Route 66 Gasconade River Bridge Rehabilitation Project Being Launched

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Photo taken by James Baughn

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HAZELGREEN, MO-  The North Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA)/ Workin’ Bridges has been given the green light by the Missouri Department of Transportation(MoDOT) for a conceptual agreement to begin the fundraising efforts to actually restore the Gasconade River Bridge at Hazelgreen, Missouri. A new by-pass bridge has been designed and will be constructed in 2018 which left the historic bridge at risk for demolition. The Rte 66 Gasconade River Bridge Guardians have lead the effort for preservation and MoDOT agreed to let the efforts begin to find the funding required. Let me be clear, the historic bridge is still at risk for demolition unless sufficient funding for restoration can be acquired in the next fourteen months.

The four spans of the Gasconade River Bridge include two Parker Trusses, one Pratt truss and a Warren Pony Truss, built in 1923 and designed by MoDOT engineers. A current engineering estimate by MoDOT estimated repair work at over $3 million dollars. The Workin’ Bridges qualified engineers and craftsmen will assess the bridge for possible phased options and costs that may differ from MoDOTs assessment. These real numbers, captured as Scope of Work and Estimates are required so that informed decisions can be made, for potential grants. Work with MoDOT on a risk management plan for their new bridge and the Interstate 44 bridge is being negotiated. We have proposed a Trust Account that would be in place for a catastrophic event, as well as utilizing the interest for future biannual inspections and site and security.

Developers are also being sought for this property and any design ideas are welcome. Route 66 has always been a mecca for travelers worldwide and with this bridge repaired the potential for crossing on special event days may still be an option as engineering will return the bridge to its former function. For more information on how the bridge was saved and how we are moving forward together check out Workin’ Bridges: Route 66 Bridge Rehab on Facebook

Our goal is to raise $10,000 in funds. Those funds are for engineering and planning. Jacqueline (Jax) Welborn has been designated the Project Manager. She will undertake the outreach for donors to help with the immediate engineering and planning needs for the bridge. Contact Jax at rte66bridgerehab@gmail.com or call her at 573-528-1292.

Then our efforts will turn to finding the pledges, grants and in-kind donations necessary to reach our $3.5 million dollar goal by December 31, 2018. That money will go to repairing the piers and abutments that hold the spans up, the stringer and roadway replacement, floor beam repair. The deck, or at least a portion of the deck will be removed by MoDOT using their demolition funds for that purpose. The lead paint abatement solution is still to be determined.

Those efforts are currently underway. NSRGA has begun the process to become a legitimate nonprofit corporation in Missouri, then the bank accounts will be procured. In the meantime you can still donate at Workin’ Bridges: Route 66 Bridge Rehab on Facebook. Your donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Other questions, please contact Julie Bowers at jbowerz1@gmail.com or 641-260-1262. Check out this project and others on Facebook at Workin’ Bridges, www.workinbridges.org and become a Save Our Bridge (SOB) action figure today.

This is a press released by Workin Bridges, who granted permission for reposting. A detailed interview about the Gasconade Bridge was done with the Chronicles and can be found here.

 

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Cobban Bridge to Be Replaced: Truss Bridge’s Future Unknown

CHIPPEWA FALLS, WISCONSIN-  Imagine this situation for a second: You have an old but very unique historic bridge with a history that binds two communities together. After being built 120 years ago, it was relocated to its present site during its 20th year and remains in use until structural problems force the county to close the bridge and plan its replacement. The bridge is located near a bike trail that used to be a railroad line connecting the two communities. While the public is really attached to the bridge, the county insists on building a new bridge at its current site because the cost for even restoring the bridge is far more than just tearing it down and replacing it. Because of its history and unique design, the bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which makes funding for restoring the structure easier to achieve than it is when removing it using federal funds. Yet funding for restoring the bridge is hard to find. What do you do?

Do you:

  1. Proceed to tear the bridge down and replace it?
  2. Get a second opinion about the cost of evaluating the bridge and find ways to fix the bridge for continued use?
  3. Build a bridge alongside the sturcture and convert the old bridge into a pedestrian crossing?
  4. Build a new bridge at its original site but find constructive ways to relocate the bridge or use part of the structure- especially along the bike trail?

In the case of the Cobban Bridge, a two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge spanning the Chippewa River southwest of Cornell in western Wisconsin, the situation is very precarious, for the historic bridge, considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places because of its history and unique design, has met the end of its useful life as a vehicular crossing. Yet costs for restoring vs. replacing the bridge have forced county officials to look at other options apart from rehabilitating the bridge in place or building a new structure alongside the old one. In other words, the bridge cannot remain in its current place and must go.

Since August 2, the bridge has been shut down to all traffic including pedestrians, and talks are underway for securing funding for the bridge’s removal in place of a new strucure. This also includes looking at options for reusing the bridge, which when looking at the drone video, it’s a real beauty:

Yet inspite of its beauty, the Cobban Bridge will most likely have to make its third move in its lifetime, unless financial support for reconstructing the bridge at its current location combined with constructing a new bridge alongside the structure is realized, not just on the government level but also from the private sector.

When the bridge was first built in 1908 by the Modern Steel Structures Company, based Waukesha, the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge was over the Chippewa River between the townships of Anson and Eagle Point. The bridge was christened the Yellow River Bridge even though it was located one mile north of the Yellow River itself. Replacing the iron bridge built years before, the structure had the same features as the one at its present location: it was made of steel, had pinned connections, overhead V-laced strut bracings and a three-rhombus Howe lattice portal bracings with 45° heel bracings. Ten years later, as part of the plan to construct a dam along the river near Chippewa Falls (and subsequentially inundate the crossing upstream), the bridge was relocated 15 miles downstream to cross the same river between Cornell and Jim Falls near the village of Cobban. The bridge has been in service since then- all 486.5 feet in length; each span, being identical and having a length of 241 feet.

Despite this, planning has been in the works to replace the Cobban Bridge, even though the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge is not only the last one of its truss type left in the state, but it is the only multiple-span bridge of its kind in the country! Inspections and estimates have revealed that restoring the bridge to be reused even for pedestrian purposes would be $13-14 million. A report presented by a well-known bridge builder, AECOM (whose regional office is based in Stevens Point in northern Wisconsin) revealed that replacing the bridge on a new alignment would cost $11 million, up from an estimated $7.2 million that was figured in March 2016. If delayed until 2025, the price would be lowered from $12.9 million to $8.6 million at the site where the bridge is located. Tearing the bridge down would cost $1.6 million. Established as a conglomerate in 1990, AECOM has its headquarters in New York but dozens of offices throughout the country as well as Europe. While its specialty is designing and building state-of-the-art buildings and modern bridges, for restoring historic bridges, its only focus has been on stone arch bridges, which included Grobler’s Bridges in South Africa and the Railroad Viaduct over the Neisse in Görlitz, at the German-Polish border. County officials and supporters of the Cobban Bridge are dissatisfied with the results provided by AECOM. Yet all parties have agreed to one thing, if the bridge is unsafe, then something has to be done about it.

Because of its design and historical integrity, the bridge is elgible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, which means environmental and cultural impact surveys (especially those in connection with Section 106 of the Preservation Laws) are to be undertaken before any work on replacing the bridge was to commence. According to Marilyn Murphy, who has started a facebook page on Saving the Cobban Bridge and has over 2000 followers, the surveys are already underway. As the project will require federal money, state and local authorities are mandated to allow the surveys be undertaken to determine the impact of replacing the Cobban Bridge, while looking at alternatives for reusing the bridge. Several other agencies have been involved in looking for options for the bridge, including the Texas-based Historic Bridge Foundation, as well as the Chippewa County Historical Society. The key variable that is known, according to Murphy, is that the county would like to relieve themselves of legal responsibilities for the bridge and would gladly like to give the bridge to any third party member wishing to take responsibility for maintaining the structure, including its relocation.

So with the bridge available for the taking, what options are available for the Cobban Bridge?

In the interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, Murphy presented a long list of possibilities for reuse. This includes using portions of the bridge along the Old Abe Bike Trail, which runs along the Chippewa between Lake Wissota and Brunet Island State Parks, relocating one or both spans back to the original Yellow River site, using one span for a state park, or even purchasing parts of the dismantled span (boards or beams) as remembrances. However, as mentioned earlier, there is interest in keeping the two spans in its original spot- a practical and most logical choice, yet two variables are lacking: funding and expertise. Funding because it is likely that regardless of ownership- be it through the state with the Department of Natural Resources (which owns the Old Abe Bike Trail), private-public partnership or simply pure ownership- funding will need to be found mostly through private sources, including donations from companies and citizens. This would be needed to renovate the bridge to make it a viable crossing for pedestrians and cyclists and incorporate it into the bike trail. Expertise would mean looking at companies that have restored bridges like this for recreational use, and there are enough both in-state as well as out-of-state to go around. Even if the bridge is to be relocated again, these two variables are going to be key in order for the bridge to live on.

What needs to be done in order to prevent the demise of the Cobban Bridge?

We know that the bridge has been declared off limits for all traffic, including pedestrians and cyclists- at least until the environmental impact and cultural surveys are completed, which can take 6-12 months or more to complete (including alternatives for reusing the bridge both in place and elsewhere).  Without that there is no federal funding that can cover 80% of the costs for the bridge. There has been a lot of public support and sentiment towards the Cobban Bridge and ways to save and reuse the structure, yet the approach of doing-nothing is not an option. This was already seen with the Wagon Wheel Bridge in Iowa, and its neglect, combined with vandalism and the lack of maintenance resulted in the “Triple GAU” consisting of arson, collapse and in the end, the removal of the remaining structure in 2016. There are a lot of ideas for reusing the bridge- be it in place or at a different location (even in segments), and the county is ready to hand over the keys that will unlock the gates that have closed off the structure since August, forcing travelers to detour to crossings at Jim Falls and Cornell. Yet, like with the Green Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa, which has been reopened since the end of last year, a group or alliance will be needed that will take over ownership and assume full responsibilities of the bridge and assure that it is safe for use. And speaking from experiences of others, the going may be tough at the beginning, but after a series of fundraisers and other events to help restore and reuse the bridge, the Cobban Bridge may have another life beyond that of horse and buggy, the Model T and lastly, the Audi.

If you would like to help restore and/or reuse the Cobban Bridge, you can visit its facebook page (here) and contact Marilyn Murphy at this address: mjmurphy1970@gmail.com. She’s the main contact for the bridge and can also provide you with some other contact information of others involved with the project. She and her husband Jim were nice enough to provide some pics of the bridge for this article.  The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the Cobban Bridge and the steps that will be needed on the structure’s future, regardless of which direction it is taken.

   

2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards: Nomination for Awards Now Being Taken

Zellstoff Bridge north of Zwickau (Saxony), Germany. Photo taken in September 2017
With construction season winding down and a lot of success stories involving restoring historic bridges, now is the time to nominate our favorite historic bridge(s) and preservationists both here and abroad. Between now and the 3rd of December, entries are being taken for the 2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards. For those wishing to know about the awards, there are six categories for both American as well as international bridges where you can nominate your bridge, person or even best bridge photo.  Information on the categories and how you can enter are in the link below.
On this page, you can find the previous winners of the Ammann Awards which you can read about.   Voting will take place during the holiday season from December 4th until 6th January, 2018 with the winners to be announced on the 12th of January. The ballot will be available through The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. If you have bridges that deserve to be nominated and deserve an Award, or if you have any questions, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at:
flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.
Happy Bridgehunting and may the nomination for the Ammann Awards begin! 🙂

Historic Bridge in Washington State Available/ Catch: State Will Pay for the Costs. Any Takers?

Photo taken by K.A. Erickson in 2009 before it was replaced.

Washington DOT (WSDOT) will pay up to $1 million for the dismantling, transporting and reassembling of the 1925 through truss bridge to be reused for any purpose.

TACOMA, WS-  Sometimes historic bridges get into the way of progress and need to be replaced. This is especially true with bridges whose height, width and weight restrictions hamper the ability to get trucks and other means of transportation across.  However, before they are removed, states are required to put them up for sale so that third parties can claim them and relocate them the way they see fit. In general, the bridge program has had a mix of successes and failures in selling off their historic assets, for on the one hand, third parties wishing to purchase the historic bridge for use are shirked away by the cost for transportation and reassembly. Furthermore bridges marketed by the department of transportation are often too big or in the case of arch, beam and suspension bridges, too entrenched or too fragile to relocate. On the other hand, however, one will see in each state a success story of a historic bridge that was given to a third party. This is especially true with truss bridges as they are easily taken apart, transported to a new location in segments and reassembled. One will see an example in every state, yet Indiana, Texas, Iowa, Ohio and Minnesota have multiple examples of success stories. Even some stone arch bridges have been relocated to new sites where they still serve their purpose.

However, there is one state department of transportation that is going the extra mile to sell their historic bridge by even paying for the relocation and reassembly of the historic bridge. Between now and 2019, the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) can sell you this historic through truss bridge:

According to the information by the WSDOT and bridgehunter.com, this historic bridge was built in 1925 and used to cross the Puyallup River at State Highway 167 (Meridan Street) in Puyallup, located seven miles east of Tacoma, until it was replaced in 2011 by a modern crossing. It was then relocated on land, where it has been waiting for its new owner ever since. Washington has got a wide array of historic bridges, whose unique design makes it appealing for tourists. They have the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (with its name Galloping Gertie), the , the world’s only concrete pony truss bridge,  and a housed through truss bridge made of wood in Whitman County that was once a railroad crossing, just to name a few.  The Puyallup Bridge is a riveted Turner through truss bridge, a hybrid Warren truss design that features subdivided chords and A-framed panels. After the demolition of the Liberty Memorial Bridge in Bismarck, ND in 2009, this bridge is the last of its kind and one of two of its design left in the world- the other is a Turner pony truss crossing in the German city of Chemnitz. Normally, going by the standard marketing policy, the historic bridge is marketed first before it is replaced and then taken down if no one wants it. However, looking at that tactic done by many state DOTs, this has not allowed much time for third parties to step forward and save it, especially because of the costs involved. For some bridges, like the Champ-Clark Truss Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River at the Missouri-Illinois border, there was almost no information about the bridge being up for sale as well as a very small time window of three months, thus providing no interest for at least one of the spans. According to MoDOT representatives in an interview with the Chronicles a couple months ago, the spans now belong to the same contractor building the replacement, who in turn will remove the spans when the new bridge opens in 2019.

The Pullayup Bridge is different because of its large size and rare design, which goes along with the history of its construction. It was built in 1925 by Maury Morton Caldwell, a bridge engineer who had established his mark for the Seattle-Tacoma area. This event was important for its completion came at the heels of the introduction of the US Highway System a year later. Born in Waynesboro, Virginia in 1875, Caldwell moved to the Seattle area in 1904. He worked as a civil engineer for the City of Tacoma from 1910 to 1916 before starting his own engineering business. Prior to the construction of this bridge in 1925, Caldwell had been responsible for the construction of the Carbon River Bridge in 1921, the Pasco-Kennewick Bridge in 1922 and the Wiskah River Drawbridge in Aberdeen in 1925.  Yet the 371-foot long Pullayup Bridge proved to be one of his masterpieces that he built in 1925, thus leaving an important mark on his legacy of bridge building in the Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area. It is unknown how many other bridges were credited to his name, but from the historic research conducted by WSDOT, he was never a licensed professional engineer for Washington State and only practiced the profession for the Seattle-Tacoma area, which means the highly likelihood of more bridges having been designed by Caldwell and located strictly in north and western Washington and possibly British Columbia. He died in 1942, having been survived by his wife, Amy, whom he married in 1915, and his sister Nettle, who resided in Virginia state.

The Pullayup Bridge is being offered to those interested by WSDOT between now and 2019. The catch to this is the DOT will pay for the dismantling, relocation and reassembling costs- up to $1 million for the whole process. The only cost that the party may have to pay is for the abutments and possibly the road approaching it. The deal provided by WSDOT is a great steal for those wishing to have a unique historic bridge for reuse as a park or bike trail crossing. Even the thought of using it as a monument describing the history of the bridge, bridge engineering and M.M. Caldwell is realistic. Some parties who have called up wished to convert it into a house, similar to one of the reused spans of the now demolished eastern half of the San Fransisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which had been built in 1936 and was replaced with a cable-stayed span in 2013.  The main slogan is if you have an idea for the bridge, WSDOT can pay for it, and you can make your dream a reality. With many successful projects, stemming from creating historic bridge parks in Iowa, Michigan and coming soon to Delaware (where historic bridges were imported from other regions) to numerous bridges along the bike trails throughout the US, Europe and elsewhere, this deal to have the bridge for free, with a transportation agency having to pay for the relocation and reerection at its new home, is something that one cannot really afford to miss out on.

If you are interested in this unique historic bridge, please contact Steve Fuchs at WSDOT, using this link, which will also provide you with more information on this structure. The agency is also looking for more information on M.M. Caldwell and other bridges that he may have designed and contributed to construction. If you know of other bridges built by this local engineer, please contact Craig Holstine, using the following contact details:  holstic@wsdot.wa.gov or by phone: 360-570-6639.

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Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge Restored- To be Part of Local Park Trail

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Springfield Bridge at sunset. Unless noted, photos taken by Workin Bridges and BACH Steel for press release use.

Historic Bowstring Arch Bridge Restored after a nearly one-year project to relocate the structure to a city park. Dedication ceremony on 23 September in Conway.

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CONWAY, ARKANSAS- Bridge crews and preservationists are celebrating the rebirth of one of the oldest surviving historic bridges in Arkansas. The Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge is back in use after a record-breaking stint, which featured the disassembling, relocation, restoration and rassembling of the 1871 structure, a product of the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio, all within a span of ca. nine months! Usually, such projects last between 1-2 years, pending on the truss type, length and width and the way it should be restored. For other bridges, such as arches, suspension bridges and viaduct, it may take up to five years, pending on how it is restored.  The Springfield Bridge, with its main span of 146 feet and a width of 12 feet, is one of the longest of its kind built by King that is left. However when looking back at the bridge before its relocation from the Faulkner-Conway county line to Conway City in November 2016, it presented a totally different picture- a rather sad one when looking at it through the lens of Julie Bowers of Workin Bridges and Nels Raynor of BACH Steel.

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Springfield Bridge before its relocation. Photo taken by Julie Bowers

Workin’ Bridges is a non  profit organization based in Grinnell, Iowa that is dedicated to historic bridge preservation, and Bach Structural and Oranmental Steel (BACH Steel) of Holt, Michigan. Six years after the completion of a study by Raynor and Bowers , the historic bridge restoration project was successfully completed. The success was due to a rare collaboration between the City of Conway, Faulkner County, and Dr. Ken Barnes of the Faulkner County Historical Society who was essential in the writing and successful grant application and petitioning the City of Conway to find a place to move the bridge. Permission to move was granted by the National Park Service for this structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A dedication to the restoration and future of this iron bowstring will be held Saturday, September 23rd at 10:00 am  at Beaverfork Lake Park in Conway, Arkansas.

The iron truss was fabricated in 1871 and erected in 1874 over E. Cadron Creek between Faulkner and Conway Counties as the first and oldest highway bridge built for farm to market requirements by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The bridge restoration was funded by City of Conway tourism dollars used for parks, Faulkner County equipment, expertise and  funds for the extra crane, with the help of Metroplan which allowed the restructuring of grant funding to allow preservation to move forward.

The bridge was removed from the Cadron in November of 2016. The BACH Steel  Rivet Gang went to work with the disassembly and marking the members for transportation to a paint removal company in Little Rock, managed by Snyder Environmental. Workin’ Bridges was then given the job of designing the new substructure at Lake Beaverfork, engineered by James Schiffer of Schiffer Engineering Group of Traverse City, Michigan.

Once the caissons were designed, drilled, formed and poured,  and covered with riveted columns repairs to the bridge trusses began. Nels Raynor of BACH Steel is the premier bridge restoration craftsman throughout the United States that specializes in restoring bridges the old fashioned way. “In Kind” restoration means that parts are replaced with similar parts, rivets replaced with rivets and if new parts are required they are fashioned with care. When asked Raynor stated: “This one stands out as one of the most beautiful. I wish there were more people like those of Conway and Faulkner County. Those who wish to protect and save their hesitate. It’s part of my life’s work to preserve those structures. My company has been bless with finding those with the same passion inmy partners Derek and Lee Pung, Andy Hufnagel and Brock. Behind the scenes we have my daughter Heather Raynor, Nathan Holth and Jim Schiffer. We want to thank everyone for giving us the creative freedom to make this one of the most memorable and beautiful bridges we have ever been involved with.”

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Close-up of the work done on the bridge, which includes new decking and railing, plus restoration that is in-kind.

Jack Bell, Chief of Staff for the City of Conway, Mark Ledbetter, Director of Roads for Faulkner County, Steve Ibbotson, Director of Parks for the City of Conway and Judge Baker were the team that provided the collaborative efforts to make this a successful project. They teamed up for all of the site requirements, from building a road and crane pad to the old location on Cadron Creek, to building the roads and crane pad for the reset at Lake Beaverfork. They utilized reclaimed stone from the original abutments to sculpt the new location with retaining walls and provide a bench for viewing. Bell said, “The partnership between Workin’ Bridges, BACH Steel, Faulkner and the City of Conway was essential to bring this project to fruition.  A significant piece of Faulkner County history has been saved and an iconic amenity has been added to our Parks system.”

New railings, as required by law, were designed by Raynor and company, who were able to provide historically accurate laced and riveted railing, using requirements for today’s pedestrians. The rail was then sent to Conway, where the local historical society teamed up with Workin’ Bridges to  promote the “Paint the Rail” campaign. The campaign successfully contributed the funds needed to coat the rail, using a PPG product delivered by Furgerson Brothers Painting.

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Nels Raynor answering questions from reporters.

The restoration will be featured in a documentary filmed by Terry Strauss of Ultimate Restorations and should be available for viewing on PBS and through Amazon Prime in the fall of 2017. It will be featured in a later article provided by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.  The project was also documented by Workin’ Bridges with the aid of Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org. The bridge was built by craftsmen and the record of their work, the “craftsman’s record” was evident in each cast and riveted piece in the bridge said  Raynor. “To think that this all started six years ago with a site visit to Arkansas with my son Brock and Bowers with Workin’ Bridges. What this bridge has become today is just amazing to me and I have been involved with many bridge projects”.

It is a testament to the fact that we work better together, always have. The collaboration made a very big bridge project manageable, and used resources in a way that reduced time and material cost”, stated Bowers from her office in Holt, Michigan. “One never knows if a site visit that renders real numbers for project evaluation will become a job. These bridges take a lot of time, craftsmanship and money, but in the end it is all about making memories. The collaboration worked well and rendered a project that could have cost far more into an affordable package for the parks system.”

More information about the bridge, pictures from the process can be found at Springfield Bridge on Facebook. Questions may be directed to Julie Bowers at jbowerz1@gmail.com. The Chronicles would like to congratulations to Julie, Nels and the rest of the crew for bringing a relict back to life. Thanks to you, you’ve just given people a chance to learn more about the history of Conway County, King and American infrastructure. 🙂

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

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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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Mystery Bridge Nr. 83: The Twin Bridges of Salisbury, CT

salisbury ct bridges
Postcard courtesy of Dana and Ray Klein

After some time looking at the mystery bridges in the German state of Saxony, our next Mystery Bridge takes us back to the United States and the community of Salisbury in northwestern Connecticut. With a population of 3655 inhabitants, the town, incorporated in 1741, is part of the New York Metropolitan Region, which encompasses the entire state. Salisbury is laden with many historic buildings dating back to the time of its incorporation, some are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Because of its proximity to Mount Frissell in Massachusetts, the community is situated on the highest point in the state, with an elevation of 2380 feet above sea level. And lastly, the community has six lakes and several ponds. And with that come many bridges, although in high numbers.

And with the high number of bridges in the community, come the difficulties of finding rare structures and mystery bridges with missing information, like these two bridges in the postcard above.

Posted recently on bridgehunter.com by Dana and Ray Klein, one can see clearly that the bridge on the left was for pedestrians- on the right for horse and buggy and later, the Model T cars. The setting is around the turn of the century because of their design and appearance. Given the high number of trees and the given facts above, the twin bridges spanned a waterway connecting a pair of lakes and/or ponds. The question here is where exactly the bridge is located.

A closer look at the two bridges show that the material used for construction was clearly iron (most likely, cast iron), for two reasons:

  1. The pedestrian bridge features a curved design, namely curved endposts, and appears to have some artistic designs on the trusses, similar to the ones found at Central Park in New York City. These bridges were built in various areas between 1865 and 1880. It’s unknown what exactly the truss type was given the transversal view in the postcard.
  2. The vehicular bridge featured a Parker pony truss span, using the earliest design by C.H. Parker when it was patented in 1884. The connections were pin-connected, but unlike other regular Parker designs built after 1890, the upper chord consists of eyebar beams built in short lengths per panel with four or five put together. The vertical and diagonal beams are integrated into this mechanism and pins are used to connect all of them. In the picture, you can see how far apart they are, in comparison with conventional pin-connections, whose vertical beams are inserted into the upper chord, and pins are used solely for the diagonal beams. When Parker introduced his design, wrought iron was already being used, even though it was being phased out in favor of steel because of its flexibility and tolerance to heat. From 1890 onwards, all truss bridges were being built using this material. Therefore, because iron was used for circular designs and ornaments, in comparison to steel used for other geometrical shapes, such as rectangular ones, the bridge was built between 1885 and 1890.

Both bridges are long gone, but it would be curious to know the following questions:

  1. Where were the bridges located?
  2. When were the bridges built? The Parker was most likely between 1885 and 1890, while the pedestrian span was built before 1885.
  3. Who built the bridge?
  4. What were the dimensions of the two bridges?  For both, it appears to have the length of between 40 and 70 feet. The pedestrian span had a width of between 10 and 20 feet; the vehicular one, between 15 and 25 feet.
  5. When were they removed? Most likely because of the progressive development of the infrastructure combined with population growth, they were gone before 1960 latest, unless they were relocated. If relocated, where could one see the bridge today?

Do you know about the bridges, then send the author a line or post the information on the Chronicles’ facebook page. You can also comment on bridgehunter.com, where the postcard came from. In either case, we would like to know more about the structures.

So happy bridgehunting! 🙂

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