles will appear in the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles as guest columnist.

Link: https://preservationinpink.wordpress.com/

And let the coffee-laden flamingos go wild in preserving America’s history and pride! 😉

bhc jacob

Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge

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The Gasconade River in Missouri: once populated with dozens of metal truss bridges loaded with history and charm, the river that flows past Wright, LeClare and Gasconade Counties now only has one bridge left. This bridge, built in 1924, used to carry the Mother Highway from Chicago to Los Angeles, Route 66 (officially, US Hwy. 66). Sadly, this bridge is now the poster boy of how a state, like Missouri, has neglected its bridges, both modern and historic, and does not have the money to even maintain them.

Since December 2014, the Missouri Department of Transportation has closed this key crossing near Hazelgreen, despite its historic significance and its role in the development of Route 66. The bridge features three through truss spans and a pony span, going from far to near in the picture above: one Warren through truss, two Parker through trusses, one Warren pony and one beam approach, all totaling 524 feet in length, and all connections are riveted. The closure has sparked an outcry among locals, bridge enthusiasts and friends of Route 66 to a point where a rally took place back in March, drawing in as many as 300 attendants. The main objective is to put pressure on the State Legislature to provide funding to repair the deficiencies on the bridge and reopen it to traffic. Given the sparse amount of traffic on the bridge in comparison with the neighboring I-44 Bridge, located only 500 feet away.  Information and a video of the event which includes speeches, can be seen by clicking here.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles had a chance to sit down and chat with one of the members of the Gasconade River Bridge group and Friends of Route 66, Roamin Rich, who spoke at the Rally, to find out what ideas they have to convince lawmakers at Jefferson City (Missouri’s state capital) that the bridge is a vital part of the highway’s history and should be reopened. Here’s what he has to say:

1. How significant is the bridge?

The bridge is significant in all facets.  It is a major thoroughfare for local traffic.  People in the community, farmers, emergency responders all depend on this bridge.  There are several farmers in the area that own land on both sides of the river.  They are forced to make a 12 mile detour now because of the bridge closure.  Before the closure this section of Highway (also historic Route 66) was being utilized as an incident bypass route.  So if traffic on I44 shut down, they would divert traffic across this section of road and the Gasconade Bridge.

2. What’s the history behind building the bridge?

I don’t know the history behind building the bridge other than it occurred around 1922-23.  It is unique in the fact that is constructed of 3 different types of truss designs.  (See author’s description above in the introduction)

3. What’s the current situation on the bridge- are there plans to demolish it?

The current situation is indefinite.  There is absolutely no money at all set aside for doing anything with this bridge.  I seriously don’t think they are going to demolish it even when they do come up with funding.  In talking with the chief engineer with MoDot I don’t think they want to mess with repairing it either.  A bypass bridge looks like their preferred choice.

4. How do you want to save the bridge- as a pedestrian bridge or by rehabilitation?

We would like to save the bridge no matter what happens.  We would like to see it put back into service but we are willing to accept any plan that ultimately prevents the destruction of the bridge.

5. How are you approaching the plan as far as fund-raising, etc. are concerned?

Right now we are hashing out ideas to raise funds to pay for an independent inspection of the bridge.  We have formed an official committee and plan to meet within the next 10 days.  We aren’t sure how we are going to raise funds at the moment.

6. How much money is needed to preserve the bridge?

Until our independent study is concluded we do not know how much money is needed to restore the bridge.  We are guessing between 1.5 – 3 million dollars.

7. When would you like to see the bridge reopened?

We would like the bridge to be reopened within the next 24 months.  Earlier is better, but we are being realistic.  The state has slashed highway budgets drastically.  It’s going to take a literal act of Congress to get something done.

The irony behind the interview is the fact that MoDOT is trying to cut corners by putting in a replacement bridge at any cost, which would bypass the historic bridge. Yet the envision behind the draconian replace instead of repair is that money is needed to maintain that bridge as well. Without the maintenance, the lifespan of the structure is cut in half. Therefore repairing the bridges only prolongs their lives up up to 50 years, enough time for the state legislature to garner enough funds to either overhaul the original structure or even replace it with a newer structure that has a functional and structural appeal. However, with the state cutting funding, the mentality is to let the bridges fall apart until replacement is the lone option. This is figuratively slitting their wrists and the blood of greenbacks is leaving the body in droves.  But if there is one message to give to the state through this rally it is this: This way of thinking has to change, and priorities have to change. That means fixing the bridges and restoring them have more priority than the slash and burn approach, which is costing more money than necessary. And with that, our history slips away into the books, something our society has longed ignored.

While the fundraising is in its infant stage, you can help preserve the Gasconade River Route 66 Bridge. You can click on the link in the article, where you’ll be in the Route 66 News page. Yet the group has a facebook page, which you can click here and like to join. There you can share your ideas with other members and help in saving the bridge. As mentioned above, bypassing the bridge seems to be the option, yet fixing a bridge that is only used locally would serve in everyone’s best interest. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments involving the bridge.

Enjoy the pics taken by Roamin Rich of the bridge and the Rally:

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Gasconade 2

Gasconade 3

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Valley View Trail Bridge to be Relocated

Portal view of the bridge. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa
Portal view of the bridge. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa

Bridge to become part of a city bike trail. Potential for other steel truss bridges to follow suit?

WINTERSET, IOWA- The Bridges of Madison County: Home of its covered bridges, one of a handful counties in the United States that has at least a half dozen of them. Built between 1867 and 1885, there were once 19 of these wooden housed structures spanning the North, Middle and South Rivers as well as numerous streams. Today only six of them remain, all of which are considered nationally significant, and each one has its own park and rest area to allow people to enjoy the bridge and the natural surroundings.

Madison County also has numerous truss bridges made of steel, and one of them is about to become part of a bike trail. The Valley View Trail Bridge, located four miles west of I-35 and two miles southwest of Bevington,has been closed since 2008 and has sustained significant damage to the approaches thanks to flooding that occurred in 2008, 2011 and 2013. The banks of one of the approach spans was washed away to a point where it resembled a diving board. Yet the 120-foot long bridge, constructed in 1911 by the Iowa Bridge Company and features a pinned connected Pratt through truss span with M-frame portal bracings and V-laced overhead strut bracings is seen by many locals as a rarity nowadays. Therefore the county is expanding its historic bridge heritage by including this bridge as part of a recreational complex. The plan is to place the bridge over a spillway being constructed at Cedar Lake in Winterset, which it will serve as a bike trail surrounding the lake. While costs are being calculated even as this gets posted, the county has already received funding from Iowa Dept. of Transportation (DOT) which will cover the cost for relocating the bridge.

Close-up of the approach span resembling a diving board. Photo by Mitch Nicholson
Close-up of the approach span resembling a diving board. Photo by Mitch Nicholson

The reuse of the Valley View Trail Bridge for recreational purposes has started a question about the possible use of other steel truss bridges in the county. There are as many steel truss bridges in the county as they are the covered bridges when their numbers reached its peak with 19 in 1920. Some of them have already been decommissioned and taken off the road system, yet there are some others that are approaching the end of their service, despite most of them being built during the Depression era.  The relocation and reuse of the Valley View Bridge may serve as an incentive for the county to consider reusing these bridges and bring their histories to the forefront, making the county not only the place of covered bridges, but also the place of bridges built of steel with the help of bridge builders, steel welders and railroaders responsible for molding the bridge parts in the mills, transporting them by rail and erecting them on site. With the number of truss bridges becoming a rarity, the county might have to consider this option once the Valley View Bridge is relocated and reopened for cyclists and pedestrians.

There are seven bridges worth considering for reuse apart from the successful plan involving the Valley View Bridge. These bridges are as follows:

Hatley Bridge:

Located over North Fork Clanton Creek a mile south of Limestone Rd. between US Hwy. 169 and Clark-Tower Road, this bridge is one of the shortest of the through truss bridges in Madison County, as well as Iowa. The 80-foot long Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings was built in 1909 by local bridge builder SG Hunter Iron Works Company of Atlantic, Iowa, the bridge is perhaps the last example of its kind. Yet since its abandonment in the late 1980s, the bridge has become derelict. Relocation is possible, yet it would require dismantling the structure and doing some major sandblasting before reerecting it at its new home.

Huston Bridge over Clancy Creek. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson
Huston Bridge over Clancy Creek. Photo taken by Mitch Nicholson

Huston Bridge:

Located over Clanton Creek at 282nd Trail, this bridge is a classic example of a series of truss bridges built by the King Bridge Company because of its portal bracings, as well as the inscriptions on the diagonal and vertical beams and the builder’s plaque. The bridge was relocated to this spot in 1952 and has been here ever since. The bridge has seen its better days as the decking has been removed to keep everyone off the bridge. Yet the bridge appears stable enough to be relocated without disassembly.

Fox Trail Bridge

Located over Middle River at Fox Trail (CSAH G-47), five miles southwest of Winterset, this 157-foot long riveted Camelback through truss with West Virginia portal bracings represents a great example of a truss bridge built using Iowa state highway standards introduced in 1914. The bridge was built by another Iowa firm, the A. Olson Construction Company based in Waterloo. Two dates of construction make this bridge a controversial topic: 1935 according to the National Transportation Records and 1951 according to records by Iowa DOT. The hunch is that this bridge was built in 1935 somewhere else and was relocated here in 1951. Still in use, this bridge has potential to become a National Register landmark in the next 15 years because of its unique design that is becoming rare to find.

St. Charles/ North River Trail Bridge

Located three miles north of Winterset and one mile east of US Hwy. 169 over the North River at North River Trail, this 122-foot long riveted Pratt through truss bridge features an M-frame portal bracing similar to many structures built by a bridge company Wickes Engineering from Des Moines. Yet this structure was built in 1932 by Ben Cole and Son, located in Ames, just 25 miles north of the state capital along Interstate 35. The question is whether Ben Cole did business with Wickes prior to 1932. This will require some research to find out. Yet the Wickes style of bridge is becoming rare today, for despite having an average of three of these bridges in each county, the numbers have dwindled down to just above 10% remaining in Iowa. The bridge is still in use but has some potential of being reused once its time as a full-service bridge runs out. The bridge is located six miles west of another covered bridge, the McBride Bridge, which was destroyed by arson in 1983. The instigator, who confessed to the act as response to losing his true love, eventually did social work to make up for the incident- working as a bridge inspector at a county highway department!

Bevington Park Road Bridges

Located along Bevington Park Road between Bevington and St. Charles, this stretch of highway features two nearly identical trusses, located only three miles apart. Both feature riveted Pratt through trusses with M-frame portals. Both were built in 1932 by Ben Cole. Both have similar lengths of the main spans- ca. 125 feet. And both have the same color of a rustic brown. The only difference: One is located over the Middle River just outside Bevington and south of Iowa Hwy. 92;  the other is over Clanton Creek, two miles north of St. Charles. They’re still open to traffic but once their service ends, they are potential candidates for reuse as they exemplify as early modern truss bridges built during the Depression era, using Iowa State Highway standards, which were later used in bridge building, especially during this difficult era.

Mystery Bridge at Holliwell Covered Bridge

There are as many pony truss bridges in Madison County as they are through truss bridges. This bridge is located just east of the Holliwell Covered Bridge, southeast of Winterset. Given the eyebar connections as seen in the photos taken by James Baughn, this bridge may be one of the oldest in Madison County, let alone in western Iowa. Yet as written as a mystery bridge in the Chronicles in 2011, there is a lot to learn about this bridge (see article here).  As there are three pony truss bridges already preserved as bike trails in Madison County, like the Cunningham, Miller and Morgan Bridges, this bridge would be a perfect candidate for trail use, regardless of whether it is in place at the Holliwell Covered Bridge (which would make much sense given the bridge’s value and location from Winterset), or if it was relocated to Winterset, as was the case with the Morgan and Miller Bridges. In either case, the bridge serves as a historical compliment to an even more popular Holliwell Bridge.

If these examples are not enough for people to take action and make the county an even bigger and more popular tourist attraction, then they should visit the county. After visiting historic Winterset, the John Wayne Birth Place and Museum and the six covered bridges, plus the site of the former McBride Covered Bridge, they should click on the links to the above-mentioned bridges, plan a trip to these structures, armed with a camera and some paper and have a look at them. Then start a movement to save the remaining truss bridges and repurpose them for recreational purposes. While covered bridges are one of the key symbols of American heritage, bridges like the ones mentioned here are just as valuable because of their contribution to the development of the US as a whole, and in this case, Madison County on the local level. The Valley View Trail Bridge project is just the beginning of a potentially bigger project to preserve what is left of these truss bridges. And if the county and state work together with private groups and those interested in these artefacts, then there will be another reason to visit Madison County in the coming summer months. Furthermore, Iowa just might have another completed preservation project on its long and storied resumé of preserved bridges, whose movement started with James Hippen in the 1970s and has been very successful since then.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the Valley View Bridge project as well as any other developments involving the historic truss bridges in Madison County. The author would like to thank Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa and James Baughn of bridgehunter.com for allowing use of the photos. All information are courtesy of IowaDOT, whose director, Matt Donovan is to thank for his help.

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