Endangered TRUSS: The Three Historic Bridges of Christian County, Missouri

Unless noted otherwise, all pics were taken by the author in 2011

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OZARK, MISSOURI- When I first became involved with Christian County’s historic bridges back in late 2010, we were at the beginning of a renaissance- a renaissance where our country was becoming more aware of the importance of historic bridges, and there were numerous exchanges of ideas and success stories on historic bridge preservation. The public was beginning to wake up and whenever they heard about a historic bridge that was targeted for demolition and replacement, they stepped forward to halt the plans and worked together to save these precious structures, those that played key roles in the development of America’s infrastructure and with it, bridge engineering. Myself, together with fellow pontists Todd Wilson, Nathan Holth, Bill Hart and the late James Baughn worked together with Kris Dyer and the organization to save the Riverside Bridge in Ozark, first restoring it onsite in 2012 and then after flooding caused damage two years later, relocating the bridge and restoring it at its new home at Finley Farms in 2020. The preservation movement gained a lot of support among the community and the county that they never forgot how important the Riverside Bridge really was to them- and still is today.

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After a double-success story which garnered a two gold medals in the 2012 Ammann Awards and three silver medals in last year’s Bridgehunter Awards, plus several other awards, there is hope that the Riverside Bridge story could be spread to three other bridges in Christian County. As mentioned in last week’s BHC Newsflyer podcast, three historic bridges are slated for replacement, though it is unknown how the county will fund these projects, let alone when they will be replaced remains open.

Which of these bridges are targeted for replacement? Three remaining “wild” truss bridges- bridges that are either open to traffic still or have been abandoned for only a few years, waiting for repairs or replacement so that the crossing is used again. The only common variable: Like the Riverside Bridge, these three were built by the Canton Bridge Company in Ohio. Specifically they are as follows:

Green Bridge

Location: Finley Creek on Smyrna Rd. NE of Ozark

Bridge Type: Pin-connected Pratt through truss with A-frame portal bracings

Dimensions: 281 feet long (main span: 119 feet), 11.8 feet wide, vertical clearance: 14.8 feet high

Date of construction: 1912; rehabilitated in 2004 & 2017

The Green Bridge is one of only three through truss bridges left in the county and also the last of the single span truss bridge. Like the Riverside Bridge, its portals feature the typical markings and the bridge builder plates with the name Canton on there. It’s one of the tallest in the county and one where even a train could cross it. It’s narrow enough that only one truck and one person could be on the bridge at the same time. This was my personal experience visiting the bridge with Ms. Dyer and a friend (and former high school classmate) of mine and his family. The bridge is situated in a natural habitat surrounded by forests on both sides of Finley Creek. A beautiful place for a picnic or a photo opportunity.

Photo by Nathan Holth at historicbridges.org

Hawkins Ford Bridge

Location: Finley Creek on Seneca Road

Bridge type: Two-span pin-connected Pratt pony truss bridge

Dimensions: 161 feet long (per truss span: 80 feet); 11.8 feet wide

Date of construction: 1915.

The Hawkins Ford Bridge is one of those mystery bridges, whose case needs to be solved before its ending as a vehicular crossing. It was relocated here in 1966 but no record mentions where its origin was. We just know that Canton built the structure in 1915 and that’s it. The bridge has been closed to traffic since 2017 and even though there are claims that justify its end of life, the bridge still has a chance at a new life for because of its bridge type, there are many ways to save it. The bridge is quite popular among locals, as you can see in the photos in bridgehunter.com.

Red Bridge

Location: Bull Creek on Red Bridge Road south of Ozark

Bridge Type: Three-span Pratt pony truss with pinned connections

Dimensions: 255 feet long in total (longest span 85.8 feet), 11.5 feet wide

Date of Construction: 1915; Repaired in 2005

The Red Bridge was built at the same time as Hawkins Mill but like the Green Bridge, it is located in a heavily forested setting and is a very narrow crossing- narrow enough that only one car and one person could fit, side by side. If there is one bridge that would need to be completely rebuilt, it is this one because of the piers that have been crumbling since my visit in 2011.

All three bridges are considered elgible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, but given Canton Bridge Company’s good track record with the county, let alone the company’s agent, these three structures should be on the National Register. In fact, given the fact that also the Riverside Bridge and Ozark Mill Bridge, now standing side by side at Finley Farms, have not been listed yet, there should be a historic bridge designation with the purpose of not only protecting them but also making them a tourist attraction, as it is being done with the covered bridges in Lyndon, Vermont (as mentioned in the most recent podcast).

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The bridges at hand here are no longer suitable for modern-day traffic and according to Christian County Highway Commissioner Miranda Beadles, the new structures would be two-lane to allow for all traffic to use them, especially emergency crews, school buses and utilities. But the county has expressed interest in saving the structures and is open to all options, including giving them to a third party. The question is what options are available? Here are a few worth considering:

Leaving them in place

This option has been practiced where historic bridges could be in place alongside the old one. For the three bridges, there is the option of making a park/rest area on the bridge, integrating them into a bike trail crossing, converting them into a fishing pier or leaving it as is. Advantage is that the relocation costs would be subtracted and the cost would only be allocated for repurposing them onsite, including the cost for the parking area and possible lighting. Plus it would allow for easier and quicker listing on the National Register. The drawback is the costs for ensuring that the bridge is not a liable risk. That means repairs to the structure, esp. with the Red Bridge, plus security and flood protection would be needed. But for this option, it is the most popular avenue for historic bridge preservation.

Relocating them

This was done with the Riverside Bridge already as Finley Farms purchased the structure and financed the restoration project. Normally relocating a bridge takes a lot of money, not only for the cost of disassembly and reassembly, but also the transport and the construction of the abutment and decking. In the case of the three bridges, there is the question of where to place them, though Ozark would be the best spot for these structures, be it as a city-wide bike trail network where these bridges would be showcased, or a bridge museum and/or park near the Finley Farm complex, or an open space where the bridges could be displayed and a new park would be created. That option would depend on the availability of space in town but most importantly, the interest in the community in this endeavor.

Integrating the historic bridges into the new structure

This practice is being done with several historic bridges, including the Route 66 Bridge at Bridgeport, Oklahoma, which will be considered the largest ever. And even though all three bridges would benefit from this “reconstruction,” including the National Register listing, the county has made it clear that the new structures would be two lanes, thus making Hawkins Ford and Red Bridges eligible, and the Green Bridge would be left out, its future unknown.

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The current status is as follows: the three bridges are scheduled for replacement but the county has not given up on them just yet. They are looking for ideas on how to reuse them. The interest is still there to save them. The question is how. The Riverside Bridge has shown us that when there is the interest and the way to preserve a historic bridge, nothing will stop it from making it happen. While the Missouri Department of Transportation has been literally busy working on replacing every single historic bridge on the map, competing with Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin for the title of the first truss-bridge-less state in the country, there are some counties in the state and those along the Route 66 Corridor that do not subscribe to MoDOT’s point of view. The end of a bridge’s structural life does not mean the bridge must be torn down and replaced. And newer structures designed to last 100 years have turned out to have lasted a quarter of that time. With global warming and its disastrous implications on our environment, we have to rethink the way we preserve and replace bridges. We have to appreciate how bridges are built and make use of what history offers us by preserving what is left and using the playbook to build those that are adaptable to change and conform to the environment surrounding it. Truss bridges have played a pivotal role in doing both- as a bridge type that fits with nature and a bridge type that withstands floods and other natural disasters.

And this is where we return to the three bridges of Christian County and their futures. How should they be preserved? If you have any ideas, here are the contact details of people with whom you can share your ideas and ask more about them.

Save the Riverside Bridge would be a good way to start. It has a fb page: https://www.facebook.com/saveriversidebridge

Then you have the following contact details of the Christian County officials:

Ralph Phillips:

rphillips@christiancountymo.gov

417-582-4302

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Lynn Morris:

lmorris@christiancountymo.gov

417-582-4304

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Hosea Bilyeu

Hbilyeu@christiancounty.org

417-582-4303

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Highway Administrator – Miranda Beadles mbeadles@christiancountymo.gov

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Christian County Commission

100 West Church St., Room 100

Ozark, MO 65721

Phone: 417-582-4300

Countycommission@christiancountymo.gov

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The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest involving the three bridges and their futures, which are currently up in the air. Will they be saved and if so, how and which ones will benefit? All options are open at this point.

Riverside Bridge Reset at a New Home

The Riverside Bridge being put into place at Finley Farms. Source: 407 Drone Imaging

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OZARK, MISSOURI- Ten years ago at this time, the community of Ozark, Missouri, with the help of many dedicated pontists from all over the US and Europe, came together to save a historic gem of a bridge, which had spanned Finley Creek at Riverside Drive- a product of the Canton Bridge Company of Ohio, built in 1909. An organization was formed in 2010 to save the two-span Pratt through truss bridge and to this day, this organization has almost 3000 members. The bridge was one of the main attractions of the 2011 Historic Bridge Weekend in August, together with the bridges of St. Louis and Kansas City, as well as the Gasconade Bridge and the now demolished structure at Enochs Knob. It was where old friends from high school reunited and new friends were made, some of which we are still in contact to this day.

Riverside Bridge at its original location before its first restoration project in 2013. Photo taken at the HB Weekend in 2011

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It was through these efforts that the Riverside Bridge was restored in its place and reopened in 2013. It took another challenge through a monstrous flood in 2015 and the knee jerk reaction of the special road district officials and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to turn to removing the bridge because of damage to the piers and parts of the bridge deck.

Enter Bass Pro and Finley Farms who fell in love with the bridge and decided it would be a wonderful accessory to their facility. Since March 30th, 2021, the truss bridge is up and over Finley Creek again, yet in a new home 1.3 miles from its original location. Crews lifted the two-span bridge onto new piers, one truss span at a time, in a ceremonial event which brought friends, families, locals and bridge lovers together, including Kris Dyer, who heads the organization devoted to saving the historic structure, and Johnny Morris, the owner of Bass Pro and Finley Farms who made it happen, not just through money and power, but with dedication and love.

Once the decking is put into place and the path is in place, the bridge will serve as key connection between Ozark Mill- a grain mill that dates back to the 1830s- and the wedding chapel. It will be a popular attraction not only for weddings and other formal events, but also for tourists who want to see the entire Finley Farms complex, with its historic buildings and experiencing living history including the local delicacies. The Riverside Bridge will have the company of another two-span through truss bridge that was built 13 years later (in 1922) by the Pioneer Bridge Company and features Baltimore spans. For a true pontists, a day trip to Ozark Mill and to the two bridges will be well worth it. For families, it is an experience with lots of memories! 🙂 ❤

The Riverside Bridge in the background and the Ozark Mill Bridge in the foreground. Source: 407 Drone Imaging

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From a columnist’s point of view, the restoration of the Riverside Bridge would not be possible without the support of locals, historians and people who wish to keep the bridge and consider its value as a tourist sttraction. We have seen many structures disappear because there was a lack of support among the public and connections through businesses and the local government. Speaking from personal experience, having the interest in the bridge’s history, let alone a plan on how to reuse the structure once its days as a vehicular crossing, are keys to winning the support needed and making the efforts to saving the bridge possible. It takes a lot of marketing efforts, wit and especially patience to pull it off. If one party says it’s impossible, the other has to counter with not only a why, but also a reason why restoring a bridge is possible. One can learn from the experience of those who have been successful in their efforts but also those who tried and failed for whatever reason it may be (mostly, they are political).

Both spans in place. Now comes the decking. Source: 407 Drone Imaging

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The Riverside Bridge represents a classic example of a bridge that got the love and support of the local community to save but also connections and a good plan to make the preservation happen. When we started on the campaign in 2010, we had a lot of ideas on how the bridge could be kept into place and shared lots of success stories with Kris (Dyer) and others involved to give them ideas on how it could be done. We did fundraisers and even produced some shirts dedicated to saving the bridge, two of which I bought and are still at home in Germany. 🙂 After the Historic Bridge Weekend in 2011, the local government stepped in, realizing that the bridge was indeed a valuable commodity to the community, and the bridge was subsequentially restored and reopened to traffic.

The flooding of 2013 put the bridge in danger again due to damage to the piers and there was doubt that it could ever be restored because it would have required the bridge to be raised to meet certain flood level requirements. Also, the historic Riverside Inn, which had been closed for many years, had to be removed as part of the plan to have a flood plain. That area is now a park next to the replacement structure, opened to traffic last year.

Photo taken in 2011

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Still, the love for the bridge did not wane and thanks to our efforts in 2011, new actors came in with a plan to not only save the bridge but also find a new home for it. While buying a bridge for a buck ($1) is the easiest way to save a structure, that’s just the start. A good plan for moving it or even converting it to a park just off the road where the replacement structure is needed as well ensurance that the bridge is safe for use. In the case of Riverside Bridge, the idea of showcasing it in an area flanked by a mill and nearby parks was the best idea and the safest way to preserve the structure and prevent its ultimate doom. What is needed is a bit of love, creative ideas and also back-up plans in case plan A failed to bear fruit. Most importantly, it needs the support from the community and businesses who are willing work with the project to ensure future generations will enjoy it. The Riverside Bridge, who is up for its second Bridgehunter Award in the Category Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge this winter, represents just that.

When there is a will, there is a way. The slogan for saving the bridge, for a second time. While many historic bridges have met their doom despite efforts to save them, there are others that are still in the fight to be preserved and reused for future generations. There’s a lot to learn from the Riverside Bridge experience, something that can be used for other projects. And if there is a doubt, Ozark is in southwestern Missouri near Springfield. Have a look at Finley Farms and its new accessory and you will see success in historic bridge preservation right in front of you. 🙂

Article and website in connection with the event:

https://eu.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2021/03/30/bass-pro-finley-farms-touts-raising-historic-riverside-bridge-ozark/4799036001/

Finley Farms: https://finleyfarmsmo.com/

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Quick Fact: This will be the third home of Riverside Bridge, yet as it was built at the Ozark Mill site in 1909, it’s a welcome home celebration. It had first served the mill until the Baltimore truss bridge replaced it in 1924 and it was relocated to the site at Riverside Dr.

The Author would like to thank 407 Drone Imaging for use of the photos, plus to Kris Dyer, Bill Hart, Todd Wilson, Nathan Holth and the community of Ozark and Christian County for many years of efforts, ideas and all for making it happen not only once but twice. Also a shout out to the heavens to James Baughn, who is probably watching this right now with the Lord at his side, enjoying some shots and a good beer. This one’s for you, bud. 🙂

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Rome Bridge Gone!

Photos taken by James Baughn

ROME/SPRINGFIELD, MO-  While flooding has taken its toll on many bridges in the region, another bridge located in Douglas County, Missouri met its end yesterday. Yet the removal was planned. The Rome Bridge was a two-span Pratt through truss bridge featuring a four-rhombus Howe Lattice portal bracings with curved ankle braces. The 102-year old bridge was the product of the Kansas City Bridge Company but was built under the direction of J.H. Murray and Company. Upon completion in 1913, the bridge was 201 feet long (two 100-foot truss spans) and 15 feet wide.

Yet despite its historic significance and its proximity to a nearby park, talks had been underway to replace the bridge for three years because of structural concerns and its age. Attempts were undertaken to convince county officials and a preservation group to take a stand to stop the plans for replacement, part of that was in connection with the successes with the Riverside Bridge, which had been fixed and reopened prior to the unveiling of the plans to tear this bridge down. Unfortunately, to the dismay to many preservationists and locals, the ideas fell on deaf ears as county officials went ahead with the replacement project. With the truss bridge now reduced to a pile of scrap metal, a replacement bridge will take its place, most likely being scheduled for opening to traffic by the end of the year at the earliest. But memories of the bridge will remain and a facebook site (which you can click here) features a gallery of photos and videos of the bridge when it was still in service. There are a pair of videos below, which takes you across the bridge- that is before it was taken down yesterday.

 

 

https://video-fra3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hvideo-xfp1/v/t42.1790-2/11735154_10153515964179187_1697948927_n.mp4?efg=eyJybHIiOjU0MCwicmxhIjo1MTJ9&rl=540&vabr=300&oh=d3f50c13cc18f9d1dcb44995b326d912&oe=55AF5F76

 

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Riverside Bridge in Ozark Closed Again

Photo taken in August 2011
Photo taken in August 2011

Flood Damage Prompts Immediate Closure; Replacement being Considered

OZARK/ SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI-  At about this time four years ago, attempts were made to raise funds, sign petitions and collaborate with government authorites to save and repair the Riverside Bridge in Ozark, a 1909 Canton Bridge Company product that has been spanning the Finley River for 106 years, serving as a key crossing to the northwestern part of the city. All these efforts bore fruit as the local road authority allowed for repairs to be made and the bridge to be reopened, all in 2013. These successful attempts garnered state, national and international recognition.

Sadly though, the bridge’s days may be numbered. For the second time in five years, the bridge was closed to all traffic today.  Record setting flooding in the region resulted in much of Ozark and Springfield becoming inundated and bridges being five feet under water. The Riverside Bridge was one of them, as floodwaters washed over the bridge and only the top half of the bridge could be seen. When floodwaters receded, officials from Missouri Department of Transportation inspected the bridge to reveal structural damage to the railings and the lower chords. The bridge will be closed indefinitely until plans are revealed regarding the structure’s future. According to news channels covering the story, it appears that replacement is likely, although both MoDOT and the City of Ozark agree that the historic bridge should be saved, repaired and used again.  The bridge’s closure means it is back to the drawing board for many people who were part of the Save the Riverside Bridge group, led by Kris Dyer, for efforts to save the bridge took 2 years before the city gave the go ahead to rehabilitate and reopen the bridge. With the bridge closed again, the question now has become: “What’s next?”

A video with the interview with the local engineer explains that the repairs are possible but in the long term, replacement may be unavoidable:

Judging by the photos and videos, the damage to the bridge was mainly due to debris slamming into and getting entangled into the bridge. The rest of the structure appears to be in shape. Yet officials would like to see the bridge replaced and the truss bridge relocated. This is in part due to property rights issues around the structure. But suppose instead of replacing the bridge, one can supplant the truss bridge into a concrete bridge, where the trusses lose their function but serve as a decoration, but the concrete bridge would act as the crossing? With several examples existing in places like Indiana and Minnesota, it is an option worth considering. While a new bridge will cost up to $3 million, the cost for such a project will be just as much. Yet one thing is clear, no matter what happens to the bridge, rehabilitating it, replacing it and relocating it, or even placing it onto a concrete bridge, action will be needed to ensure that the next flood will not take out the crossing altogether. That means, a little bit more money will be needed to save the Riverside Bridge.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you informed on the latest developments regarding the Riverside Bridge. Click onto the highlighted links to take you to the bridge, its history and the attempts to save it the first time around.

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2013 Ammann Awards Results Part I

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

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

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

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

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

Lifetime Achievement:

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

Results:

Robert Frame III     18

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

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

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

 

Bridge of the Year:

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

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

Results

Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur                 12

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

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

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

 

Mystery Bridge:

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

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

Results (USA):

Dan Patch Swing Bridge in Minnesota                                                   8

Dinkey Creek Wooden Parker Truss Bridge in California              7          

V-laced truss bridges in Iowa                                                                    5

 

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

International:

Hafenbahn Bridge in Halle (Saale), Germany                                  12

Angelburger Bike Shop Bridge in Flensburg, Germany               8

Schleswig Strasse Bridge in Flensburg, Germany                              1

 

All Around:

Hafenbahn Bridge in Halle (Saale)                                                          12

Angelburger Bike Shop Bridge in Flensburg and

Dan Patch Swing Bridge                                                                                 8

Dinkey Creek Bridge in California                                                             7

 

Best Preservation Example:

Photo taken in August 2011

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

Best Preservation Practice:

Riverside Bridge in Ozark, Missouri        19

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

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

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

 

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

 

Riverside Bridge to be repaired and reopened

Photo taken in August 2011

The repairs will short term while a permanent solution is being sought out for the bridge.

After three years of politicking, fund-raising, public speeches and publicity from all sides of the spectrum, residents of Ozark, Missouri and Christian County are celebrating a well-deserved victory, for the Riverside Bridge will be repaired and reopened to traffic in the coming months. The two-span through truss bridge, built 103 years ago by the Canton Bridge Company, was closed to traffic in September 2010 after it failed an inspection and was fenced off to all traffic in March 2011 fearing potential liability issues on the part of the county. However, efforts led by Zach and Kris Dyer and the organization Save the Riverside Bridge, combined with support from pontists from outside Missouri have led to the Christian County Special Roads District to initiate the repairs, which will include repairing the concrete piers and replacing the railings and parts of the bridge deck at the cost of $170,000. When completed in approximately five months, the bridge will be in service with a five ton weight restriction, minus all emergency vehicles that need to cross the structure to get to their destination.

However, these repairs are only temporary, as both the county and the state department of transportation are looking for a permanent solution for the bridge, which will feature building a new structure on a new alignment and handing the bridge over to the bridge preservation group and city for use as a recreational bridge. Already scratched was a proposal to build a low-water crossing by the Special Roads District because of high costs and the structural flaws it would feature, including being inundated by high waters and the potential for it to be undermined and turned over by flood waters (please refer to the Chronicles article here for more details). No matter how the bridge will be built, construction will not start for at least two years due to tie needed to buy the property adjacent to the bridge and to design the new bridge.

This might give Dyer’s organization more breathing room to rake in the funds to make the Riverside Bridge a permanent crossing for bikes and pedestrians. Already, the Save the Riverside Bridge has collected thousands of dollars in support for restoring and reusing the bridge. More and more people have joined the organization via facebook. Fund-raising events have been going on frequently since the beginning of 2011. Support and expertise were provided by bridge experts and enthusiasts from the US, Germany and elsewhere. Even the 2011 Historic Bridge Conference made a stop in Ozark for dinner and presentations that were visited by nearly 100 people including Lou Lapaglia, the County Commissioner.  While the plan to reopen the bridge is a victory for Dyer and Co., the organization knows that it must continue to push for a permanent solution for everyone to be happy with.

And with the Riverside Bridge being part of the National Register of Historic Places, in addition to being an integral part of Christian County’s history and heritage, combined with the support from people from Missouri, the US and around the world, there is a great potential that the Riverside Bridge will become a success story and a poster boy for other projects involving restoring and reusing historic bridges to follow suit.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you informed on the latest with the Riverside Bridge, but would like to congratulate Zach and Kris Dyer and the rest of the Save the Riverside Bridge for their tireless efforts. It is one giant leap towards the ultimate goal and thou shall continue to keep going until the summit is reached and the sun rises to greet a newly restored historic bridge laden with bikes and pedestrians, all saying thank you for a job well done. Keep up the good work.

More on the bridge and the comments can also be found here.

 

Riverside Bridge Update: The Battle over the Ownership

Riverside Bridge. Photo taken in August 2011

There is usually a problem when it comes to preserving historic bridges and that is the question of ownership and liability. Most of the time agencies and parties involved in a historic bridge in question usually pass the buck (or deferring the responsibility) around until no one wants to take responsibility for the historic bridge because of the fear of being liable for anything that happened on/to the bridge and the potential for lawsuits that would follow.  In many cases, bridges that have been left abandoned for many years are subsequentially removed because no one was either able or willing to take on the burden of ownership for the bridge. Many examples, big and small, come to light, whether it is the Lane Bridge over the Upper Iowa River in Allamakee County, Iowa, which was removed in 2007 for safety concerns, or the Cedar Grove Bridge in Indiana, which the Indiana DOT is pursuing demolition options despite restrictions with regards to preservation laws by the state and opposition by locals wanting the structure saved. Then there is the Bellaire Toll Bridge over the Ohio River in Bellaire and Benwood (in Ohio and West Virginia) which no one wants to take claim for the cantilever truss bridge that has been abandoned for over 20 years and all are collaborating to have this structure removed, if nothing has happened to it already.

Oblique view of the Cedar Grove Bridge in Indiana. Photo courtesy of Tony Dillon

But back in Ozark, Missouri, the situation is much different with the Riverside Bridge. The 1909 structure has been closed since September 2010 and tempers have been flaring up with regards to the future of the bridge, but in a rather different way. Support for saving the bridge has been increasing exponentially since Kris Dyer established the Save the Riverside Bridge Initiative in January 2010. The bridge has received the support from the community and the county. Additional support has come from the outside from the preservationists both within and outside Missouri and many interested people. The county claims ownership of the bridge and has withheld any taxpayer money on the bridge until a solution is found for the bridge.  Yet opposition has come from the Christian County Special Road Commission and its two members, Scott Bilyeu and Keith Robinette. They claim that the bridge falls in its jurisdiction and would like to see it torn down at the earliest possible convenience and replaced with a low-lying crossing, as a cost-effective measure, even using its own funding to carry out the task. This was based on a pair of recent meetings in July, the most pivotal was the one on July 25.
The low-lying crossing is designed to allow water to flow under and over the slab structure supported by piers and constructed just above the river. Two examples of such a low-water crossing can be found at Island Park in Rock Rapids, Iowa. They cross the Rock River with one located at the park’s northeast entrance and the other carries a road from the main park to a nearby dam north of there. The reason why these structures are not used often on roadways are three-fold. First of all, such crossings serve as a dam, hindering the river’s flow and causing flooding and potential erosion upstream. Secondly, if the river level increases, it makes the crossing impossible and even dangerous for those chancing the crossing. And finally, in the case of flooding, such low-water crossings can also be ripped out without noticing. For the low river crossing near the dam at Rock Rapids, the current structure is the second one after the first one was destroyed in a flood, either in 1993 or 2008. These crossings are used for roads that are the least traveled.

Sideview of the low-lying crossing at Island Park in Rock Rapids. Photo taken in August 2009

Remains of a previous low-lying crossing that was destroyed in a flood. This is the one north of Island Park in Rock Rapids. Photo taken in August 2009 This is located right next to the new crossing (as seen in the picture above)

As for the Riverside Bridge, the traffic flow was fairly high at the time of its closing, as the bridge connects Ozark and Fremont Mills to the north. The demand for the bridge to be reopened, or rather have a new bridge built next to the old one with the old one being converted to a pedestrian bridge is high. The problem at the moment is the funding and the location of the new structure. To the west of the bridge is a former restaurant site which is owned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to the east  there is private property. While FEMA is against the construction of any bridge at the restaurant site, there is opposition from land owners to building the bridge on their site. And according to Missouri DOT, restoring the bridge to serve vehicular traffic is not an option. The option of relocating the two-span truss bridge is not a favorable one but it is open and being considered a last-resort option for the support for keeping the bridge in its place is high.  Then there is the funding issue for no matter what action is taken, the consequence on the funding aspect will be great. The county is dependent on Bridge Replacement Off-system (BRO) funds, which is used for roads and bridges built more than 10 years ago. The Special Roads District’s main motive is to complete the construction of the bridge before the funding is lost and given to other areas in need. It would cost between $150,000 and $300,000 to build a low-lying bridge instead of the $1.7 million bridge, which would be higher and safer, but as Bilyeu claims, the county has no money for.

The main key however is not the funding aspect or where to relocate the bridge, but more of the ownership aspect, as stated in a recent newspaper article from neighboring Springfield. Both the county and the special roads district have separate statutes as to how much funding is allocated and who has the say over the bridges. Yet, according to all sources involved, they contradict each other. The county special roads commission claims the Riverside Bridge is theirs because they are responsible for the structure’s upkeep, yet the county claims ownership over that bridge as well as all of the bridges in Christian County and has the last say over how money can be spent for the bridge. The end result is a potential court battle with all parties sitting on the sidelines while the attorneys battle it out to see who is right.

While each agency, whether it is the state, federal government or local authorities has a statute stating the responsibilities for the infrastructure and how it should be built, kept up and funded, the problem has become a double-edged sword with the Riverside Bridge entering the stage. While many have passed the responsibilities and liabilities onto others to keep themselves from being responsible and taking on the liability issues, this debate is more of agencies fighting to take responsibility over a bridge, an exact opposite of what we had been seeing until most recently. It is unknown how far the debate will go, but it may go pretty far, involving state authorities and even the federal government, but no matter how the county and the courts decide, it may have implications in other counties in Missouri and beyond as to who has the final word over the ownership of the bridges and how they are maintained and/or preserved. For some preservation groups, it may be a blessing if a historic bridge is in a county and the commissioner is keen on preserving historic bridges. However, if a historic bridge is in a county, like Franklin County, where the county officials disregard the historic integrity of the structure and the preservation laws that exist to protect it, it could be fatal. And if the logic of having a cheap bridge, like a low-lying crossing to cross a river exists, the county could be paying more of a price if flooding takes it out- and at the expense of life.

Note: Franklin County is where the Enoch’s Knob Bridge is located. Officials have signed-off on the bridge and is now the responsibility of a demolition contractor, who will tear it down and replace it with a concrete bridge. The project is expected to begin as soon as possible. An article on the bridge can be found here.

1 August, 2007: Five Years Later: How the Minneapolis Bridge Disaster changed the way we look at Bridges

I-35W Bridge Memorial. Photo taken in August 2011

It was a day like no other in the summer time: thousands of people leaving their workplaces to get home with others taking their children to a baseball game in the middle of the city. It was a hot summer afternoon and traffic was dense, with tempers flaring from people who are late for a meeting or other commitment. As they head into the city, they cross a gigantic bridge over a mighty river, only to find that the second they got on, they ended up in the water, swimming for their lives and helping others in need. Eyewitnesses videotaping the bridge saw each span falling into the water, one after the other.
The St. Anthony’s Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA), a steel deck cantilever truss bridge over the Mississippi River carrying the freeway I-35W was one of the most travelled bridges in the Twin Cities. Built in 1967, it served one of the main arteries and was undergoing some maintenance work, when it collapsed. 13 people died in the tragedy, more than 150 people were injured and that particular artery going through Minneapolis was cut off for over a year and a half while a new bridge was being built.
Five years later, a lot has changed. The disaster served as a wake-up call for the US, with hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on improving the infrastructure, replacing bridges deemed structurally deficient and making the highway system “safe and sound,” the term coined by the Missouri Department of Transportation and the title of its program. Yet we still have a lot of deficiencies that we need to work on in order to ensure that we have a sound infrastructure but not at the expense of historic bridges and the bank.
For instance, the Minneapolis bridge disaster sparked a crusade to eliminate truss and cantilever truss bridges- or at least those with ineffective gusset plates. It started in Minnesota and worked its way to other parts of the country, like Pennsylvania, which has one of the highest numbers of truss and cantilever bridges in the country.  Instead of replacing the ones that desperately needed it, many them were wrongfully replaced when they were in pristine condition, and even if there were some defective gusset plates, these could easily be replaced without having to bring the entire structure down using falsework for support. This includes the two cantilever bridges over the Mississippi River in St. Cloud: the Granite City Bridge (replaced in 2008) and the Sauk Rapids Bridge (replaced that same year as well). This crusade has accelerated the decrease in the number of historic bridges built prior to 1950 nationwide, despite attempts on the part of the state and local agencies and private sectors to save the ones that have the greatest historical significance in terms of design, history and other factors.

Close-up view of a gusset plate on a pony truss bridge in Iowa. Photo taken in August 2011

The collapse also created an enormous backlash on the preservation community and the Preservation Policies, such as Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Laws of 1966, where bridges slated for demolition are to undergo environmental and mitigation surveys to determine the alternatives to demolition and document the structures’ historic significance. Many politicians have touted this policy as a waste of time and money and would like to see it scrapped, while many preservationists and pontists have taken substantial amounts of heat for interfering with progress and being “trouble-makers.” The fortunate part is with the economic crisis in the USA, there has been a change in heart among many who would like to see historic bridges preserved and have embraced some of the preservation practices as a way of saving money and prolonging their lifespan.
Then we have the financial aspect, where many bridges that were structurally deficient but not in danger of collapse are being replaced outright, without consideration of the costs. As a general rule, replacement is more expensive than restoration and rehabilitation, pending on the type of work needed to be done on the bridge let alone the type of bridge. When the I-35W Bridge collapsed, there was a consensus that every bridge that is structurally deficient needs to be replaced. The problem with that draconian approach is that it has been draining the financial resources on both the state and federal levels to a point where many of the bridges that have been deteriorating to a point where repairs are necessary had to be closed off to all traffic and the owners having to wait until funding is available to either fix or replace them. Some that can still carry traffic have weight and height restrictions on them, with some going to extremes by threatening motorists that the bridge would be closed to traffic if the restrictions are ignored.

I-35W Bridge Oblique View. Photo taken in August 2011

But the collapse of the I-35W started a renaissance where the public has become more aware of not just the bridges that are structurally deficient and need repairs, but also those that are historically significant and should be restored for reuse. The media has taken a Steven Jobs approach and presented facts and figures that are either sobering to the public, who takes these figures seriously when presenting their opinions about historic bridge preservation vs. replacement or biased to one group or another in order for them to have things their way. What is meant by this is as these facts and  figures are presented and there is a bridge in their vicinity that has weight and/or height restrictions on them, the public usually divides themselves up between those who want the bridge saved and those who want it replaced, thus becoming more involved in the decision-making process. The media has for the most part taken a neutral stance and has indirectly encouraged the public to engage more in these debates.
This public involvement has also spread into the social networks and produced online columns and blogs, where support for historic bridges is being garnered by people from faraway places. While bridge websites, such as James Baughn’s Bridgehunter, Nathan Holth’s HistoricBridges.org or Nic Janberg’s Structurae.net were established prior to the disaster, other online columns, like this one, Tony Dillon’s Indiana Bridges and Kaitlin O’shea-Healy’s Preservation in Pink have taken the stage to address the importance of historic bridges and ways to preserve them, research them to determine their historic significance and bring them and topics involving them to the attention of the public. Even organizations preserving historic bridges, like the Riverside Bridge (in Missouri) and the Waterford Bridge (south of Minneapolis) can be found on social networks, like facebook, and support for these bridges have come not only from within their vicinity, but also from outside as well. This has created an interdependence between the public, the media, and agencies and other organizations where action to preserve or replace a historic bridge has an impact on those who have a connection with them in one way or another. In the case of the Waterford and Riverside Bridges, support for preserving them have skyrocket by up to 200% in the past year, while the media and other historic bridge organizations have reinforced that support through their expertise and knowledge of the subject.
The disaster also fostered the need to exchange information and knowledge on historic bridge preservation. This includes the introduction of welding and other techniques to restoring a historic bridge presented by people, like Vern Mesler, who has held seminars like these in Michigan since 2009. Other steel companies, like BACH Steel, an ally of Julie Bowers and her organization, Workin Bridges in Iowa have engaged in disassembling and restoring metal bridges, while other companies dealing with bridge construction have taken a keen interest in this preservation practice. Many of the bridge companies mandated to replace historic bridges do not fancy destroying them in favor of progress and have become more open to other suggestions, such as relocation or storing them for reuse elsewhere. This was seen with the Upper Bluffton Bridge, where the contractors allowed for some time to see if the owners are willing to take at least part of the two-span truss bridge. The Queenpost truss span was taken in the end, while the Pratt through truss span had to be scrapped, despite the support to save the entire structure.
What has become the most useful of all is having historic bridge seminars and conferences, designed to present these themes- preservation, tourism and the bridges themselves and the stories about the successes- to the attention of the audience. This includes the Historic Bridge weekend, which was started in 2009 by Todd Wilson of Bridgemapper.com and features presentations by bridge experts and tours of bridges in the area of venue. The first two took place in the greater Pittsburgh area, last year’s conference took place in Missouri, while this year’s conference will take place in Indiana, one of the states with the most populous historic bridges in the country. Plans are in the making to host one in Iowa in August 2013. The number of people attending such events have increased since 2009, which is a sign that the interest in historic bridges and preservation is there, and as the news goes around, more people will attend these events to gather information and support for preserving their historic bridges in their communities or their backyard.
There is a reason for the need of such seminars and conferences: tourism. One may never think that historic bridges can be such a tourist attraction, but it is. With rails-to trails programs, many of the historic bridges that used to serve rail traffic are getting a new lease on life as a pedestrian bridge, many historic bridges are being relocated to trails and parks to serve both as an exhibit as well as crossing for cyclists and pedestrians. This includes the Historic Bridge Park in Michigan, the F.W. Kent Park in Iowa, and the Delphi Trail in Indiana, just to name a few. There are even parks where a historic bridge is their centerpiece, and the numbers are increasing. This goes beyond the ones that are in my neck of the woods, like the Freeport Bridge Park outside Decorah and the Moneek Bridge Park in Castalia, both in Winneshiek County, Iowa and the Covered Bridge Park in Zumbrota, Minnesota. These parks have provided tourists with an opportunity to get to know the structure and its role in the development of America’s infrastructure, while at the same time, many communities have cashed in from having these grandiose pieces of artwork, in one way or another.

Moneek Bridge at the park in Castalia. Photo taken in August 2011

Still despite all this, we are still lacking the educational aspect of preservation versus replacement, let alone learning to design a structure that is appealing to the public. That means that on the one hand, there is a lack of sufficient knowledge on how to preserve and maintain bridges with historic value because of the lack people with experience, combined with the lack of will to engage in preservation practices and the dollars and sense to preserve these structures. The mentality has been to fast-track as many bridge projects as possible so that they have the new structure in place as soon as possible, regardless of its appearance. Most of the bridges built today are bland and tasteless, and have a lifespan that is much shorter than the structures of yesterday (at least 70 years ago). Even the cable-stayed bridges, the norm for bridge construction, is not the permanent solution, as like beam, girder and slab bridges, their wear and tear can be seen more quickly because of weather extremities combined with traffic loads that are 10 times more than what we were used to 20 years ago. We need to veer away from the mentality that we need a bridge that lasts for 100 years and does not require maintenance and embrace in education on how to preserve historic bridges, how to maintain bridges, and how to design bridges that are appealing to the drivers but have no design flaws and are meant to last for more than 20 years. We also need to encourage more rail and public transport services to wean motorists away from the car and alleviate the load on our aging structures. We also need to enforce sanctions on people who violate the weight restrictions and destroy a bridge as a result. And most of all, politicians should take a backseat with regards to bridge preservation vs. replacement. We have capable bridge engineers, preservationists and bridge technicians who have the capabilities to determine which bridge needs repair work or replacement and which ones deserve to be restored for reuse. It is the job of the politicians not to interfere with these issues but foster them. We live in an interdependent society where the action of one affects all, and this holds true for historic bridges in the United States, which are decreasing by the dozens as each year passes.
To finish up on this piece, we have to say that we have learned a great deal from the disaster of five years ago. We know what the main causes of the disaster were. We know that we can never afford to repeat this again. Yet we know that there is a right and a wrong way of treating this issue- bridge design, bridge construction, bridge maintenance, and bridge preservation. We know that the public has a very keen interest in this subject. And as we cross the new I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis, looking at the neighboring 10th Avenue Bridge, a concrete arch bridge built in the 1920s, we know how to get it done. It is just a matter of listening and learning from others and taking the right course of action to ensure the all will be happy with the results.

10th Avenue Bridge, located right next to I-35W Bridge. Photo taken in August 2011

There are a lot of reactions to the five-year anniversary of the I-35W Bridge Disaster, but some examples are posted in the next article.

Enoch Knob Bridge- a bridge full of mysteries

Photo taken by Molly Hill

There is a saying that was mentioned in an interview about Feng Shui and architecture in China, which states “If a person does not believe in ancient philosophies, it does not necessarily mean that it exists.” It is hard to believe the notion that no spirits and ghosts exist in any of the buildings and bridges in general. However, if there was such a notion, then there would not be any stories by people who have encountered them in the first place.  There have been many reports of ghosts and evil spirits lurking about in haunted buildings, cemeteries and even bridges.  Even if no accounts were recorded, some of the bridges, given its location in deep forests and houses that are run down and mostly uninhabited, are considered haunted in itself and should be approached with care. I myself have seen many haunted bridges in my lifetime, but examples will be kept aside for another time, except for one……

The Enoch’s Knob Bridge in Franklin County, Missouri is perhaps one of the most haunted historic bridges ever visited, regardless if you visit it in the day time or at night. Looking at the bridge from the outside, it is plainly a typical Parker through truss bridge with pin connections, A-frame portal bracings and a length of 185 feet long. The only special feature was the fact that it was constructed in 1908 by the Missouri Bridge and Iron Company in St. Louis.  Yet despite the factual information that is accessible via bridge websites, when looking at where the bridge is located- in a remote setting on a gravel road many miles from a nearby highway or town in a thick forest covering Boeuf Creek- it gives a person an eery feeling when approaching and crossing this structure.

In fact, there are many stories that were told of encounters with ghost dogs, demon dogs with green eyes and three legs, trolls in the forest, (ghosts of) teens hanging themselves, people committing suicide by jumping off the bridge, and spirits disabling electronic devices and even automobiles when on the bridge. In one case, a sheriff’s deputy driving over the bridge noticed as he approached the span that the engine of the car and all electronic devices except the radio shut down, allowing the car to coast across the structure before it restarted after getting off. Spooked by this experience, he never approached the bridge again except for emergency calls.

There were two confirmed reports of deaths which contributed to the bridge being haunted. The first involved Patrick Kinneson, who fell 37 feet to his death while at a party on the evening of the 23rd of August, 1987. He was trying to help a friend, whose car was stuck in the mud at a corn field and had climbed the girders of the bridge when he fell without notice. His body was found later that night and the death was ruled accidental. The other death involved Stephen Cooksey, who sustained multiple shots during a drug transaction and managed to pull himself under his vehicle, only for the people responsible for the shooting to burn his car and the body with it. The incident happened at a parking lot next to the bridge on 9 May 2005. Yet many accounts involving close encounters with the paranormal at the bridge revealed that the spirits that exist at the bridge are more in connection with the first tragedy, although research has revealed lynchings that took place in the late 1800s at the site prior to the erection of the truss structure.

Upon my visit to the bridge in August 2011 as part of the Historic Bridge weekend in Missouri, my first impression when approaching the bridge was that it did present an eery sensation. The bridge had been closed to traffic for structural concerns in late 2010 and was barricaded a mile away from the bridge itself, making a trek a rather long one. With each step closer to the bridge it became spookier and rather unsafe. While the trip was in the afternoon sunlight with little breeze, the encounter with the bridge reminded me of a trip to the former railroad bridge spanning the Rock River west of Rock Valley, Iowa in March 1998, even though it had long since been incorporated into a bike trail. Once approaching the bridge, everything was silent as if it was in the film “The Langoleers.” Had it not been for the company of Julie Bowers, who was also looking at the bridge and making estimates for a group wanting to save the bridge, I would have witnessed a deathly silence that can only be related to an evil spirit lurking about day and night. After all, the devil never sleeps at the bridge and one should never walk to the bridge alone unless with some company.  While the cameras of the investigators, ghost hunters, and even the curious ones were bewitched with each visit, during my visit, and that of the fellow pontists who visited the bridge that day, there were no problems, and as you can see in the pics at the end of the article, the bridge and its scenery and unusual serenity warranted numerous pics from various angles.

Despite all this, the days of the bridge are more or less numbered. Plans have been approved recently to bring down the bridge, taking with it all the stories and history associated with the structure. A bland concrete slap bridge will take its place. Efforts were made back in 2011 to save the bridge, and there was even a social network bearing the name, which garnered support. Yet despite all this, it did not sway the local government officials, who wanted the devil’s bridge gone for good while discouraging teens from partying at the site. Also, according to anonymous sources, the interest in preserving the bridge was low, compared to other bridges that have received more attention, like the Riverside Bridge in Ozark or the Long Shoals in Bourbon County, Kansas. Yet perhaps before the demolition, the bridge will have its last laugh, as demolition crews may experience technical failures in the machines that will be in place to dismantle the structure. Many workers may end up walking off the job, spooked by the spirits that still haunt the bridge. Sometimes, demolishing historic structures can raise the spirits that curse the machines and the workers wanting to destroy history. This happened to a demolition crew tearing down the former Middle School building in Jackson, Minnesota in January 2011, as one of the excavators was knocked over on its side for unknown reasons. Speculation was that the spirits that walked the halls of the school (which was for a time part of the high school complex before the new building was open in 1982).  In either case, the bridge replacement will not affect the stories and spirits that will remain at the site, even after the truss bridge is gone.It is just that the bridge will not go down without a fight, be it by preservationists or by the spirits that still occupy the structure and will until its ultimate end and beyond.

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It is unknown whether the demolition process has begun or not. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the Enochs Knob Bridge. In the meantime, enjoy the photos and video clip of the bridge, both were taken by the author in August 2011:

Video of the Enochs Knob Bridge with comments by the author. (Click here!)

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Source: Terry, Dan. “Beyond the Shadows: Exploring the Ghosts of Franklin County.” Stanton, MO: Missouri Kid Press, 2007

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Photos of the Bridge can be found via flickr by clicking here.

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Author’s Note: The truss bridge was torn down in 2013, two years after my visit. Still the area is haunted as there have been stories of encounters near the new structure

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All photos were taken in 2011 except for the graphic which is courtesy of Molly Hill.

Riverside Bridge update.

Photo taken in August 2011

 

Last August, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles did a tour of the bridges of Missouri as part of the 2011 Historic Bridge Conference, which included tours of the bridges of St. Louis, Kansas City and some in central and western parts of the state. Among the stops was Ozark in Christian County, where a two-span Pratt through truss bridge, the Riverside Bridge, built in 1909 by the Canton Bridge Company, was the focus of preservation efforts by a local group headed by Kris Dyer to save the structure. A fundraising event took place during the Conference, where over 80 people attended the event.

Almost a year later, changes have taken place and still there is no end in sight regarding the bridge and its future. Why is that?  Ms. Dyer was grateful enough to keep all those interested informed on the latest on this bridge and here is the update as seen right now:

Change in Contractors:

The most glaring change was the fact that Matthews and Associates, which was contracted by the county to submit a plan to replace the Riverside Bridge, was let go in March as the project came to a standstill due to lack of funding. The county had approved spending of up to $500,000 in fixing nine bridges but sadly, did not have enough funds from the federal government as both the Republicans and the Democrats in Washington were deadlocked on a bill that would authorize spending on the next five years. Even if the bill was passed, it is unclear how much the state would receive, let alone Christian County. Currently, a stop-gap bill was passed at the end of March by the House to allow construction projects to proceed while the bill is being amended according to recent news. Nevertheless, the process of letting out the contract has started over again which leads to the question of the fate of the Riverside Bridge.

Cannot be fixed; cannot be moved; cannot be demolished:

The cost for replacing the Riverside Bridge will be between $2 and 3 million, regardless of who will build it and where it will be built. Building it on alignments would cut into ownership land on the southeast end of the bridge and land purchased by FEMA (Federal Emergancy Management Agency) at the site of the former Riverside Restaurant. Yet as the bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, demolition is not an option either. Yet the county and the organization vying to save the Riverside Bridge have their backs to the wall due to funding issues combined with legal issues, including liability. To repair the bridge and reopen it to traffic would not be feasible, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation, as the substructure has been worn out beyond repair. Furthermore, the county would have to pay back up to $100,000 to the federal government’s Bridge Replacement Offset Fund, the money that was spent on Matthews and Associate to date.  Should the next contractor be hired to take over, the risk is great that a bridge would have to be built at or right next to the site, as there would be some legal wrangling with FEMA with regards to building on their property, while at the same time, there would have to be some approval from nearby property owners to build a bridge on their property.  Talks of moving the truss bridge onto a neutral site were also considered, but questions remain of where to relocate the bridge and there were some reservations about this plan. To tear it down would not be feasible for the Section 106 Process (assessing the environmental and cultural impact of altering or replacing a historic place) would have to be carried out before funding on the state and federal levels could be approved. And even then, support for saving the Riverside Bridge has increased since the Historic Bridge Conference in August 2011 as thousands have donated their time and (financial) resources to this project and would like to finally see results- meaning the return of the Riverside Bridge to cycle and pedestrian traffic and incorporating it into the local bike trails that are being built in and around Ozark.

Transparency needed:

What has made the situation more frustrating is the lack of transparency between the county and the public on this issue. As of right now, there have not been any public meetings on the project and its progress, and tensions grew to a boil at the last meeting on March 15th when county commissioner Lou Lapaglia announced the plan to terminate the contract with Matthews and Associate and not return the money spent to the federal government. Many people believed that much of the action between the county, the state and the contractor were behind closed doors with little or no public input. The people believe that the only legal and moral way to solving this problem is to return the money and find ways to fixing the bridge so it can be used again. There is hope that with the increase in support for the bridge combined with the results of the meeting on the 15th, that there will be more transparency and public involvement in the future, especially once a new contractor has been announced.

Prognosis:

As a general rule, attempts to successfully replace a historic bridge usually run behind closed doors and without the public being notified. Speculation is that the county is trying to do that to save money and throw history by the wayside. The problem is however universal, as much of the US has seen much of its infrastructure crumble and there is no money to fix it.  Yet there seems to be a glitter of hope for the Riverside Bridge. It is unknown how the next contractor will act regarding this bridge. It is possible that some agreements can be made to use private lands for a new bridge while at the same time rehabilitate the bridge for reuse as a recreational infrastructure. Yet should that fail and the only viable option is to replace the bridge on site, then taking the bridge off the foundations and setting them on land may be a win-win situation as some parts of the bridge may have to be fixed or replaced before putting it back on. It is clear that should the bridge remain standing, the piers supporting the two through truss spans will have to be repaired or replaced due to cracks that were noticed during the inspections and in my visit in August. The truss bridge itself is in good shape and it would be a shame that it was demolished because of the inability to look at options of fixing it ans reopening again. In fact, such a plan would be met with opposition and shot down through the voting process.  It is  likely that the Riverside Bridge will be saved and reused again in the near future; especially after all the funding and efforts made towards the bridge. It is more of a question of whether a new bridge can be built on alignment and the old one can be fixed and reused again or whether the truss bridge can be relocated if a new bridge at its original location is necessary. Only the people of Christian County (not just the government) can decide that.

 

To be continued…..