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.
NEW ULM, MINNESOTA (USA)- Officials from the Brown County Highway Department have a historic bridge for sale and for those interested, all you need is a plan to present and a dollar to pay. The Petersen Bridge spans the Minnesota River, carrying Rennville County Highway 3 and Brown County Highway 8. It’s approximately 7 miles SE of Franklin and 20 river miles NW of New Ulm. Also known as the Eden Bridge, it features a two-span Warren pony truss bridge with riveted connections. It was built in 1918 and has a total length of 250 feet- the largest span is 81 feet. The bridge has been considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
In a statement by Brown County:
Because the bridge has a visually-low profile (being a pony truss rather than a through-truss), and because there is flexibility to omit approach spans as needed, the bridge could fit well into any number of urban or rural settings
The bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places but needs to be replaced with a wider structure. The county hopes to find a new owner who can reuse the bridge on a trail, in a park, or in a similar setting.
The bridge has been closed to traffic since 2017 and work is underway to replace the historic bridge with a modern one, with the project set to begin later this year at the earliest.
Those interested in purchasing and repurposing the bridge can obtain a package by clickinghere. It includes the contact information for the Brown County Highway Engineer in case there are questions or if you are interested in taking the bridge.
The deadline for all entries is June 30th, 2021 at 4pm local time. More information on the bridge can be found via bridgehunter.com, here as well as John Weeks website, here.
Note: While you are at it, there is a tour guide on the bridges of New Ulm which may be of interest of you. Have a look by clicking here. An interesting story on New Ulm can be found in the Flensburg Files by clicking here.
NOTE: This post features photos from a mid-August stop at the historic Waterford bridge near Northfield, Minnesota. The historic Waterford Bridge, located in Waterford Township in Dakota County, Minnesota. TO THE MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT of Transportation, the historic Waterford Bridge some two miles northeast of Northfield is tagged as bridge number L3275. I suppose bridges, […]
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.
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……
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.
The 100th BHC Pic of the Week pays tribute to the family of George Floyd, a person who died of injuries sustained when he was wongfully aprehended by four Minneapolis Police Officers. While one of them has been formally charged for the murder, it has not been enough to quell the demonstrations which could potentially result in another civil war in America, its first since 1865. For those who demand justice and equality among all races, socio-economic background and the like, we hear you and you have our support. It is time for radical and thorough changes for the USA on all fronts.
The Pic of the Week takes us north of Minneapolis to this crossing. The Anoka-Champlain Bridgespans the Mississippi River at the Hennepin-Anoka County border. This 10-span, open spandrel arch bridge was built in 1929, replacing a two-span Camelback through truss bridge that eventually was relocated upriver to Clearwater. The structure was rehabilitated in 1990 in which the arches were reinforced and the roadway was widened to accomodate increasing traffic on Ferry Street and US Highway 169 as it heads to the Boundary Waters area. The bridge is located near a natural preserve and some park areas along the river.
I had a chance to photograph this structure in August 2011, as I was returning from my trip in the lakes area near Little Falls and making my way back to the airport for my flight home. There are many angles to photograph the structure but I found this one to be the best- a unique bridge stretching across the water, surrounded by branches of greenery on a beautiful sunny afternoon. I won’t go into any further details here and let you analyse it yourself. But the bridge represents a symbol for unity both among humanity as well as between humanity and a beautiful green environment- something we all need in these hard times.
This week’s pic of the week takes us back to 2011 and to Minnesota. This shot was taken of the Long Meadow Bridge from the observation deck of Mound Springs Park and the Minnesota River Wildlife Refuge on the northern banks of Long Meadow Lake, all located in Bloomington, located south of Minneapolis and St. Paul, known as the Twin Cities. It was a crystal clear afternoon and I was able to get four of the five Parker through truss spans. Little did I realize is that an airline jet flew low enough over the bridge that it was caught on the camera. It was on its way to land at the Twin Cities Airport. Timing was of the essence, coincidence was gold in this case. This bridge photo was once the header for the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles on its Areavoices website when it was in operation. The Areavoices site was shut down in April 2018.
Since the photo was taken, the Long Meadow Bridge was rehabilitated and restored to its former glory. It was reopened to traffic in 2016 after two years of restoration and is now integrated into the network of bike trails that runs along the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers and in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area. Access to the bridge can be found through Cedar Park, on the same side as the wildlife refuge and Mound Springs Park. One has to follow Old Cedar Avenue all the way towards the park. That used to be a key highway before the expressway made it obsolete in 1977. One can see photos of the bridge before and after the restoration as well as additional information on the bridge’s history can be found here.