Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge Available for Reuse: Any Takers?

Photo by James Baughn

bhc newsflyer new

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.

The bridge was built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company under the direction of John Mahowald in 1873 and was originally named the Yaeger Bridge, after the farmer George Yaeger. The 189 foot long bowstring arch span served traffic until its closure in 1989. Crews lifted the span off its crumbling limestone piers on 7 February of this year and carefully dismantled the structure; the pieces are in storage and the new owner that acquires it will have a herculean challenge of not only putting it back together again but also restoring it for recreational reuse.

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……

 

BHC 10th anniversary logo1

BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 94

10495122_778324218864896_8884463859185827231_o

This next pic of the week takes us back a few years and across the big pond to Minnesota. Specifically, to Rock County, to an artificial lake as a park and lastly, to this beautiful bridge. The Schoneman Park Bridge has been in its home since 1990. The Waddell-style kingpost pony truss span was built by William S. Hewett in 1908 but at its original location- a tributary of the Rock River near the juncture with Ash Creek at where County Highway 1 is located. There were three bridges at that site prior to their replacement with the current structures in 1991: a through truss bridge over the Rock River with A-frame portals, a wooden stringer bridge over Ash Creek and this one. Because of its rarity and historic significance, county and state officials worked together with the city of Luverne to relocate the bridge to its current site. Schoneman Park was erected in 1987, using land that was donated by Dr. Ben and Rena Schoneman as well as James and Lois Van Hove. An artificial lake was established as well as plains and wetlands before the idea of a trail and crossing came to mind. After talks with the Rock County Highway Department, the Minnesota Historical Society and the Federal Highway Administration, an agreement was made in 1990 to move the bridge to Schoneman Park to be erected over a stream connecting the lake with the pond. The move was completed in October 1990. Two years later, the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Until 2015, this bridge, with a beautiful farm backdrop as seen in this pic taken two years earlier, had been the only one of its kind left in the state. That was until the Minnesota Department of Transportation brought up another bridge to my attention which was discovered and documented in 2015. That bridge was located in Clearwater County near Bagley Lake. That structure has since been relocated to the fairgrounds. Unlike this bridge near Luverne, the Clearwater structure is just an accessory for visitors, showcasing itself as a rare example of how a bridge like the Waddell Truss helped shape America’s infrastructure over a century ago.

More pictures and facts about the Schoneman Park Bridge can be found here. All but a handful were taken by yours truly. Enjoy! 🙂 ❤

 

BHC 10 years

Longest Bowstring Arch Bridge in the USA Removed

111469-l

bhc newsflyer new

The Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge to be dismantled and stored awaiting relocation to a new home.

MANKATO, MINNESOTA- It finally happened. After 147 years spanning the LeSueur River south of Mankato as the longest bowstring arch bridge in the US (and second longest in the world behind the Blackfriars Road Bridge in Canada), the Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge is off the river and awaiting for a new home.  Construction crews on Thursday lifted the 189-foot long bowstring arch bridge, in one piece, off its stone foundations and placed it in the field to the east of where it once stood.

One of the main obstacles that workers faced was the issues with the crumbling eastern abutment. “We were all kind of holding our breath,” said Lisa Bigham, state aid engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s District 7 in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio News. “It took a while to get everything kind of in place, the cranes to be positioned where they needed to be. Then, we were just kind of watching. And then, all of a sudden you could see air in between the bridge and the abutment. And it actually went very smoothly.” The eastern abutment had been coming apart, piece by piece in the past 5-10 years thanks to years of erosion and neglect, raising concerns across the board, from engineers and preservationists to even locals that the historic structure could potentially collapse. The structure had been closed to all traffic since 1989, with the township road having been abandoned. But nonetheless, the workers were satisfied with the lifting as it went smoothly as it could.

With the bridge standing in the nearby field, the wrought iron structure will be disassembled and stored in containers awaiting relocation for reuse as a bike and pedestrian crossing. Currently, MnDOT is soliciting proposals for reusing the bridge at a different location on a statewide level. “The pieces will be kept safe and dry,” Bigham said. “And so then whoever gets to take this bridge in the future, will be able to put the pieces back together and they’ll have a really cool bridge.”  Federal and state funding has been placed aside for the project, with some funding having already been collected prior to the move. Carlton Companies of Mankato bidded $595,660 for the move itself. Because many bridge parts may need to be sandblasted and/or repaired before being reassembled, the cost for completing the whole project, including rehabilitation and reassembly is still unknown. The bottom line is the bridge is out of the water and is safe on land. The question will be what the future will hold for the bridge. That will be answered in the coming months.

The Kern Bowstring Arch Bridge was built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in 1873, 15 years after the creation of the State of Minnesota. It was also known as the Yaeger Bridge, named after the nearby farm owned by George Yaeger. The structure is all wrought iron with pinned connections. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and the relocation project will not affect its status. The bridge is the last of its kind in Minnesota, even though dozens of them had existed mainly in the southern half of the state up until the 1970s. The bridge was closed to traffic in 1989 and was taken off the highway and bridge data bank in 2003. The structure has been the focus of literary works and also attempts to refurbish it for future use, all of whom had failed to date. This attempt came because of its historic significance and popularity among pontists and (bridge) photographers and locals familiar with the bridge and its enriched history. Since 2019, a facebook page on Relocating the Kern Bridge has been in use, where people can share ideas on how to reuse the bowstring arch structure, as well as photos, stories and the like. A link to the page is at the end of the article.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest with the Kern Bridge and its future.

Links:

Bridge information:

bridgehunter.com: http://bridgehunter.com/mn/blue-earth/bh36213/

historicbridges.org: https://historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowser=minnesota/kern/

 

Bridge Removal Project:

-MPR News: https://www.mprnews.org/story/2020/02/06/cranes-lift-historic-minnesota-bridge-from-its-crumbling-perch

-KEYC TV: https://www.keyc.com/2020/02/07/americas-longest-bowstring-arch-truss-bridge-removed-near-mankato/ 

 

facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Relocate-and-Restore-the-Historic-Kern-Bowstring-Arch-Bridge-in-Mankato-1257649057723433/?modal=admin_todo_tour

 

BHC 10th anniversary logo1

Historic Bridges: Management, Regulations and Rehabilitation: Seminars in Texas and Oregon

State Highway 78 Bridge at the Texas-Oklahoma border

 

 

MADISON (WI)/ MINNEAPOLIS (MN)/ AUSTIN (TX)/ PORTLAND (ORE)- Historic bridges represent a significant portion of the history of American architecture and infrastructure. Its unique design, combined with the significance in connection with the bridge builder and/or other key events makes them valuable pieces of our landscape- encouraging people to visit, photograph and even learn about them. Yet when it comes to preserving them, many people don’t know the policies that exist, such as the Historic Preservation Laws (and in particular, Section 106), many ways to rehabilitate and repurpose them and avoiding adverse effects when they need to be remodeled to meet the demands of today’s traffic standards.

The National Preservation Institute, in collaboration with Mead & Hunt, and Departments of Transportation in Minnesota, Texas and Oregon are conducting two seminars this year to focus on ways of designating and preserving what is left of our engineering heritage.   Amy Squitieri (Mead & Hunt), Kristen Zschlomer (MnDOT), Amber Blanchard (MnDOT), and Steve Olson (Olson & Nesvold Engineers) are heading two interactive seminars, scheduled to take place on the following dates:

 

April 4-5, 2017 in Austin, Texas

September 12-13 in Portland, Oregon

 

In the seminars, one will have a chance to look at bridge history and typology, rehabilitation and preservation techniques used on historic bridges that meet current and historical standards, ways to avoid adverse effects when reconstructing bridges, finding alternatives and solutions to bridges slated for replacement, and navigating through the process of Sections 106 and 4(f) of the Historic Preservation Laws.

 

Those who have taken the seminar have benefitted from this in a substantial way, as you can see in the evaluation comments in the NPI page (here).  Participants of the interactive seminar include federal and state agencies dealing with transportation and historic properties, as well as managers and consultants preparing compliance documents under actions dealing with Section 106 and other laws, as well as those interested in learning about the policies and practices involving historic bridges.

 

Minnesota, Texas and Oregon are three of only a dozen states in the country that have a comprehensive and successful track record in statewide inventories and the preservation and management of historic bridges. Some examples of successful bridge stories in photos can be seen below.

Piano Bridge in Texas- This bridge was restored in 2013- when the truss bridge was dismantled, sandblasted and reassembled; known as in-kind restoration
Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, MN: Restored in 2016
Portland Water Works Bridge in Oregon, prior to its relocation to a storage area in 2015, awaiting reuse. Photo taken by Michael Goff

Costs and discounts are available via link. You will receive a confirmation of the reservation as well as the venue and schedule of the events. For more information, please contact NPI via phone at (703) 765-0100 or send them an e-mail at: info@npi.org.

2015 Ammann Awards: The Author has some bridge stories to tell

Pot4

To start off this new year, there are some good news as well as some bad news. First the bad news: The deadline for entries for the 2015 Ammann Awards has been pushed back again for the last time. This time the 10th of January at 12:00am Central Standard Time (January 11th at 7:00am Central European Time) is the absolute deadline for all entries, including that for Best Photo, Lifetime Achievement and other categories. Reason for the delay is the low number of entries, much of that has to do with the weather disaster of biblical proportions in the United States and Great Britain, which has kept many away from the cameras and forced many to fill sandbags. The the voting process will proceed as planned with the winners being announced at the end of this month.

The good news: The author has enough candidates and stories to justify announcing his choices for 2015- the first to be announced before the actual Ammann Awards presentations but one that should keep the interest in historic bridges running sky high, especially before the main course. In other words, the author is serving his appetizers right now to keep the readers and candidates hungry for more bridge stuff. 😉

So here is our first appetizer: The Biggest Bonehead Story

Photo taken by Tony Dillon

USA:

Truck Destroys Gospel Street Bridge in Paoli, Indiana- Ever since Christmas Day, this story has been the hottest topic in the media, even breaking records of the number of post clicks on the Chronicles. A 23-year-old woman, who claimed to be Amish, drives a 30-ton truck full of drinking water across the 1880 Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company structure that was only able to carry 6 tons. Naturally, the bridge gave in, yet the excuses the driver brought up became more and more incredulable: 1. I just received my driver’s license, 2. I couldn’t turn around or find an alternative so I took the chance, and 3. (Most outrageous): I didn’t know how many pounds equaled six tons.

Yet the question remains, which was more incredulable: The incident or the consequence of the incident: a mere $135 fine for crossing the light-weight bridge, destroying it in the process?

International:

Viaduct Collapses in Sicily- 2015 was not a good year for bridges outside of the USA, for several key (historic) crossings have met their fate or are about to due to human error. A temporary pedestrian bridge in Johannesburg (South Africa) falls onto the motorway crushing two cars. A pedestrian suspension bridge in New Zealand breaks a cable, causing the decking to twist and send hikers into the water.  Fortunately, no casualties. Both incidents happened in October. The highest glass bridge in the world, located in China, is cracking even though the government says it is safe.

But this bridge collapse on the island of Sicily, which happened in January, was a scandal! The Scorciavacche Viaduct near Palermo was completed in December 2014, three months earlier than scheduled, only for it to collapse partially on January 5th, 10 days after its opening! While no one was hurt, the collapse sparked a political outcry as the multi-million Euro bridge was part of the 200 million Euro motorway project, and as a consequence, officials prompted an investigation into the cause of the bridge. The construction company, which claimed that the accident was caused by “substinence,” tried shooting down the accusations, claiming the accident was overexaggerated. Makes the reader wonder if they tried covering up a possible design flaw, combined with human error, which could have caused the collapse. If so, then they have the (now jailed) Captain of the capsized Costa Concordia to thank, for like the ship that has been towed away and scrapped, the bridge met the same fate. Lesson for the wise: More time means better results. Check your work before opening it to others.

 

 

Best Historic Bridge Find:

While the author stayed out of the US for all of 2015 and focused his interesting findings on European soil, other bridge colleagues have found some bridges that had been either considered gone or had never been heard of before. One of these colleagues from Minnesota happened to find one that is still standing! 🙂

 

USA:

Bridge L-1297 in Clearwater County, Minnesota-

According to records by the Minnesota Historical Society, the Schonemann Park Bridge, located south of Luverne in Rock County, is the only example of a Waddell kingpost truss bridge left standing in Minnesota. This 1912 bridge is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Bridge L-1297, which spans the Clearwater River near Gronvich in Clearwater, is the OTHER Waddell kingpost pony truss bridge that is still standing. Its markings matches exactly that of its Schonemann counterpart. Although there is no concrete evidence of when it was built and by whom, Pete Wilson, who found it by chance and addressed it to the Chronicles, mentioned that it was likely that it was built between 1905 and 1910 by the Hewett family, which built the bridge at Luverne. In either case, it is alive, standing albeit as a private crossing, and should be considered for the National Register. Does anybody else agree? 🙂

International:

The Bridges of Zeitz, Germany

It is rare to find a cluster of historic bridges that are seldomly mentioned in any history books or bridge inventory. During a bike tour through eastern Thuringia in March, I happened to find a treasure in the hills: A dozen historic bridges within a 10 km radius, half of which are in the city of 29,000 inhabitants, including the ornamental Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge located on the east end of town. Highly recommended the next time you pass through the area. These bridges will be profiled further in the coming year because of their aesthetic and historic value, which makes the town, resembling an East German bygone era, more attractive. Check them out! 🙂

 

Spectacular Disasters:

Flooding and Fires dominated the headlines as Mother Nature was not to kind to the areas affected, thus they were flooded, destroying historic bridges in the path. If there was no flooding, there were dry spells prompting fires that burned down everything touched. While there were several examples of historic bridges destroyed by nature, the author has chosen two that standout the most, namely because they were filmed, plus two runners-up in the international category. Fortunately for the bridge chosen in the US category, there is somewhat of a happy ending.

Photo by James MacCray

USA:

Full Throttle Saloon Fire-  Only a few weeks after celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Motorcycle Rally at the World’s largest saloon, the Full Throttle Saloon was destroyed by a massive fire on September 8th. Two of the historic bridges, relocated here to serve as overlook platforms and stages, were damaged by the blaze with the bridge decking being completely burned away. While the saloon was considered a total loss, bar owner Michael Ballard is planning on rebuilding the bar complex and has already lined up concert events including the upcoming Motorcycle Rally in August. More on how you can help rebuild here. Whether the bridges will be part of the plan is unclear, but given the effort to bring in the structure, it is likely that they will be kept and be part of the project as well. More on the project will follow, but things are really looking up for bikers and bridge lovers alike. 🙂

 

International:

300-year old arch bridge washed out by flooding-

While there was a three-way tie for spectacular natural disasters done to the historic bridges on the international front, this concrete arch bridge in Tadcaster in the UK stands out the most. The bridge collapsed on December 29th as floodwaters raged throughout much of the northern part of Great Britain. It was one of dozens of bridges that were either severely damaged or destroyed during the worst flooding on record. The saddest part was not the video on how the bridge fell apart bit by bit, but the bridge was over 300 years old. Demolition and replacement of the bridge is expected to commence at the earliest at the end of this year once the damages are assessed and the clean-up efforts are under way.

Runners-up:

Coach takes a swim under a culvert in Brazil:

Two runners-up in this category also have to do with bridge washouts due to flooding. One of them is this culvert wash-out in Brazil. A video submitted to the French magazine LeMonde shows what can happen if engineers choose a culvert over a replacement bridge, as this coach sank into the raging creek, went through the culvert and swam away! :-O Fortunately all the passengers evacuated prior to the disaster, however, it serves as a warning to all who wish to cut cost by choosing a culvert over a new bridge- you better know what you are getting into, especially after watching the video below.

 

Massive Panic as Bridge is washed out in India-

The other runner-up takes us to the city of Chennai in India, where flash flooding wreaked havoc throughout the city. At this bridge, the pier of a concrete bridge gave way as a large wave cut up the crossing in seconds! Massive panic occurred, as seen in the video seen below:

 

 

Dumbest Reason to destroy a historic bridge:

The final category for this year’s Author’s Choice Award goes to the people whose irrational decision-making triggered the (planned) destruction of historic bridges. This year’s candidates features two familiar names that are on the chopping block unless measures on a private scale are undertaken to stop the wrecking ball. One of the bridges is an iconic landmark that is only 53 years old.

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer
Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

USA:

BB Comer Bridge in Alabama- Three years of efforts to raise awareness to a vintage cantilever bridge went up in smoke on November 14th, when county officials not only rejected the notion for a referendum on saving the BB Comer Bridge in Scotsboro, but also turned down any calls for the matter to be brought up for all time to come. While the organization promoting the preservation of the bridge claimed that the city and Jackson County would not need to pay for the maintenance of the bridge, officials were not sold on the idea of having the bridge become a theme park, which would have been a win-win situation as far as producing funds for the tourism industry is concerned. Instead, behind closed doors, the contract was signed off to convert the 1930 bridge into scrap metal, giving into the value of the commodity. Talk about short-sightedness and wrist slitting there!

 

Large Blog Image

International:

Fehmarn Bridge to come down- In an effort to push through the Migratory Freeway through Fehmarn Island and down the throats of opposing residents, the German Railways condemned the world’s first basket weave tied arch bridge, built in 1963 to connect the island with the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The official reason was too much rust and any rehabilitation would prolong the bridge’s life by only 20 years- highly disputable among the preservationists and civil engineers given the number of concrete examples of rehabilitated bridges lasting 50+ years. Yet many locals believe that the German Railways is pushing for the bridge to be removed in favor of its own railroad crossing that would carry Fernzüge from Hamburg to Copenhagen, eliminating the ferry service between Puttgarten and Rodby in Denmark. The fight however is far from over as the campaign to save the island and its cherished architectural work is being taken to the national level, most likely going as far as Brussles if necessary. In addition, lack of funding and support on the Danish side is delaying the tunnel project, threatening the entire motorway-bridge-tunnel project to derail. If this happens, then the next step is what to do with the Fehmarn Bridge in terms of prolonging its life. The bridge is in the running for Bridge of the Year for the 2015 Ammann Awards for the second year in a row, after finishing a distant second last year.

 

AND NOW THE VOTING PROCESS AND RESULTS OF THE 2015 AMMANN AWARDS, WHICH WILL BEGIN STARTING JANUARY 11th, AS SOON AS THE DEADLINE FOR ALL ENTRIES PASSES. HURRY TO ENTER YOUR PHOTOS, BRIDGES, AND PERSONS DESERVING HONORS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!!

bhc new logo jpeg

Milan Bridge in Minnesota: A Bridge Unwanted

Photo taken in December, 2010

Sometimes it takes courage and sacrifice to get a photo of a jewel like this bridge. When visiting the Milan Bridge in Lac Que Parle County, Minnesota, in December 2010, I had the lovely experience of photographing this bridge in crystal clear sunlight. However, it almost came at a price when leaving to head north to Little Falls, when my mini SUV almost got stuck in the snow while leaving the boat ramp located next to the bridge. Yet when looking at the situation the bridge is in right now, there are no regrets that I took the time to photograph this bridge, despite the fact that when it was taken, a strong storm system was to move in a couple hours later, bringing ice, snow and high winds, thus making travel anywhere dangerous…..

The Milan Bridge is one of only 29 historic bridges left in Minnesota that is being looked after by the state’s department of transportation (MnDOT). The bridge was built by the Theodore Jensen Construction Company of Des Moines, Iowa in 1938, replacing an earlier truss bridge, a Pratt through truss type, that had been built in 1901 by the American Bridge Company but was relocated when this bridge came in. The steel for the truss superstructure was provided by the Minneapolis-Moline Steel Company. Originally, the bridge had Howe lattice portal bracings to go along with the rest of the structure, a parker through truss bridge with riveted connections and concrete approach spans. The portals were raised by cutting off the lower half and encasing the upper half in steel in 1967, thus making the vertical clearance of 16 feet. The bridge intself is longer than its predecessor- 210 feet long with a 17 foot roadway width.

Milan Bridge at the time of its completion in 1938. Photo taken by MnDOT
Milan Bridge at the time of its completion in 1938. Photo taken by MnDOT

The construction of the bridge was part of the Works Progress Administration project, initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 with the goals of improving the infrastructure throughout America and getting many of the 33% unemployed Americans back into the workforce. The construction of the bridge was part of the plan to improve the flood plain area along the Minnesota River, which included the creation of Lac Que Parle Lake by damming the river near Appleton. This happened in 1939, shortly after the bridge was built.  Minnesota Hwy. 40 was supposed to be a key link between Milan and Madison (going west to South Dakota), yet in comparison with the other highways crossing the Minnesota River (US 12  to the north and US 212 to the south), the number of vehicles crossing at this location is punitive because of the proximity of the highways to the nearest cities with more inhabitants than the towns Hwy. 40 connects. US 12 connects Minneapolis with Aberdeen, South Dakota, but crosses the river at Ortonville. Hwy. 212, which crosses at Montevideo, also starts in the Twin Cities but heads west to Watertown, also in South Dakota. There is also MN Hwy. 119, whose crossing is located south of Appleton but north of the bridge at Milan.

This leads to the situation that the bridge is currently in. MnDOT plans to rehabilitate the bridge by replacing the decking, repairing some truss parts and repainting the entire superstructure, which is currently blue but the paint has peeled off. It was supposed to begin this year, but a petition by local residents put a halt to the plans, at least temporarily. This task force wants the bridge to be replaced in its entirety because it does not meet the current needs and is structurally deficient. This is a rare case where a state, which owns the historic bridge, wants to prolong the structure but residents don’t want that. Their concerns were addressed in April prompting the state agency to hit pause and table the decision until April 2016. According to federal law, because the bridge is located in a historic district like Lac Que Parle, “…the state to rehabilitate rather than replace historic structures, unless there is “’no feasible and prudent alternative.’’’   Little does the task force realizes is that the cost for rehabilitating the bridge is estimated to be between $2.3 and 3 million, half the amount needed to replace the bridge. In addition, there is no guarantee if and when funding would be available for replacing the bridge, let alone when construction would begin on the bridge.

Originally, had there not been any objections, rehabilitation would have begun in November and been completed by the spring. Now with opposition to the project being brought forward, the decision of whether MnDOT to proceed with the rehabilitation will come in the spring. It is more of a question of whether it makes sense to wait until earliest 2020 to replace a bridge that takes between 300 and 600 cars a day- a third of the amount of its neighboring highway crossings at US 12 and 212, or simply proceed and ask residents to consider alternatives. This includes using alternative crossings or even lightening the load and size before crossing the bridge. Given the crossing’s proximity, sometimes just allowing for a small fix on a landmark destined to be a National Register monument is worth the price. And alternatives can in the long term save more money than having to spend more on a new bridge, whose lifespan is half of what bridges, like this one has. The average life of a concrete bridge is approxinately 35-40 years, while the current Milan Bridge is turning 78 years old this year. Most truss bridges can live twice as long if properly maintained- a logical conclusion that is being taken into account for rehabbing the bridge.

So what option would you favor: spending excessive amounts of money for a concrete bridge that is wider and has no clearance, but has a lifespan of 40 years, or rehabilitate the current bridge, prolonging it for 60-80 years and having travellers with wide loads use other crossings? Look at the map and then think about it. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest and will inform you when the decision is made…..

milan bridge2
Photo by MnDOT in 1938
Portal view with current weight limit. Photo taken in December 2010

BHC logo france15

 

Mystery Bridge Nr. 59: An Undiscovered Waddell Truss

Photos courtesy of MnDOT
Photos courtesy of MnDOT

History sometimes has its doubts, especially when it comes to historic bridge inventories conducted by state and national governments. According to sources by the Minnesota Historic Society and the Minnesota Department of Transportation, there was supposed to be one kingpost truss bridge remaining in the state- the one located at Schoneman Park, south of Interstate 90 on US Hwy. 75 in Luverne, in Rock County (click here to view the photos).

But did you know that there is ANOTHER kingpost truss bridge, a design similar to the Schoneman Park Bridge in Clearwater County?  According to a discovery made by the Inspection Unit of MnDOT recently, there is.  The bridge is located over the Clearwater River, ten miles west of the Bagley Lake State Preserve and six miles east of nearby Gronvich, and features Waddell pony truss, with welded connections and a 10° angled outer wing on each side. The truss design was patented by J.A.L. Waddell but there are only a handful of these trusses left, including two through trusses (one in Kansas and one in Louisiana) and now two in Minnesota. The bridge is 37 feet long, and even though there was no date on the construction of the bridge, it is possible that the bridge was built between 1905 and 1910, possibly by the Hewett family. The reason: The bridge is nearly identical to the one in Luverne with only a few minor exceptions. This includes the length difference as well as the riveted connections on the top portion of the one at Schoneman.

The bridge has been bypassed by a new crossing, but it is now privately owned, an example of a farmowner’s willingness to keep a piece of history for private use. Despite this success, some more information is needed as to when it was exactly built and by whom. While the information in the bridgehunter.com website, it is based on the national bridge inventory page, and more research is needed to determine whether the construction date is correct. Furthermore, it is unknown whether Hewett built this or if another bridge company contributed to the work.

If you know more about this bridge (a.k.a. Bridge L 1297), please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact details below. The information will be updated in the bridgehunter.com website along with photos you wish to contribute. Some photos can be found here as well as in the website as well.  Best of luck in finding some information and stories pertaining to this bridge. 🙂

L1297b

Many thanks to Pete Wilson at MnDOT for the discovery and the information/ photos.

bhc new logo jpeg

Mystery Bridge Nr. 48: Disappearing Des Moines River Bridge in Murray County

Overview with view of the trusses. All photos courtesy of MnDOT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This mystery bridge article is in connection with the book project on the bridges along the Des Moines River, which actually starts here in Murray County, Minnesota. For more information on the project and how you can help contribute to the project, please click here for more details.

Bridge Facts:

Bridge Type: Pratt half hip pony truss with riveted connections

Location: Des Moines River at Jeep Trail, 0.3 miles east of County Highway 42 at Sec. 21/28 Des Moines River Township

Construction Date: 1929

Located over the Des Moines River seven miles south of the village of Dovray and only 0.3 miles east of County Highway 42, this Jeep Trail bridge (known to Minnesota DOT as Bridge L-1602) may represent a typical truss bridge with little or no history on it, except from those living near it. Yet its uniqueness and the mystery makes it something worth researching and talking about. For instance, the bridge is a half-hip Pratt pony truss bridge, with a span of 49 feet. The bridge type itself was the only one used for the Des Moines River crossing as a single span, both in Minnesota as well as in Iowa. More unique is the fact that the connections are riveted. One can detect this by finding the gusset plates at the bottom chord at the second panel as well as the top chord at the outer panels, where the diagonal beams and end post meet. Normally one would find half hips with pinned connections, but as the bridge was built here in 1929, the riveted truss design represents a break from the state standardized truss designs that were introduced 15 years earlier, and the half hips were supposed to be phased out in favor of heavier pony trusses featuring (polygonal) Pratt and Warren designs.

But the question is did this bridge break this standard with its construction at Jeep Trail in 1929 or was this bridge built earlier- before the standardized trusses were introduced- and was relocated here? If the latter is true, then the next question is where this bridge originated from.  The unfortunate part with this bridge was the fact that it was removed from service after 1990 with the road being vacated between County Hwy. 42 and County Hwy. 67. While returning home to Jackson from Marshall during my days in high school, my father and I crossed the bridge at 42 and the Jeep Trail Bridge was seen from a distance because of the flatness of the landscape and lack of trees. Yet when trying to find and photograph the bridge during my time in college in 1998, the bridge was not to be found. Furthermore, the road was fenced off. It is possible that because of the sparse usage of the road, and bridge that it was rendered useless by the county and was given to a local farmer for use. Had that bridge remained opened, there would have been a chance to inspect the bridge to see which of the two arguments would stand out as true: being brought in in 1929 or being originally built in 1929. Lastly, regardless of which one was true, the last question is who was responsible for the construction of the bridge.

Now it’s the local’s turn. What do you know about the bridge and its history? Any information? Send it over to Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact details here. The bridge will be included in the book on the bridges along the Des Moines River and therefore, any information on its history will be useful for the reader. Any stories and facts about it will be much appreciated. In the meantime, enjoy the photos of the bridge in hopes that some memories will be kindled and people with some facts will step forward to talk about it. 🙂

All photos are courtesy of Minnesota DOT, whom the author thanks for the usage for the article and the book project.

Quick Note: The bridge is located 11 miles east of Slayton, the county seat of Murray County, and 9 miles east of Avoca. It is located approximately 13 river miles southeast of Lake Shetek, the source of the river.

Photos:

Mystery Bridge 46: The Disappearing Bridge in Nicollet County, Minnesota

Photo courtesy of MnDOT

Just recently, as I was looking for some information on some historic bridges for a book on one of the rivers in Minnesota, I happened to stumble across this bridge by chance. Located over the Minnesota River south of Fort Ridgely State Park, the only information gathered from an inventory of all bridges constructed in Minnesota revealed that the bridge was built in 1905, carried a township road, and was 259 feet long.  I bundled that bridge (known to locals as the Hinderman Bridge) in with my other bridge inquiries to MnDOT, only to receive this black and white picture from 1941. As you can see in the picture, the bridge was a two-span Pratt pony truss with pinned and eyebar connections.  According to information from MnDOT, with the construction of the MN Hwy. 4 Bridge to the northwest and a new bridgeat County Highway 13 in 1987, it was determined that the truss structure was rendered useless and was therefore abandoned, taken off the road system and most likely ended up in the back yard of a private farmstead.  Using Googlemap, it is revealed that the bridge no longer exists, as it was removed at a certain date, even though it is unknown when that took place, let alone why it happened to begin with.

The Minnesota River is laden with lots of information on bridges, both past and present, much of which have been documented for public availability at local museums, the state historical society and even online. Yet there are many questions that have yet to be answered with regards to this bridge. First and foremost, we have the issue of location. Many historic maps in the early 1900s had revealed that the bridge no longer existed with the exception of the canoe map provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, leading to the question of what type of service the road served before it was closed along with the bridge.  This was one of the findings that fellow pontist John Weeks III thought was odd, during his visit to the bridge in 2008. Yet the Hinderman Bridge does have some history behind it as Weeks discovered while researching about this bridge:

The bridge was named after Captain Hinderman and was once a popular ferry, connecting Ridgely Township in Nicollet County and the village of Home in Brown County. In 1905 the state appropriated $1,800 for a new crossing to replace the ferry, and the bridge was later built under the direction of Captain Hinderman and William LaFlamboy on the Nicollet side and Hans Moe from Sleepy Eye on the Brown side.  It is unknown where the steel was fabricated and who the bridge builder was, but it is likely that Hinderman and local residents may have ordered the structure from the bridge builder and it was shipped to the location to be assembled.  Information from a source with relation to the Hinderman family revealed that the bridge was washed out by flooding in 1951 but was later rebuilt at the exact location. But more concrete information came from the great-granddaughter of Captain Hinderman in 2012, who revealed that the bridge had been in service for 82 years before it became a liability for Brown County (which had own the bridge) because of a weight limit of three tons and was later closed to traffic in the fall of 1987.  More information about the bridge can be found through John Weeks’ website here.

This was all the information that was found about the Hinderman Bridge. All that is left of the bridge is wood pilings and the road approaching what is left of the bridge from both sides. A center pier in the middle of the Minnesota River, which revealed a two-span structure was knocked into the river by flooding in the 2000s. Yet it still does not answer the following questions:

1. Who provided the steel and was contracted to build the bridge?

2. When was the bridge removed and why?

3. When was Hinderman’s Ferry in service, and how long did the village of Home exist?

Any information about the bridge would be much appreciated, so that we can close the book on the story of this bridge that had once been an important crossing but became an unknown memory after 1987. The article and information about the bridge are available through bridgehunter.com, where you can place your comments in the section by clicking here. Yet, you can contact the Chronicles and John Weeks III using the contact details provided both in the Chronicles page here as well as here.

The author wishes to thank Peter Wilson at Minnesota DOT for providing some important information and photos of this bridge. 

California Historic Bridges and Tunnels in Digital Form

Purdon Road Bridge over the South Yuba River in Nevada City, California. One of two half-through truss bridges left in the state. Photo courtesy of the HABS/HAER Collection

Forum Question: If you wanted to showcase historic bridges in your area online, how would you do that? Would you focus on existing bridges or include those that were unique but no longer exists? How much information and photos would you add about the bridges?

The first time a website appeared which showcased many existing historic bridges in a region was the one produced by the Minnesota Historical Society.  Created in 1996, the historic bridge page featured as many as 100 bridge examples from all over the state. Even though the website has changed hands and is now part of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, many of the bridges noted are still in service today in one way of another.

California has just recently launched its website, showcasing its list of historic bridges in the most populous state in the Union. By clicking here on CalTrans Digital Collection website, you will have a chance to read more than 20 pages worth of hundreds of historic bridges and tunnels that still exist in California.

Interesting enough, the website features photos and documentation conducted by CalTrans, the State Historical Society, local historical groups and even HABS-HAER, containing information on the bridge type, location of the bridge, and the history of its construction as well as its association with the area it is located. Most of the photos were taken between 1975 and 2004 with the majority of the bridges being determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as of 2004. Some of the bridges have been replaced yet many others have been rehabilitated and retrofitted to withstand earthquakes, which are common in the Golden State.

This includes this bridge, the Purdon Road Bridge, spanning the South Yuba River near Nevada City. Built in 1895 by Cotton Brothers and Company, one of many California bridge builders that existed during that time, the Purdon Bridge was one of only two half-through truss bridges in the state, meaning the roadway is built halfway between the bottom and top portions of the truss. The bridge was scheduled to be rehabilitated in 2013, but it is unknown whether that has already taken place. More information on the bridge can be found here.

The digital collections are well detailed and has information on historic bridges that are considered significant on the state and national scale, yet some of them have since been replaced for structural reasons. There are also other bridges not listed in the collections but deserve some attention, including the wooden truss bridges in the northeastern part of the state.  But given the website’s infancy, it is more likely that the collection will become bigger in the future.

This leads to a pair of questions for the readers:

1. Apart from the bridges listed in the collections, including the Golden Gate, Vallejo and Bay Bridges, what other bridges should be listed? This includes bridges scheduled to be replaced in the next 10 years, like some in Los Angeles.

2. The Buellton (US 101) Bridge features seven through truss bridges that were relocated to Iowa and elsewhere in the 1950s. This bridge represents an example of historic bridges that have long since been nonexistent. Should these bridges be added to the list and if so, which ones?

This guide should provide other state agencies and organizations to compile a database of their own. Already some on the private scale, like bridgehunter.com and historicbridges.org in the US and Structurae.net in Europe exist. But there are only a quarter of the states in the US that have such a database. It is time for others to join the bandwagon, but the question is how. Perhaps suggestions based on the questions presented at the beginning of the article will help, yet the best suggestion is to ask the experts who have constructed it to see how the database should be built and how the information should be reader-friendly.