Frank Wood Bridge Raising Funds for Independent Inspector

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Go Fund Me campaign to raise $15,000 to hire an independent contractor to look at options to restore the 1932 historic truss bridge

BRUNSWICK & TOPSHAM, MAINE- Conflicts between the Maine Department of Transportation on one end and locals from both Brunswick and Topsham as well as preservation officials have reached new heights for recent public meetings regarding the future of the three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge have produced intensive strife, and locals have turned to other alternatives to ensure the 1932 product of Boston Bridge Works remains in place for years to come.

Since 30 March, the Friends of the Frank J. Wood Memorial Bridge has undertaken a campaign to raise funds for an independent contractor to conduct a structural survey and present an objective alternative to replacing the historic bridge- favoring the preservation and restoration of the structure. The contractor has had experience in restoring bridges of this caliber in the New England states and East Coast, and the cost for such an engineering study is estimated to be $15,000. To donate to the project, please click onto the link here:  https://www.gofundme.com/save-the-frank-j-wood-bridge

Every single dollar will help a great deal for the project. Already at the time of this posting, over half of the funds have been raised. Your help will ensure the other half will be raised, and the counterarguments to MaineDOT’s claim of the bridge being at the end of its useful life be presented as objectively and professionally as possible.

During the last meeting, which spawned this fund-raising effort, officials from  MaineDOT presented proposals for replacing the historic bridge using studies conducted by a bridge engineering firm that had no experience in restoring historic bridges. All the proposals presented were rejected flatly by residents and officials from the National Advisory on the Council for Historic Preservation and Maine Preservation, both of whom had requested the DOT to look at the cost for restoring the historic bridge, but was met with refusal. According to members of the Friends committee as well as locals, the meeting between both sides produced biased results and little room to comment on the alternatives to replacing the bridge, angering locals and proponents of restoring the truss bridge to a point where the committee has decided to forego the findings of the DOT and embark on this daring measure. Public sentiment for the bridge is very strong for reasons that restoring the bridge is cost-efficient and presents the two communities and their historic mills and wetlands with a sense of historic pride and heritage.  A youtube video of the bridge and the two communities is an excellent example of the willingness to fight to keep the bridge:

 

 

Furthermore, at 30 feet wide, the bridge can hold two lanes of vehicular traffic plus an additional lane for bikes and pedestrians, even though a pedestrian portion practically exists on the truss bridge.

The battle for the objective truth is getting intense and it will set the precedent for any future preservation plans for other historic bridges in the region, nationwide and beyond. As mentioned in an interview with the Chronicles last year (click here for details) , the communities will even take the legal path if MaineDOT continues to refuse to listen to the needs of the residents affected by the bridge controversy and shove its new bridge down their throats against their will. Last month’s meeting has taken this matter one step closer to the danger zone. Whether this independent study on the future of the historic bridge, which especially includes alternatives to replacing the bridge that still has years of life left, will defuse the conflict depends solely on the willingness of both sides to come away with a proposal that will satisfy everyone.

The Chronicles will continue to monitor the latest developments on the bridge. In the meantime, if you have a dime to help, take a couple minutes of your time and do the right thing. Donate to save the bridge.

 

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Times Beach Bridge: Time Is Ticking for This Historic Bridge

EUREKA/ ST.LOUIS, MISSOURI-  When tourists think of or visit the US, one of the characteristics they will mention first is The Mother Road, also known as Route 66.  Ninety years ago this year, US 66 was established, connecting Chicago with Los Angeles, passing through St. Louis, Springfield, Tulsa, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Flagstaff. It was part of the first national administration establishing the US Highway System, which was partially supplemented and partially supplanted by Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway Act, signed 30 years later. Five years after Route 66 was established, this bridge was built to accomodate traffic from this popular historic highway.  The Times Beach Bridge spans the Meramec River at Route 66 State Park near Eureka. Built in 1931 by the Frazier-Davis Construction Company of St. Louis, this riveted Warren deck truss span, based on the state standardized truss bridge design, features three main spans of 130 feet each, plus multiple approach spans, totalling 1009 feet with a roadway width of 30 feet.  Once serving US 66 until it was realigned onto neighboring I-44, the bridge used to serve traffic until the Missouri Department of Transportation(MoDOT) closed the structure in 2009. The bridge’s decking has been absent since 2013. And its future is questionable.

The Great Rivers Greenway district, consisting of local and regional organizations and volunteers in and around St. Louis and the surrounding area, is working on a project to repurpose the Times Beach Bridge into a recreational crossing, while at the same time, incorporate it into the adjacent Route 66 State Park and into a bike trail network which would extend to St. Louis to the east.  Trailnet and other organizations are helping Great Rivers in the push to save this bridge. Already, a study was conducted to determine its feasibility as a bike and pedestrian crossing, and some images of the bridge after its restoration have been presented on their website (click here). “This bridge is not only a significant and vital connection across the Meramec for walking and biking, but it is rich with history and one of the region’s outstanding cultural assets,” said Ralph Pfremmer, Trailnet’s Executive Director, according to its website. “It is prudent to seek funding, considering the generous commitment made on behalf of Great Rivers Greenway and the work already achieved on behalf of the coalition.”

Currently, the bridge is under ownership of MoDOT, and the consortium  needs to raise $1 million by 31 December, 2016 before ownership can be transferred to the state park. Additional funding will be sought to rehabilitate the structure and reopen it to recreational use. Currently, $425,000 has been allocated by MoDOT ($325,000) and the State Park System ($100,000), while $6,000 has been raised privately. $569,000 is needed before ownership can be transferred on 31 December. Failure to achieve this goal will result in the project being scrapped and the historic bridge being demolished early next year.

Several key bridges along US 66 have been restored or are scheduled to be restored in the coming years in an attempt to preserve the relects of the historic highway as memorials of the highway’s existence. They include the Chain of Rocks Bridges along the Mississippi River and its eastern channel in St. Louis, Bird Creek Bridge in Oklahoma,  Colorado Boulevard Bridge in Los Angeles, Devils Elbow Bridge, Gasconade River Crossing (both in Missouri), and the drawbridges in Chicago, just to name a few. For these bridges, problems involving ownership and liability combined with fundraising efforts were also typical at first. Yet because of their connections with the history of the communities, the Mother Road and American infrastructure, locals, historians and businesses contributed their finances, manpower and expertise to restore these structures for future use, many of them have been repurposed for trail use, while ones, like the Bird Creek Crossing were relocated and repurposed as memorials.  A book was recently written about these crossings which provides background information on how they contributed to making US 66 a great highway to travel on. It can be ordered here.

Still, there is a long way to go before reaching the goal of $1 million, yet the goal is doable and there is enough time to contribute what you can to save this bridge. If you or someone or some business you know would like to contribute to the cause, click on this link and donate.  The Times Beach Bridge is one of only four of its kind left in Missouri, but one that was part of a popular highway that people in the USA and around the world have seen and/or even travelled on. The bridge belongs to a historic site that many people would like to know more about. Let’s make America great again and donate to this bridge and preserve it, along with the rest of history along the Mother Road.

Check out the photos taken by the author during the 2011 Historic Bridge Weekend below:

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Reconstruction of Green Bridge Set to Begin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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