Now, the bridge is staying put, but will be the centerpiece, crossing over the Blue Earth River connecting two of Mankato’s largest parks.
The 148-year-old historic iron structure will span the Blue Earth River between two of the city’s largest parks, providing a pedestrian and bike crossing that also will fill a gap in the local trail system, and create a vital link between the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail on Mankato’s northeast side and Minneopa State Park to the southwest. “From an engineering perspective, it’s an exciting project, but it’s also one that’s great for our community and the region on whole,” said Assistant City Engineer Michael McCarty in an interview with the Mankato Free Press. He was in charge of putting together the winning application in an eight-way competition for the one-of-a-kind bridge. Four finalists had submitted full applications to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) for the structure. Aside from Mankato, the other three finalists came from Watonwan County, Fergus Falls and Sherburne County. “It was a close race. The applications were all really good,” said historian Katie Haun Schuring of MnDOT’s Cultural Resources Unit, one of the members of the steering committee of engineers and historians that ultimately decided Mankato’s plan was the best. “… All of the locations would have been good. I think Mankato’s just rose to the top after a lot of great discussion.”
The decision to keep the Kern Bridge home made a lot of sense as the last surviving bridge of its kind in Minnesota is also one of the Blue Earth County’s “Seven historical wonders” when it comes to architecture that had shaped the county in the past 150 years. Furthermore, the county is diverse in the number of different types of bridges that still exist and can be seen today. They include the Dodd Ford Bridge and, the Maple River Railroad Truss Bridge both near Amboy, as well as a Marsh arch bridge and the Red Jacket Trestle. Another truss bridge, the Hungry Hollow Bridge is sitting in storage and awaiting reuse elsewhere. When people think of Blue Earth County and bridges, the Kern Bridge would definitely go on top as it was the structure that spearheaded efforts by other engineers to leave their marks over rivers and ravines while expanding the network of roads and railroads that connected Mankato with Minneapolis and other points to the north and east.
Along with the wrought-iron bridge, now disassembled and stored in shipping containers, Mankato will be receiving federal funding that will cover 80% of the $1.8 million cost of reassembling it. According to the Free Press, numerous regulatory hurdles will need to be cleared because of the historic nature of the bridge, the need to build piers in the Blue Earth River, the existence of the flood-control system in the area, the design work on the bridge approaches, and the regulations related to federal funding. The Kern Bridge will be the main span over the river but will be flanked by steel gorders which will make the historic structure the centerpiece for the two parks. If all goes well, the bridge will be back in service by 2024 but as a pedestrian and bike crossing.
And while its 150th birthday celebration will most likely be in storage, the reestablishment and reopening of the longest bowstring arch bridge, combined with its reinstatement as a National Landmark, will serve as a much-deserved belated birthday gift in itself. Even the best things come if we wait long enough and work to make it happen. 🙂
The Kern Bridge finished second in the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Bridge of the Year because of the efforts to save the structure from its potential collapse.
The news came just as the Newsflyer podcast was released. To listen to the other news stories, click here.
GLENCOE, MINNESOTA- When visiting McLeod County in 2011, rumors had it that the county had no more truss bridges. The last one had been taken down near Lester Prairie three years earlier. SInce my visit, two more truss bridge spans were discovered by local highway officials, including this one, the Koniska Bridge. The five-panel Pratt through truss bridge spans the South Branch Crow River and can be seen from the County Highway 11 bridge, a half mile away. Built in 1904 by William S. Hewett, one of the members of the Minneapolis School of Bridge Building, the bridge is 90 feet long, has A-frame portal bracings and is pin-connected. The bridge was once part of the village of Koniska, which had been abandoned before the bridge was replaced and left abandoned in the 1960s. Since then, it has sat quietly in the wilderness.
That is until now. Crews are planning to remove the bridge sometime in the fall or winter for safety reasons. The bridge’s decking is wooden but it’s rotting. The structure is rusting but there is no word on how bad. Bottom line is the avoidance of liability issues. It is unknown whether the bridge will be scrapped altogether or will be in storage for possible reuse. But as records indicate it was a Hewett truss, there is a chance to take the structure and relocate it for reuse. Furthermore, like another Hewett truss bridge in Mazeppa, it has the potential to be listed on the National Register.
If interested in the truss bridge, contact the McLeod County Highway Department in Glencoe. The contact details are here.
123-year old through truss bridge sent to the scrap yard.
Millbrook, Illinois- The bridge was the last of its kind in the county. It was a perfect fit as a hiking trail, a centerpiece for the village of Millbrook. Now the historic Millbrook Truss Bridge is no more.
Crews demolished the three-span through truss bridge on Monday, thus putting an end to all the talk of saving the structure. At the time of this post, crews are removing the truss parts and the stone piers that had held the structure in place for 123 years. The cost for the bridge removal is expected to be at $476,000 with the county and the forest preserve, where the bridge is located, expected to share the expense.
The Millbrook Bridge was built in 1897. One of the truss spans was replaced in 1910. It had served traffic until its closure to vehicles in 1984 and finally to pedestrians in 2015, following an inspection that deemed the bridge was unsafe for use. Talks of trying to save the bridge by handing over ownership and sharing the costs for rehabilitation failed to bear fruit due to liability concerns, something neither Kendall County, the forest preserve nor the Village of Millbrook were able to afford.
With the Millbrook Bridge gone, there are no more truss bridges in Kendall County and only a handful of historic bridges dating back to the 1920s remain in the county. Yet with the progress on its infrastructure with new roads and fewer railroads in operation, it is expected that the remaining historic bridges will be gone within a decade, thus making the county an HB-free state, one of an ongoing, increasing number of US counties that are following the trend. Sadly though, the new structures in place will be due for rehabilitation in 10-15 years, resulting in the question of whether this senseless progress of modernization was worth the price. It may be the case with the fall of the Millbrook Bridge in the short term. In the long term, one will be asking whether it was necessary.
To view the photos of the (demolition) of the Millbrook Bridge, click here to see the bridge before and after the demolition.
MANKATO, MINNESOTA- The longest bowstring arch bridge in the United States and second longest in the world is available for reuse. The question is who has some ideas for the structure? The Minnesota Department of Transportation is soliciting interest in the purchase and relocation of the Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge, which had spanned the Le Seuer River on Township Rd. 190 south of Mankato between now and August 31st.
According to information on the MnDoT website, the bridge must be rehabilitated to meet historic standards as stated in the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Projects. The restoration project must comply to the guidelines of both MnDOT and the Federal Highway and Safety Administration. Currently, costs for reconstructing and restoring the historic bridge is estimated to be at approximately $1.5 million. Fortunately, federal funding is available to cover 80% of the costs for the whole project, which means 20% must to brought up by the party owning the bridge. The bridge has currently been delisted from the National Register, yet it can be re-listed once the structure is reconstructed and reopened for use.
Letters of intent are currently being collected by cities as well as county and state agencies, with cities having 5000 of less inhabitants being required to have a county sponsor. At present two suitors are in the running, both cities and both outside Blue Earth County, where the bridge once stood for almost a century and a half: Fergus Falls in Otter Tail County and North Mankato in Nicollet County. Both plan to have the structure span a body of water and be used as a pedestrian bridge. It is unknown who else is interested in acquiring the structure at present.
If you are interested in acquiring the bridge, you should click onto link that will usher you to MnDOT’s Historic Bridge website. There, information, contact details and applications are available. The Letter of Intent is to be submitted by no later than 31 August. Applications for the bridge must then be filled out and the deadline is 30 September.
We have seen many bowstring arch bridges being reused for various recreational purposes. The Freeport and Eureka Bridges in Winneshiek County, Iowa are now picnic areas in parks. Springfield in Arkansas and Paper Millin Delaware are now pedestrian crossings. The interest in reusing the Kern Bridge as a crossing for pedestrians and cyclists is strong among those in Minnesota and beyond who wish to see her in action again. The question is where will it go and how will it be reused?
The story of the bridge’s fate is unraveling and we’ll keep you posted……
SELMA, ALABAMA/ WASHINGTON, DC- Washington and the US are in mourning as the country lost a key player in the equal rights movements.
John Lewis, the revered civil rights pioneer who represented Georgia in Congress for nearly 35 years, died Friday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old. He had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer since December last year.
Lewis became an icon of the 1960s civil rights movement through his leadership alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and others in the non-violent protest movement and landmark peace marches of the era. He was a notable speaker at the 1963 March on Washington and in the consequential 1965 march in his native Alabama depicted in the 2014 film, “Selma.” On that day, March 7 1965, Lewis, along with fellow activist Hosea Williams led 600 people across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where they were met with a line of Alabama State Troopers. Despite the peaceful protests, the state troopers moved in with tear gas and night sticks and assaulted as many protesters as possible. Lewis was one of the 17 who were seriously injured, suffering from a broken skull. A similar protest at the same bridge two days later resulted in one person being killed and dozens more injured. The protests became a crucial point as the Voting Rights Law was passed on August 6th of that same year. In 2009, Lewis received an apology from one of the anti-protesters for assaulting him during a Freedom Ride Protest in 1961. Two years later, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, the site of the Bloody Sunday riots, has been a focus of a renaming campaign. The multiple-span arch bridge with a steel through arch main span was built in 1940 by Hensen Stevensen and spans the Alabama River at US 80. It was named after Edmund Pettus (1821-1907), a US Senator from Alabama who fought on the side of the Confederacy during the Civil War and later became a leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Petitions to change the name in 2010 and 2015 failed to bear fruit because of the fact that it would not change much for racial relations between the blacks and the whites. Yet since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th and the subsequent violent protests that followed, another petition has started, which calls for dropping the Pettus name and naming it for the late Senator Lewis. At present, hundreds of thousands of people have signed the petition, calling for the bridge to be renamed in Lewis’s memory. Whether the historic bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2013, will be honored for Lewis remains open, for even though the movement is gaining nationwide, despite the spikes Corona Virus infections, it has been met with opposition- even from President Donald Trump.
In an interview with CBS News, the President’s response to the question of why more and more blacks are being killed, his response came with “So are whites; more whites than blacks.” Trump has also opposed the removal of Confederate statues and statues of people who have had a role in racial confrontations and has even proposed jail time to those who remove or even deface statues. Still, with the wind of change blowing clearly in favor of Joe Biden, his challenger in the 2020 Presidential Elections and with many measures to reimage America by eradicating team names, reimaging products like Uncle Ben’s rice and Aunt Jemina syrup and rewriting American history by looking critically at several key figures because of their dark pasts, it’s becoming clear that America wants to reinvent itself by becoming the country that welcomes people from all around the world, using key figures like John Lewis, as examples for the struggles that everyone had in creating a home and an identity in the country- to enjoy the riches of life just like the rest. It will become clear, even after the Presidential Elections on November 3rd that there will be no stopping the change, regardless of whether Biden or Trump take the Oval Office.
Lewis leaves behind a son, John-Miles. His wife Lillian died on New Year’s Eve in 2012. Yet he leaves behind a legacy that America is pursuing in his honor. He left a lot of quotes for people to remember him by. This is one of them:
I say to people today, ‘You must be prepared if you believe in something. If you believe in something, you have to go for it. As individuals, we may not live to see the end.’
Calls are being given to all drivers to obey weight and height limits on bridges after historic bridge collapses in Nova Scotia, Canada
CANSO (NOVA SCOTIA), CANADA/ REDWOOD FALLS (MINNESOTA), USA- Government officials on local, state and national levels are urgently calling on truck drivers to beware of weight and height restrictions on bridges before crossing. This includes crossing bridges with overhead coverings, such as through truss bridges and covered bridges, but also light weight bridges and underpasses.
This is in response to an incident that happened yesterday in the town of Canso, in the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia. There, a semi truck tried to cross the Canso Truss Bridge, a riveted Pratt through truss bridge connecting Durell’s Island with the main land. The truck made it halfway across the structure when the decking gave out and the trusses folded like a deck of cards, sending the truck and the driver 7 meters into the water. The driver was taken to the hospital for injuries. Another person who guided the truck onto the bridge got off before the collapse happened. A video and a link to the article about the incident is below.
The bridge, which was the main link to the island was scheduled to be replaced because of its age and structural obsoleteness. Workers had been doing some prep work for a new bridge built alongside the nearly century old structure. A temporary crossing is in the works, yet ferry service has been made available for the island’s residents.
The incident came as officials in Redwood and Renville Counties in Minnesota recently installed “headache” bars at another historic bridge. The Gold Mine Bridge is a Parker through truss bridge spanning the Minnesota River at county highway 17 near the village of Delhi. It was one of two known surviving works of German engineer- later politician, Lawrence H. Johnson, who built the structure in 1903. Truck drivers have reported to have crossed the bridge despite it having a five ton weight limit. Currently, nearby bridges at county highways 6 and 101 are being rebuilt. A bar with the height of 8.5 feet (2 meters) has been erected at both ends of the bridge and a speed limit of 10 mph has been enforced.Truckers needing to cross the Minnesota River are urged to use the Hwy. 71 and 19 Bridges at Morton.
Bridge collapses as a result of disregarding weight and height restrictions are nothing new, for an average of 25-30 bridges worldwide have either been severely damaged or totally destroyed- a third of which come from the United States and Canada. Truckers have complained of being dependent on the GPS system and finding short cuts, yet part of the problem stems from the lack of education, in particular math and sciences, that has become important for all businesses in general. Truckers need it to understand weight and gravity, but also to calculate the difference between convenience versus safety. Other factors like working conditions with poor pay must also be taken into account. While many are annoyed that these bridges have restrictions and signs are needed to inform them, as one engineer stated in response to a collapse of another historic bridge in Iowa in 2017: Signs are there to save lives.
Tips on how to avoid areas, including bridges, that are restricted can be found in an interview done in 2015, which you can click here.
SCHLUNZIG/ MOSEL/GLAUCHAU (SAXONY)- When driving on Highway B 93 between Glauchau and Zwickau, one will see its H-shaped towers. When biking along the Mulde Bike Trail, one will be amazed at the red, white and blue colors the bridge has to offer, its sleek, cable-stayed design and how it is well-integrated into the landscape. A platform offers a splendid view of the River Zwickau Mulde. A picnic by the bridge in the field, wonderful. A photographer’s dream. For a bridgehunter, another of many suspension bridges to see along the river and to write about. For the town of Schlunzig, an icon that replaced a communist era structure that was bland, worn out and no longer able to carry today’s traffic. For commuters looking for a short cut to the VW company in Mosel, they got their route back.
Since last Friday, the Schlunzig CSB has opened to all traffic. At the cost of 7.5 million Euros, the town of Schlunzig got more than what it bargained for, when it replaced the 60+ year old bridge with the structure that appeals to all commuters and tourists. That structure, which was torn down when the realignment project started in March of this year, had sustained extensive damage due to the 2013 floods, making rehabiltation unrealistic. It took over three years to complete the bridge, part of it had to do with the delay in the shipment of cables but also with the winter weather in 2017-18. Covid-19 helped make up for lost time due to next to no traffic plus safety precautions needed to ensure the workers were not infected. In the end, we have a four-lane bridge. Of which we have two for cars which can now cross at 50 km/h (before the old structure was torn down, it was only 30). The outer lanes are for bikes on the south side, and pedestrians on the north side. As a bonus, the bridge is lit up at night. One photographer had some evidence in his photos submitted to Glauchau-City’s facebook site:
While the grand opening only had a handful of people due to Covid-19 and the social distancing guidelines, for district administrator, Christoph Scheurer, this is his third bridge over the Zwickau Mulde that he opened to traffic in his nearly 30 years working for the District Zwickau. For him, this is the most beautiful of the bridges, according to a statement in the Free Press.
Having traveled there with my family for Children’s Day, I have to agree. I’ve seen virtually every bridge, including the suspension bridges along the Zwickau Mulde in the four years of bridgehunting in this area. While many cable-stayed bridges are considered hideous by many in the pontist community, I find this bridge is one of the fanciest of the modern bridges I’ve seen in Germany to date. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it does need to have a design that will conform to the landscape and city scape. Concrete beam bridges don’t have that taste, which was one of the factors that led to this design being chosen. The bridge will be competition with the likes of the Lunzenau Pedestrian Bridge, as well as bridges in Wolkenburg, Wechselberg and Rochsburg in terms of their design and tourist appeal. But it will also serve as a complement to the structures that have existed along the Mulde for at least a half century, including the Paradiesbrücke and Röhrensteg in Zwickau, the Göhren Viaduct, and the Grimma Suspension Bridge, just to name a few. With a wide variety of structures spanning over three centuries, the bridges along the Zwickau Mulde is becoming a major attraction for bridgehunters, cyclists, tourists and passersby alike. One day a book will have to be made on them and their history. Chances are more than likely it will be a smash hit, especially if written in German and English. 😉
And after designing some bridges for T-shirts, this bridge will be the next one to add and some ideas for it I have. Stay tuned. 🙂
Over 115-year old crossing over the Zwickau Mulde will be torn down beginning June 6. Replacement Bridge to be completed by End of November
LUNZENAU (SAXONY), GERMANY- One can see the bridge from the Göhren Railway Viaduct. The structure and the viaduct itself were once a photographer’s dream, especially because of its unique setting along the River Zwickau Mulde. Now the historic Waldcafé Bridge will become a memory.
The Waldcafé Bridge is a single span stone arch bridge with open spandrels resembling mini-arches. It was built in 1904 and has a total length of 60 meters and a width of 7 meters. The bridge carries State Highway 242. The bridge was recognized in the book Steinbrücken in Deutschland (Stone Bridges in Germany), which has a short summary on the historic structure. It was also listed as a technical monument by the Saxony Ministry for the Protection of Historic and Cultural Places (Denkmalschutz).
Workers are prepping for the removal of the historic bridge and replacing it with a more modern structure. After installing a temporary footbridge over the river, the bridge will fall victim to the diggers. The project to replace the span will last from now until the end of November, pending on the situation with the weather and the Corona Virus. The footbridge will provide direct access to the Waldcafé from the parking area on the southern end of the bridge, which will be a relief for business owners who had already taken a hit from the loss of customers because of Covid-19 but also the cyclists who otherwise would have been forced to detour via Lunzenau or Wechselberg. The cost for the whole project is estimated to be at approximately 220,000 Euros.
When work on the new bridge is finished, tourists and commuters will see a modern bridge that is wider and safer for use. Yet its historic flavor will be missed, Especially if one sees the new structure from the viaduct.