This week’s Pic of the Week takes us on a road trip to rural Iowa and to this bridge- out in the middle of nowhere. 😉 The Durrow Road Bridge spans Blue Creek in Linn County. The bridge can be seen from I-380 right before exiting at Urbana. It’s about 10 miles northwest of Cedar Rapids. It’s a Parker through truss bridge, built in the 1920s using standardized truss designs and measures that were introduced by the Iowa State Highway Commission (now Iowa DOT). It was relocated to this spot at the T-intersection with Blue Creek Road in 1949 and has been serving farm traffic ever since. It has been well-kept with new paint and consistent maintenance.
This photo was taken during one of two visits in 2011, together with my bridgehunting colleague Quinn Phelan, who has lived in the area for many years and knows most of the bridges both in Linn County as well as in many parts of east central Iowa. Like it is today here in Saxony and parts of the Midwestern US, it was taken on a beautiful blue sunny day with a slight breeze and lots of greenery in the area.
The Durrow Road Bridge is a structure that exemplifies a bridge that was common in rural Iowa and a great photo opp for not only the pontists and photographers, but for people who appreciate what this bridge has to offer.
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.
This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to the City of Jena in eastern Thuringia and to this bridge, the Carl Alexander Bridge, which is about seven kilometers to the north of the city. The three-span Parker through truss bridge, built in 1892, spans the River Saale and can be seen high in the air from Dornburg Castle. In either direction, one has a grandiose photographic view- towards the castle from the bridge or from the terrace of the castle. The bridge was imploded before the end of World War II but was subsequentially rebuilt afterwards. It had served traffic until a new bridge on a new alignment opened in the late 1990s and the truss bridge was converted to a bike crossing, serving the Saale Bike Trail. While living in Jena, my wife and I would always use this bridge to cross while biking along the Saale. It was a great treat even to spend a few minutes break at the bridge.
Since 2018 the bridge has undergone an extensive renovation where crews replaced the decking and some truss parts, as well as removed the pack rust on the trusses, repainted the whole structure and made repairs on the bridge’s abutments. We had an opportunity to visit the bridge during our most recent visit. Having moved away from Jena, we wanted to revisit some of the places that held lots of memories in the 19+ years we lived there. This was one of them, especially as the structure was being rehabbed.
As you can see in the pics presented, the bridge looks like new and the rehab is almost finished. The new decking was added and paved. What is missing are the railings. Before the work began, fencing was placed on both sides of the trusses from the inside to keep people from leaning on the railings, Much of the original railings was as rusty and corroded as the trusses themselves and therefore had to be removed for restoring. As you can see in the tunnel shot, it looks done, but not just yet.
According to the website, the railings are not the only issue left. The bridge will be lit with LED, making it shine to its glory at night and replacing the yellow sodium lighting that had existed before but emitted an amber color of dystopia that was unwelcoming to visitors. Furthermore, a bridge park with an info-board on the bridge’s history will be built near the parking lot on the east end. Fundraising is still being done to make this a reality. If you are interested, click here to donate.
It is unknown when the bridge will reopen, let alone how long it will take for at least the structural work will be done before opening the bridge. Due to the Corona Virus and the restrictions that are in place, it is very unlikely that an opening ceremony will take place this year. This will buy workers more time to finish the work on their „To-Do“ List and have the bridge ready for use again. Although the bridge will re-open in silence, the celebration will most likely happen in 2021 or even 2022, when the bridge is 110 years old. In either case, like with the Corona, patience is the key. Give them time and you will be given time to use it again. Word to the wise.
HAZELGREEN, MISSOURI- The days of the Gasconade River Bridge, which used to carry US Hwy. 66 near Hezelgreen may be numbered as it faces demolition scheduled for Spring of 2020 unless a new owner can be found.
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) has placed the 95-year old bridge under a 30-day public review and comment period which is halfway through its time and is scheduled to be completed by July 5th. The historic bridge was built in 1924 by MODOT and consists of (from west to east) one 8-panel Warren pony truss with alternating verticals, two 8-panel Parker through trusses and one 6-panel Pratt through truss, all totaling a length of 526 feet. The structure is elgible for the National Register of Historic Places because of its design that was in connection with the standardized bridge movement that started in 1910. It is also in connection with Route 66 and its history, as the Highway, connecting Chicago with Los Angeles via Tulsa and Santa Fe was in operation from 1926 until the last segment of the highway was decommissioned in 1979. Interstate 40 had suplanted the stretch of highway where the bridge is located a years earlier.
Currently, the bridge is closed to traffic and a replacement bridge is being built alongside the historic structure, which will carry a frontage road running alongside the interstate once it’s completed next year. The Gasconade Bridge used to carry that road before its closure in 2015.
Attempts to find an owner for the new bridge and restore the structure to its original glory have not been successful due to differences in planning and realization combined with lack of funding for purchase and restoration. Yet the Gasconade Bridge Facebook (click here) has garnered support from over 1200 Followers and many more who are not on the social media scene. There have been rallies and fundraisers lately and a page where you can donate to save the bridge (click here).
Still the clock is ticking and with the resources and options running out, “only a public outcry expressing significant concern and a desire to save the bridge from demolition might help,” according to a statement on the Gasconade Facebook Page. If you would like to help in convincing government officials to save the bridge, here are the contact details you Need to know before you address your support for the bridge:
Mail:Transportation Planning, Program Comments, P.O. Box 270, Jefferson City, MO. 65102.
Identify the Gasconade River Bridge in Laclede County, MO. Give them your name and where you live and most importantly, why this bridge is important and is worth saving. It must be personal; all letters copied and pasted will not be acceptable.
To provide you with an incentive to convince MODOT, here’s an interview I did with Rich Dinkela about the bridge a few years ago. Click here to view. A pair of YouTube videos of the bridge can be found below:
If you have any suggestions to help save the bridge or are interested in buying it, please contact the Group on their Facebook page. A link to their website you will find here.
As the state of Bavaria is striving for the world record with the construction of the longest pedestrian suspension bridge over the Selbitz Valley near the Thuringian-Bavarian border, one wonders if the project is too ambitious, given the fact that we have too many “marode” bridges in the region. Apart from the problems with the Sparnberg Bridge near the Motorway Crossing at Rudolphstein, we have another crossing that needs attention very badly. And for a good reason too: the bridge is located right at the junction of seven different hiking trails going in each direction!
The Selbitz Bridge is located in the small town of Blankenstein, located on the Thuringian side of the former East-West German border. The bridge spans the river Selbitz and is the last crossing before it empties into the River Saale. For four kilometers between the confluence with the Saale and the junction with Muschwitz Creek, the Selbitz separates the two states and had once been a military border that kept Blankenstein behind the Iron Curtain and people from fleeing over the river. In fact, only a kilometer northeast of the confluence between the Selbitz and the Saale, there was a site of an attempted escape to the western half of Germany, which occurred on 6 January, 1989, nine months before the Fall of the Wall. There, three men and a lady tried escaping over the wall erected on the Thuringian side during the night. After going over the first wall and approaching the second inside the “Death Zone,” they were spotted by East German and Russian guards who shot at them. Eventually, one of the men succeeded in swimming across the icy cold Saale into Bavaria; the other three were arrested. Blankenstein was one of the key escape routes used by many wanting to try and escape to the West until the borders were opened on 9 November, 1989. Some succeeded by breaking through the barriers. Others were arrested and imprisoned. One fatality was recorded in 1964.
After the Fall of the Wall came the demolition of the borders that had separated the two Germanys for 28 years. And with that, the construction of several bridges over the rivers and streams that had been fenced off. The Selbitz Bridge was one of the bridges that was built crossing the former border. Originally a Waddell through truss bridge, the 29-meter long wooden crossing was completed in 1991. With that came an opportunity to reunite Thuringia and Bavaria by foot, providing hikers with an opportunity to explore the Thuringian Forest, the Fichtel Mountains and the Schiefgebirge using seven hiking trails- six here plus another one in the making that runs along the former border that had separated Germany prior to November 1989. After the construction of the bridge, two monuments, built on each side of the Selbitz, as well as parking areas and a combination tourist information and first aid station were built, where the six current (and one planned) routes meet. The bridge practically served as the key meeting point between two points of junction, one for each state.
Despite the bridge connecting the two states, problems arose in 2015 with the truss structure itself. Due to a combination of weather extremities, wear and tear and the damages caused by the two floods that ravaged Germany- 2002 and 2013, the Selbitz Bridge was considered structurally unsound, getting a grade of 3.4 out of 5 during an annual inspection in 2016. Bridges with a grade of 3 or worse are required to be rehabilitated to make it safer or be completely replaced. The end result was an unusual move designed to keep the structure’s integrity but also give the bridge a new look. Hence the gabled tower and the top half of the Waddell truss were taken down, new bracings were added in its place, thus creating a Parker through truss design that is supported with X-framed portal bracings. Furthermore, the decking was supported with leaning beams with x-bracings, anchored into the abutment, as seen in the picture below:
Inspite this, this may not be enough to save the bridge, for a lot of wood rot and cracks are appearing in the lower half of the trusses. Most glaring are the end posts, one of which looks so shredded that it could potentially cause the bridge to collapse under ist weight or even flip over into the water. The least it could happen is that the trusses would tilt, putting more tension on the wooden truss parts. While some work has been done on the bridge already, with the truss conversion, it only represents a dressing to the problems the bridge has and the inevitable that the City of Blankenstein as well as the states of Thurngia and Bavaria will have to face- namely that the bridge will need to be replaced. Whether there is funding available remains unclear, especially in light of the recent approval of the construction of the longest pedestrian suspension bridges in the world at Lohbachtal and Höllental at the cost of 23 Million Euros.
While this controversial project remains ambitious and will surely bring in hundreds of thousands of tourists to the region, one wonders if this project is being carried out at the expense of several bridges in the region that are in dire need of attention. And the numbers are growing as more people come to the region for vacationing. By making the necessary repairs to the crossings, like in Sparnberg and here in Blankenstein, it will do more than provide safety for drivers, cyclists and hikers.
A Map of the Bridges at the Thuringian-Bavarian border can be found here. The Selbitz Bridge is on the far left.
CHEMNITZ (GERMANY)- I’m going to be very honest for this mystery bridge, which is the 100th structure I’ve posted since launching the series in 2011. It was very, VERY difficult to decide which one to post next, for there was a large selection to choose from, ranging from an abandoned bridge along Route 66, a three-span through truss bridge in Oklahoma, a suspension bridge in India and this bridge. After some thorough consideration, I decided to go with the way that is the best in terms of my own merit as the structures have been mentioned by others in one way or another.
So here it comes: a through truss bridge that has been sitting on private land for a very long time, on the outskirts of a city that was for some time named after a Communist. Found by accident but not before almost getting my Volkswagen rammed into by a lorry behind me, who was cussing at me in Polish as he passed me by, after having parked my car off to the side. 😉
OK, the Polish guy part was fake news, but looking at the rest of the picture, one can see that you don’t need to fact-check this beauty. The bridge is located just off Highway 107, three kilometers north of the Motorway A4 and the Exit Chemnitz-Glösa. It sits on private land next to the restaurant and hotel Landgasthof Draisdorf, around the curve. It is an eight-panel Pratt through truss bridge, built using welded connections- meaning the beams are held together by gusset plates and are not inserted into the plates, like we would see in other truss bridges. The end posts are typical for many European truss bridges built during its time: vertical instead of angled. The portal and strut bracings feature V-laced bracings with curved heel bracings. The middle strut heels appear to be subdivided. The bridge can be seen from the highway- although it is not recommended to stop because the highway curves around the Landgasthof and one could risk such a rear- ender plus an explanation with the police to follow. The bridge is about 5-6 meters tall, about 30-35 meters long and 3 meters wide, judging by my presence at the bridge and the photos I took of the bridge. While the bridge is one of five known in Chemnitz, this is the only through truss bridge within the city limits, counting the village of Draisdorf, where it sits.
The fun part comes with the history of the bridge. My first judgement of the bridge was that it was located over the River Chemnitz at Heinersdorfer Strasse and it was pulled offsite and to its current location after a new bridge was constructed 100 meters to the south. The truss bridge was replaced by a new bridge in 2005. You can see the points mentioned on the map. However, research by the Saxony Ministry of Historic Monuments and Preservation (D: Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Sachsen) in Dresden indicated that this truss bridge was not originally located at Heinersdorfer Strasse but at Fischweg near the cemetary in Glösa, only 400 meters south of the motorway exit. The map indicates that a bridge does exist but in a form of a bike and pedestrian crossing for the street ends on the grounds of a factory nearby. The date of construction of the bridge is 1900 and is currently listed in the Preservation Handbook for the State of Saxony (Denkmalschutzliste).
This leads us to the following questions which your help would be much appreciated in contributing whatever information may be of use:
Is the date 1900 correct? Sometimes the year is used because of a lack of clarity in terms of when exactly it was built and open to traffic.
If the bridge was not originally located at Heinersdorfer Strasse, what did the previous structure look like? When was it built and was it built by the same bridge builder as this bridge?
Independent of what was mentioned in nr. 2, who was the bridge builder for this bridge?
When was the current structure at Heinersdorfer Strasse built and what happened to the old structure?
What factors led to the replacement of this bridge and who led the efforts in saving it for reuse?
It’s not every day that a person and/or party steps forward to purchase the bridge and keep it for reuse. The bridge is privately owned and judging by my observations, it is being used as a picnic area with a porch swing attached to the top strut bracing. For most historic bridges that are purchased by private groups-namely homeowners, they are normally used for picnic areas and other forms of recreation more than for pedestrian and bike crossings because of liability reasons. It is different in comparison with private parties in the form of associations, park and recreational groups and the community that have more resources (including financial) to make sure the crossing is safe for reuse. But nevertheless, this bridge is safe and will most likely be in the hands of the homeowner until the need to get rid of it is near. When that happens, it can be hoped that the bridge is put back over the Chemnitz as a bike crossing. With the Chemnitztal Bike Path being extended and paved to Wechselburg, it would not be a surprise if this bridge was called to duty again given its preservation status and the interest in keeping it for generations to come.
And this is what makes this unexpected stop the most memorable- finding out the unknown about a structure like this one, which is truly a hidden gem.
And as we are on the same page, the next mystery bridge will go further downstream where a pair of structures are being refitted for bike use. More on this one in the next article. In the meantime, enjoy the photos here as well as on BHC’s facebook page. And as for the aforementioned bridges at the beginning of the page, they will come later.
Author’s Note:Chemnitz was once named Karl-Marx-Stadt when it was under the rule of the German Democratic Republic. It even had a head statue of Karl Marx that can still be seen today. From 1953 until 1990, it was known that way.
And then we have this bridge- a pedestrian bridge between Schlema and Aue that is now closed to all traffic. Workers recently closed the over 115-year old structure as they plan to rehabilitate the two-span Parker through truss span, whose predecessor was a wooden covered bridge. According to the Free Press in Aue, the decking of the bridge will be rebuilt and then integrated into the Mulde Bike Trail network. The trail itself is in the middle of construction and when completed this fall, it will run parallel to the river from Aue to Schlema, crossing the Iron Bridge. It currently shares a street connecting the two communities, but sharp curves and steep hills make it dangerous for cyclists and drivers alike. The catch to the problem however is with the railroad crossing. Because the current gates, used for pedestrians, are not suitable for cyclists, officials are looking at three options, all of them will cost as much as the project itself, which is 500,000 Euros (ca. $620,000). The first option is a modern railroad crossing guards like at the train station Bad Schlema. Another is a tunnel under the railroad tracks, which will require multiple closures of the rail line between Aue and Zwickau. And then there is a bridge that would cross over the tracks before gliding down towards the historic structure. Officials believe the third variant would be built and open by 2019. In either case while the bridge renovations may be cheap, the solution for the railroad crossing on the east end may be the one that could break the bank. Still, when the project is finish, cyclists can go from Eibenstock to Schlema without having any interruptions with detours, etc. There is hope that this stretch can be extended to Hartenstein (five river kilometers from Schlema), which would include restoring the Schlema Stone Arch Bridge. But because of lack of funding, chances are likely that after the fusion between Aue and Schlema, financial resources will be available to make both projects happen. The interest is there but in praxis, it is a different ball game.
But for now, the Aue-Schlema has priority while the story continues with the other stretch….
MoDOT has Route 66 Crossing for sale after failed attempt to buy the bridge. Deadline is March 15, 2019. Bridge will be demolished if no one claims it.
HAZELGREEN/ JEFFERSON CITY/ ST. LOUIS- One month after Workin Bridges withdrew from the Gasconade River Bridge project, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is looking for a new owner of the bridge that used to serve Route 66. Between now and March 15, 2019, you have an opportunity to claim this prized work- a four-span truss bridge featuring two Parker through trusses, a Pratt through truss and a Warren pony truss span, totaling 525 feet. According to the information on the MoDOT Bridge Marketing Page:
“The Gasconade River Bridge was constructed under State Highway Department project 14-38. The contract for the project was awarded on December 30, 1922 to the Riley & Bailey Construction Company of St. Louis, Missouri. Route 14 was being developed as a diagonal highway connecting St. Louis and southwest Missouri. The highway, designated under the Centennial Road Law passed in 1921, was funded by State Road Bonds, and connected the county seats and major towns between St. Louis and Joplin. In 1926, Route 14 was designated U. S. Highway 66.”
In addition, the bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under criteria A and C for its significance in transportation and engineering, according to the website.
Parties interested in preserving the structure must have a commitment and a plan as to how to go forward with saving the bridge, as the structure has been closed to all traffic since December 2014 because of structural concerns. This includes restoring the bridge for reuse as a recreational crossing, even in its current place. Proposals are being accepted between now and 15 March, 2019 from one or more parties. In a statement made by MoDOT:
“Due to liability issues and limited funds, we will have to remove the bridge unless an outside entity steps forward to take ownership of and maintain the bridge,” said MoDOT Central District Engineer David Silvester. “We know that’s not what folks want to hear, but it’s the reality of the situation. We are hopeful some entity will step forward with a proposal to preserve the existing structure.”
This setback will not affect the plans for building a new bridge on new alignment adjacent to the existing structure. Bids for building the new bridge will be opened in April, and the project is scheduled to be awarded to a contractor in May. Construction is set to start in July, and MoDOT is expecting to have traffic on the new bridge by the fall of 2019.
Anyone interested in taking ownership of the old bridge can contact Karen Daniels, Senior Historic Preservation Specialist, at 573-526-7346 or Karen.Daniels@modot.mo.gov.
CHARLESTOWN, INDIANA/ LOUISVILLE, KY- There is one variant that makes a person go nuts when it comes to the future of a historic bridge, and that is the use of modal verbs. Modal verbs are used to support the verb in a sentence. No matter which language you are learning, each modal verb has a set of at least five words, each of which has at least three different functions.
In English we have ten different modal verbs, yet four of them we will focus on are may, might, can and could, as they are all interconnected in a sense of meaning and use but how to incorporate them into the context is exceptionally difficult for they may or may not fit pending on the situation. That means may, might, and can have the meaning of a possibility but how it fits is tricky because the road can be closed if the weather is bad, the road might be closed because of the weather (meaning watch for the weather report and road signs), the road may be closed but based on permission by the authorities to close it, the road could be closed as a possibility if and only if there is an alternative, and the road can be closed because of the permission to close it, period.
Do you see what I’m saying here? If not, then you are not alone, and with this bridge that we’re talking about, it is even more confusing.
The bridge had been in the market by the Indiana DOT and the State Historical Preservation Office because of its potential to be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. Yet the way it was marketed was rather confusing at best. This was in part because of this sign…..
This is where the use of the modal verb “may” caused confusion for it could have meant one of the following if deciphered carefully:
This historic bridge will be replaced.
This historic bridge is allowed to be replaced but because of permission by INDOT
This historic bridge has a chance to be replaced unless something is done to stop it
There is a possibility that the bridge will be replaced.
Even though the agency had a telephone number to contact to inquire more about this bridge, chances are that there may have been more people on the other line who would have had different answers to the question of:
Will this bridge be replaced and
Can I buy the bridge?
If Indiana had been serious about this bridge, it would have had better signage that indicated that the bridge was for sale using specific language- a sign that would have looked like this:
Historic Bridge For Sale. Any Takers? Call 555-324-1212. Sale ends 31 December 2018.
Plus a little bit of information.
Simplicity is key but in a way that everyone understands. Sadly, the use of modal verbs resulted in this bridge’s downfall. But a lesson that should be learned from this is this:
You must be specific!
To better understand the use of modal verbs, check out the modal verbs presented in the sister column The Flensburg Files, especially with the story of I Wish, where you can make use of the story AND the modal verb exercise. 🙂