2013 Ammann Awards Results Part I

Dodd Ford Bridge spanning the Blue Earth River near Amboy, Minnesota. One of many historic truss bridges profiled and considered historically significant by Bob Frame, winner of the 2013 Lifetime Legacy Awards. Photo taken by the author in September 2010

Robert (Bob) Frame III elected overwhelmingly for Lifetime Achievement; same result for Riverside Bridge (Ozark, Missouri) for Best Preservation Example. Halle (Saale) and Flensburg (Germany) numbers one and two respectively for Mystery Bridge.    

Run-off vote for Spectacular Bridge Vote underway. Results expected on Friday.

For this year’s Ammann Awards, presented by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, there is a first for everything. While 45-50 voters participated in this year’s voting (which included some casting their vote for one category only, and canceled out the voting scheme on the ballot) we had a pair of deadline extensions- one due to the Arctic Blast which kept people from voting due to blocked roads and power outages and another due to multiple ties for first place in four categories, and now a run-off election for one category.

But despite the complications, one of the unique themes of the election is how people in general (not just the pontists and bridge experts) weighed in their support for their candidates in droves, making the elections a nail-biter to the very end. It shows that people appreciate their bridges and the preservation efforts that accompany them. How exciting was the voting? Let’s have a look at the results for their respective categories.

Lifetime Achievement:

When I contacted him for the first time over seven years ago regarding inquiries about some bridges in Minnesota, my homestate, I got more than I bargained for when he provided me with an encyclopedia’s worth. But through his work, several historic bridges in Minnesota and other states have been preserved with more yet to come, including the Dodd Ford Bridge near Amboy in Blue Earth County.  Robert (Bob) Frame III capped off his successful 40+ year career by winning the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work- but by an overwhelming majority, outracing his distant competitors, Nels Raynor and Bill Moellering. An interview with him will follow later on in the year in the Chronicles, which I’ll find out more about his passion for historic bridges and how it bore fruit careerwise, as a senior historian at Mead & Hunt, a post he still holds at present.


Robert Frame III     18

Nels Raynor                 7             Raynor engineered successful preservation efforts in                                                                   Texas, Kansas and Iowa (among others) and is                                                                               spearheading efforts to save the Bunker Mill Brudge

Bill Moellering             5             36 years of success as county engineer and                                                                                     preservationist for Fayette County brought him an                                                                       award for the county in another category and better                                                                     chances of integrating the historic bridges into a tourist                                                               attraction.

Other participants:  Friends of the Aldrich Change Bridge (4) and James Stewart (2)


Bridge of the Year:

Bixby Creek Bridge along CA Hwy. 1 in Big Sur, California. Photo taken by Ian McWilliams, used with permission under the guidelines by wikipedia

Spanning the creek bearing the bridge’s name, this 1932 concrete deck arch structure is one of the tallest in the world, the most photographed by tourists because of its aesthetic nature and one of the most widely used bridge for American culture, as it was used in several Hollywood films, and it is even on a US Stamp. Now it earns another title, which is the 2013 Bridge of the Year Award, despite winning by a narrowest of margins. The bridge: The Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, in Monterrey County, California, located along the original US 101 (now called CA Hwy. 1), which has many bridges of this caliber between Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. But not as popular as this bridge.


Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur                 12

Hastings Arch Bridge in Minnesota      11      Spanning the Mississippi River, the                                                                                                 1951 steel through arch bridge (known                                                                                              as Big Blue) was built at the site of the                                                                                              Hastings Spiral Bridge. Now Big Red,                                                                                                the largest tied arch bridge in North                                                                                                America has taken over in hopes it can                                                                                            outlive Big Blue.

Wells Street Bridge in Chicago                7      This deck truss bascule bridge, built in                                                                                             1922 was the focus of a major                                                                                                             unprecedented habilitation project last                                                                                             year, as the trusses were replaced with                                                                                           duplicate ones keeping the historic                                                                                                   integrity in tact.

Other votes: Vizcaya Bridge in Spain (6), Rendsburg High Bridge in Germany (5), Petit Jean Bridge in Arkansas (4) and Prestressed Concrete Bridge near Cologne (Germany) (3)


Mystery Bridge:

Hafenbahn Bridge spanning the Saale River in Halle (Saale). Photo taken in August 2011

In its inaugural year, the category Mystery Bridge had not only a winner and a second place finisher in its own territory, but overall.  The Hafenbahn Bridge in Halle (Saale) in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt has a unique design, a unique history in connection with politics, but an unknown history as to who constructed this structure in 1884, which has survived two World Wars and the Cold War era nearly unscathed. That bridge received 12 votes, four more than its second place finisher, the Angelbuger Bridge in Flensburg (located at the Danish border), the bridge whose abutment used to house a bike shop, a comic store and a used goods shop. It shares second place with the winner in the US category, the Chaska Swing Bridge, which also received 8 votes. Also known as the Dan Patch Swing Bridge, it is the last bridge of its kind along the Minnesota River, which used to be laden with these bridge types, as it served as a key waterway linking Minneapolis and Winnipeg via Ortonville, Fargo and Grand Forks. The bridge is seldomly used and there’s hope that it will one day be a bike trail bridge.

Results (USA):

Dan Patch Swing Bridge in Minnesota                                                   8

Dinkey Creek Wooden Parker Truss Bridge in California              7          

V-laced truss bridges in Iowa                                                                    5


Dan Patch Swing Bridge near Savage. Photo taken by John Marvig


Hafenbahn Bridge in Halle (Saale), Germany                                  12

Angelburger Bike Shop Bridge in Flensburg, Germany               8

Schleswig Strasse Bridge in Flensburg, Germany                              1


All Around:

Hafenbahn Bridge in Halle (Saale)                                                          12

Angelburger Bike Shop Bridge in Flensburg and

Dan Patch Swing Bridge                                                                                 8

Dinkey Creek Bridge in California                                                             7


Best Preservation Example:

Photo taken in August 2011

It took three years, hundreds of thousands of dollars, thousands of hours of volunteer work and effort by thousands of people with direct ties to this 1909 Canton Bridge Company structure, plus a Historic Bridge Weekend event not to mention lots of politicking and clarification of the laws. But it all paid off as the Riverside Bridge, spanning Finley Creek in Ozark, Missouri, located east of Springfield, was rehabilitated and reopened to traffic in August 2013.  The group was informed yesterday that it has been awarded the Preservation Missouri Award for its work. The Ammann Award for Best Preservation Practice, awarded on the international scale has put the cherry on top of a cake that took so long to make, thanks to the people for their efforts, esp. as the bridge won by a smashing majority!

Best Preservation Practice:

Riverside Bridge in Ozark, Missouri        19

North Bennington Bridge in Vermont       7            A set of Moseley Arch trusses                                                                                                           were found along the road-                                                                                                                 dismantled after service. It was                                                                                                         reassembled and now, it’s a bridge                                                                                                   again.

Big Four Railroad Bridge in Kentucky    6            45 years out of service, the City of                                                                                                    Louisville put the Ohio River                                                                                                              crossing back into service as a                                                                                                            pedestrian bridge.

Other votes:  Cremery Bridge in Kansas (6), Petit Jean Bridge (5), Wells Street Bridge in Chicago (5), The Bridges of Robertson County, Texas (5), Checkered House Bridge in Vermont (2), Moose Brook Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio (1) and Murray Morgan Bridge in Tacoma, Washington (1)


More results of the Ammann Awards are found in Part II. To be continued……


Hastings Bridge being dismantled

A couple weeks ago, a question for the forum was asked as to how the main span of the Hastings High Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River north of Hastings, Minnesota, was going to be removed once the approaches are demolished. Two variables were eliminated for reasons that the risk was too high, especially given the fact that the old bridge is next to its successor, known to many now as Big Red: imploding the structure and removing the arch span using a series of cranes. The former was used on the Hastings Spiral Bridge in 1951 but only because Big Blue was more than 300 feet away.

This is how Big Blue is going down:

All photos courtesy of David Youngren, Hastings Bridge Watch, c. 2013 Used with permission

The last photo is the most recent, taken today, showing most of the arch bridge gone. The bridge is being dismantled, piece by piece, with the parts being lowered onto barges to be shipped away for scrap. This type of bridge removal has required the use of at least four cranes plus enough manpower with blow torches to take the structure apart. For many who have grown up with the bridge, it is clearly an emotional way to say good-bye to an old friend. For me, who used the bridge frequently as a key link to southern Minnesota, where I grew up, it was a blessing to have paid homage to the structure, learning about its history and its identity to the community. The city park was the best place to watch the structure and how it caressed over the river like a rainbow, rain, fog or even shine.

This farewell to another piece of history led me to another question: will there be a monument honoring the bridge? According to Dave Youngren, the answer is yes. The city has already hired a sculptor and put some bridge parts aside so that a memorial is made in the bridge’s honor. It had been done by preserving one of the foundations of the Old Spiral Bridge, but it looks like something will be done for this bridge too. At least for the younger generation who will never see Big Blue, it provides us with a chance to tell them what the bridge was like, and how adventurous it was to cross it. But most importantly, they will know how the bridge, like the Old Spiral Bridge became and has remained an icon for the City of Hastings, the State of Minnesota and beyond…

The author would like to thank David Youngren for allowing use of the photos. A photo of Big Red and Big Blue  can be ordered by clicking on the link here.

Hastings High Bridge (Big Blue) Coming Down, But How?

Hastings High Bridge at sunrise. Do you notice anything strange here? Photo taken by Dave Youngren, used with permission.

It has not been that long ago that Big Red, known as the new Hastings Bridge spanning the Mississippi River north of the largest city in Dakota County, Minnesota opened to traffic, ending two decades of concerns towards its predecessor, the 1951 Hastings High Bridge known as Big Blue, which was too narrow for traffic and too rusty to maintain. Once a treat to cross while leaving the Twin Cities for southern Minnesota, one now has the longest tied arch bridge in North America to contend with, but the memories of Big Blue will last forever. As of present, demolition has commenced on the old steel arch bridge with both the approach spans being completely removed and the main span being left over.

It’s now a question of what to do with it. Because it is a navagation hazard, the main span will have to be removed. Imploding it is not an answer without having to severely disrupt traffic going through the city and even damaging the new structure. Dismantling it the way it was built in 1951 would be quite a challenge. And using cranes to lift it, carry it to shore and allow people to dismantle it on land would be physically impossible and the costs for the work would be exorbitant.

This leads to the question of what’s next for the bridge. Dave Youngren, who runs a facebook page called Hastings Bridge Watch, has been eyeing the events and presented this picture of both bridges at sunrise, perhaps the last time the bridges will stand side-by-side in this fashion. This leads to the question of what will happen to the old bridge. Look at the picture and see what’s different than the ones provided via link here, based on the author’s multiple visits.  How will the main span go down and why? Put your comments here or on the Chronicles’ facebook and LinkedIn pages and share your thoughts about the bridge.

More information on the bridge will follow on the Chronicles.


Say good-bye to Big Blue. The Big Red Bridge is in Town

Photo taken in September 2010

New Tied Arch Bridge in Hastings, Minnesota to open today. 1951 Steel Arch Bridge to be dismantled.

Travelling to southern Minnesota, I usually pass through the city of Hastings, located on the Mississippi River southeast of Bloomington, the site where the International Airport is located. The city has a 150-plus year history that one should not miss. Many historic buildings, the riverfront walk, and this bridge, Big Blue.

But when I pass through the city this summer, Big Blue will become a memory. The Hastings Steel Arch Bridge, built in 1951 by Sverdrup and Parcel and once touted as the longest bridge of its kind along the Mississippi River is coming down, whereas another bridge, known as Big Red is coming to town.  The longest arch bridge in North America is scheduled to open today, while people in Hastings and many bridge enthusiasts will pay their last respects to Big Blue before demolition work begins today. And while Hastings will still have a record-setting bridge in Big Red, its third crossing behind Big Blue and the Hastings Spiral Bridge (the first bridge in the world to have a loop approach span), there will be many people who will miss this unique vintage bridge, even when Big Red is featured as one of the main pieces of a city going forward. It leads to the question of whether a marker will be placed where the 1951 bridge once stood. Already there is one for the 1895 Spiral Bridge located next to the old bridge in the form of a concrete pier which held one of the steel trestles. And a replica of the bridge using another historic bridge imported from Lac Qui Parle County can be found at the Historic Village south of the city. If a marker is left in its honor, let’s hope that it is something that people can remember the bridge by, whether it is a concrete pier or a piece of steel from the bridge. But I’m sure people will come up with something in Big Blue’s memory.

While many people still remember the Spiral Bridge, I’m hoping they will remember this bridge for its beauty and how it became part of the city’s heritage. And while it was one of the most heavily used bridge in the state, many people like myself enjoyed crossing the bridge and stopping for a half hour to pay homage to this unique artwork. Let’s hope that Big Red will follow in the tracks left behind by the bridge that’s coming down real soon.

The Chronicles wrote an article on the bridge, which can be found here.  Information on the opening of Big Red can be found here. Unlike the Spiral Bridge, which was imploded after Big Blue opened to traffic (as shown in the Chronicles’ link), the Steel Bridge will be dismantled piece, by piece, with plans of completing the demolition process by the end of this year. Photos of Big Blue and Big Red can be found here.



Hastings High Bridge in Hastings, Minnesota

Photo taken in September 2010

When traveling home to southwestern Minnesota from the Twin Cities, it is almost always natural to take the shortest possible route so that one can reach their destination in the shortest time possible, whether it is through Mankato or Albert Lea.  When I travel home to southwestern Minnesota from the Twin Cities (which is my preferred destination for all German-American flights), I usually take a more scenic route, which is along the Mississippi River and through parts of southeastern Minnesota, passing through Northfield and Fairibault. The area is filled with a variety of landscapes to choose from, from hilly to flat all in the span of 30 miles. There are numerous towns and villages to see, including Hampton and New Trier, which is rich with history and heritage. But there is another reason for traveling through the area, to pay homage to a blue beauty over the Ole Miss.

The Hastings High Bridge is one of my most favorite historic bridges in the state of Minnesota. Built in 1951 by Sverdrup and Parcel, the same company that built the first I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis, this through arch/truss bridge is the only one of its kind in the state and one of a handful of bridges of its kind remaining in the US. It is one of the longest in the Upper Mississippi River Valley, at 1857 feet (the arch span being 600 feet) and is one of the towering figures of the City of Hastings.

Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society via wikipedia. Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hastings_Spiral_Bridge.jpg

The bridge also has a deep history which makes it one of the icons of the city of 18,000. It was here that the first bridge with a spiral approach was built in 1895. Designed and built by the Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Works Company (WisBI), the original Hastings Spiral Bridge featured a Parker through truss bridge as the main span followed by two wooden and steel trestle approaches. Because a high bridge was needed to clear the height clearance for ships and barges to pass through, an engineer at WisBI constructed a spiral approach in the shape of a curly Q on the south end of the bridge, providing drivers with a chance to make an easy descent into the historic business district.  The bridge became a treat for the city of Hastings and it became a poster boy for many engineers to design bridges with this spiral approach. This includes Friedrich Voss, who adopted this unique approach design for the railroad viaduct in Rendsburg, Germany, which was built in 1913 and features a spiral approach on the north end made of a combination of a grade, arch bridges over streets and steel trestles slicing through the city before approaching the main span- a cantilever through truss with a transporter underneath, spanning the Baltic-North Sea Canal. It is still in service today and is the only one of its kind in the world.  Even today, these bridges were being built, big or small, and regardless of what they carry for vehicles and people, like the pedestrian bridge in Bad Homburg vor der Hoehe, near Frankfurt/Main in the German state of Hesse.

Pedestrian Bridge at Bad Homburg near Frankfurt/Main. Photo taken in February 2008
Spiral approach of the Rendsburg High Bridge. Photo taken in April 2011
Main span of Rendsburg High Bridge. Photo taken in April 2011

Sadly, the bridge showed sign of wear and tear and in 1951, it was replaced with the current structure. The future of the Spiral Bridge was in doubt as many people wanted to keep this historic icon, yet despite the split decision, a pocket vote on the part of Hastings’ mayor sealed the structure’s fate, and the bridge was brought down by explosives, as seen in the video here.  As a consolation, one of the piers was preserved as a historical marker. However, a replica of the bridge was built in 2005, using a Thacher through truss bridge imported from Lac Qui Parle County. It is now at the Little Log House Pioneer Village, located south of Hastings.

Now the fate of the second bridge seems to be sealed. After 61 years in service, the bridge is being replaced by a tied arch bridge, which is supposed to be the longest in the western Hemisphere. Like the Spiral Bridge, the High Bridge showed signs of wear and tear, caused by increase in traffic combined with weather extremities. Even salt used for deicing the roadway has eaten away at the structure to a point where the cost for rehabilitation would be exorbitant. There are many who believe that it is not necessary for a new bridge to be built at the site of the present one. Yet the question is where should the new bridge have been built without having a negative impact on the city’s commerce? That question is difficult to answer and probably will not be presented until after the 1951 structure comes down in 2013.

Yet the people in Hastings and the surrounding area welcome the change as many are afraid that the structure will collapse. Little do they realize is they are losing another important icon, which could have been saved, had there been ways to rehabilitate it years earlier and most importantly, maintained it. The bridge’s heavy steel used for the structure provided truckers and commuters with a sense of security that it was meant to last for 100 years, as is the case for many railroad truss bridges. Yet with as much traffic as US Hwy. 61 carries through Hastings, maintaining it would mean painting the bridge biannually at least, as it is seen with the maintenance on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The costs would be high and with the current economic problems we are facing, it would have been impossible to keep up the maintenance on the bridge.  But one should expect to dole out the funds for the new bridge as well, as it will need just as much tender loving care as the first two crossings.

We have seen many of Minnesota’s historic relicts (bridge’s included) become part of the history books, as seen in Jack El Hai’s Lost Minnesota, published in 2005. I’m sure that a second volume is in the making and that this bridge will be in there with others that have fallen victim of modernization, including its neighboring bridge to the north at Inver Grove Heights. Even though the new bridge will present a sleek design made to entice the modernists and passers-by, many people in Hastings as well as those with connections with the High Bridge will remind them of the icon that will be soon by history. It is unclear whether this bridge will last as long as the first two, but it will take time for the people of Hastings to adapt to the new bridge.

While I’ll probably visit the bridge on my next USA trip in 2013, I will always think of the Blue Beauty over the Ole Miss. And therefore, as a tribute to one of the finest landmark bridges, I’ve enclosed a gallery of bridge photos for you to enjoy, which you can click here to view. A video of the trip across the bridge can be seen here.

Side view taken from the city park. Photo taken in Dec. 2007
Oblique view. Note the retailer building was removed to make way for the new bridge. Photo taken in December 2007
Behind the portal bracing. Photo taken in Dec. 2007
Oblique view from underneath. Photo taken in December 2007
Photo taken in September 2010
Approaching the bridge and Hastings. Photo taken in Dec 2010
Hastings Bridge during construction. Photo taken in August 2011
Photo taken in August 2011
The Hastings Bridge in the background with the new bridge’s piers in the foreground. Photo taken in August 2011