2016 Author’s Choice Awards

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Boone. Photo taken in September 2010 when the bridge was closed to all traffic. It was torn down in 2016 after the western half of the structure collapsed.

While voters are scrambling to cast their last-minute ballots for the 2016 Ammann Awards by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, we have a wide array of bridges that received the Author’s Choice Awards. The awards are based on the author’s selection of bridge stories that were either the most talked about or the most unique, pending on the categories here. What is even interesting about this year’s awards is that they are being given on the eve of Donald Trump taking office as the next President of the US on January 20th. As he promised to spend billions on improving infrastructure, he has no clue as to how to allocate these funds properly, let alone specify , how these new bridges are to be built, I decided to pose a challenge to him on that to see if he’s paying attention to the needs of Americans in his quest to “make America great again.” You will see that in one of the categories…..

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the winners of these awards and their runners up…..

Most Spectacular Disaster:

US-

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Iowa

The Wagon Wheel Bridge is the tragedy story of 2016, but started in September 2015. We had an arsonist set fire to the planks which set the motion for its demise. In February 2016, floating chunks of ice in the Des Moines River rammed the western half of the bridge, tilting the already tilting cylindrical steel piers even further and creating an “S” shape in the structure. The last nail in the coffin was the collapse of one of the middle spans in March. While a pair of eyewitnesses saw the event live while fishing, neither of them were hurt.  The wrecked span and the westernmost span were removed in June, but not before saving a pair of planks awaiting display at a local historical society in Minnesota. The rest of the spans- including the longest of the 730-foot bridge- were removed shortly before Christmas.   The Wagon Wheel Bridge represented a tragedy in two parts: There was tragedy because of Mother Nature and there was tragedy because of years of neglect. While Boone County was relieved of its liability, its next step is to preserve its legacy in a form of a memorial or exhibit. That has yet to be seen.

Runner-up-

Tappan Zee Bridge in New York

During work on the replacement of the 1952 cantilever truss span over the Hudson River at Tarrytown, a crane located at one of the towers of the new bridge collapsed, falling onto the old structure, stopping all traffic in both directions for hours. No casualties were reported, but one of the propane truck drivers travelling eastbound barely missed the crane by feet! Luckily, the old structure, which is scheduled to be demolished in 2018 after the new bridge is open to traffic, sustained no damage to the super structure but minor damage to the railings on the deck the crane fell. The cause of the collapse was high winds. It was a close call and one that brings up the question of strength and effectiveness of truss bridges as they appear to be gaining favor over cable-stayed and modern beam bridges, for many reasons.

International- 

Suspension Bridge in Bali:

We had several bridge disasters on the international scale this year. The Lembogan-Ceningan Bridge was the worst of them. Built in the 1980s, this suspension bridge collapsed under a weight of pedestrians and motorcyclists who were participating in a Hindu ceremony on October 16th. Nine people were killed and scores of others were injured. The cause of the collapse was a combination of too many people, which exceeded the weight limit, and design flaws. The collapse rekindled two disasters that we’ll be commemorating this year: The 50th anniversary of the Silver Bridge collapse over the Ohio River and the 10th anniversary of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis. Both bridges had design flaws that caused their failures respectively.

Runner-up-

Mahad Bridge in Mumbai, India:

India had two major bridge failures in 2016- the Kolkatta Flyover which killed 23 people and this one, spanning the Savitri River between Mumbai and the State of Goa. This one was far worse, as the stone arch and steel structure that dated back to Colonial British rule collapsed under the pressure of floodwaters, taking with it two busses full of passengers. Nine lives were lost including one of the two bus drivers. Dozens were injured and at least 20 had been reported missing. The bridge collapse combined natural disasters with inadequate bridge design and lack of maintenance, both of which were brought up to the national government afterwards.

Biggest Bonehead Story:

US-

Broadway Bridge in Little Rock:

How many attempts does a person need to demolish a bridge? For the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, one needed three to bring down a steel arch bridge in 1987 in favor of the current suspension bridge. That bridge was 100 years old at the time of its demise. For the Broadway Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas, a multiple span arch bridge featuring a 1974 tied arch main span plus multiple span concrete closed spandrel arch approaches built in 1893, one needed EIGHT attempts! Very lame attempts to not only justify the bridge’s weaknesses prior to the demolition by government officials, but also in demolishing the structure through implosions. The bridge was finally brought down with the crane for the eighth and final time. Yet the epic failures did raise a question of whether the bridge was THAT functionally obsolete and whether the new tied arch bridge will survive as long as the downed span. I don’t think so…..

Photo courtesy of Dr. Benita Martin. Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Viadukt_Chemnitz.jpg

Runner-up-

Two-Mile Creek Bridge near Hatfield, AK:

2016 started off with the demolition of this through truss bridge over Two-Mile Creek, the last of its kind in Polk County, by an oversized truck with trailer!!! The bridge was replaced in quick time, being opened by November! Thanks, dude for your ignorance!

International-

Chemnitz Viaduct in Germany:

As part of the plan to modernize the rail track between Kassel (Hesse) and Chemnitz (Saxony) via Erfurt, Jena and Glauchau, the German Railways are trying to replace a 120+ year old historic bridge that is perfectly in good enough form to last another 120 years. Its replacement proposal: An open spandrel steel arch bridge with very little aesthetic value. Good thing the people in Chemnitz are speaking out against that proposal and for restoring one of only a handful of pre-1939 landmarks in Chemnitz. But will their voices be heard? Die Bahn macht man mobil!

Runner-up-

Eisenbahnviadukt in Linz, Austria:

Linz’s mayor Klaus Luger had it his way when he campaigned for the 1912 three span bridge spanning the Danube River to be demolished and 70% of the Linz community voted for it. However, haste made waste when one of the three spans, removed from the river and on a hydraulic lift, collapsed! That span was to be reused as part of an a plan for a park. This put the last nails in the coffin regarding any chance of saving the bridge’s legacy. Luger must’ve really hated the bridge enough to see it to a recycling complex.

Hamilton County Bridge. Photo taken by Tony Dillon

Best Use of a Restored Historic Bridge-

Molly’s Landing Bridges along Historic US 66:

While the historic bridges in Oklahoma are dwindling rapidly every year, a successful attempt was made to relocate one of the twins of the Bird Creek Bridge. Slated for demolition in 2012, Russ White, owner of Molly’s Landing found a creative way of saving the 1936 spans for their complex near the Verdigris. This led to Roger’s Landing to take the remaining spans of the bridge some time later. While the Bird Creek Bridges are no longer on Route 66, one can see them on display not far apart from each other.

Runner Up:

The Bridge at Strawtown Koteewi Park and White River Campground in Hamilton County, Indiana.

This was almost a toss-up between this bridge and Molly’s Landing. But the bridge in Hamilton County definitely deserved at least runner-up of this award because engineers and park officials managed to import three historic bridges from three different counties to form a 285-foot long super span, featuring a Pratt through truss, a Whipple through truss and a rebuilt deck girder span connecting the two spans! Indiana has been well-known for restoring and reusing historic bridges, yet this one takes bridge preservation to new levels.

Worst example of reusing a Historic Bridge:

B.B. Comer Bridge in Alabama: The multi-span cantilever through truss bridge was demolished earlier this year, after officials in Alabama rejected a proposal to even talk about preserving the 1930 span. As compensation, ALDOT offered one of the bridge’s portal bracings to be erected at a park near the bridge. If this was compensation or a strategy to save Governor Bentley’s “legacy” in the face of scandals he was facing at that time, here a simple Denglish term to keep in mind: “Ziemlich Lame!”and “Opfer eines F**k- ups!”

Photo taken by Victor Rocha. Link: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/41/Bridge_to_Nowhere%28San_Gabriel_Mountains%29.JPG

Best Find of a Historic Bridge-

US-

Bridge to Nowhere in San Gabriel Mountains (California):

California is well known for its multiple-span concrete open spandrel arch bridges, especially along Highway 101. However, this bridge, located near Azusa, can only be accessed by foot! Built in 1936, the bridge was abandoned after a mudslide blocked the key highway between San Gabriel Valley and Wrightwood in March 1938. Today, the bridge can be reached by foot, although it is seen as a liability because of a high rate of fatalities. The US Forest Service owns the bridge and has been working together with local groups on how to minimize it. Nevertheless, the bridge has a unique background worth seeing.

Lungwitz Viaduct spanning a creek and major street in Glauchau (Saxony). Photo taken in 2016

International-

The Bridges of Glauchau (Saxony), Germany:

The author visited this community in the summer 2016 and was quite impressed with its bridges. While the town is located along the Zwickauer Mulde, which is laden with modern bridges, most of the arch bridges dating back to the 1800s and earlier are located either along the railroad line, or on the hill spanning gulches and moats at or near the city’s two castles. Very atypical for a city in a river valley, where normal historic bridges would be located.

Röhrensteg in Zwickau (Saxony), Germany

Röhrensteg in Zwickau, Germany:

The Bridge of Pipes is the oldest of Zwickau’s bridges. It is also the most unique because of its design and function. It has two different truss spans- one per side- two different portal bracings and until 70 years ago, used to transport water over the river from Reinsdorf to Zwickau’s city center using wooden pipes! This was one multi-functional bridge and despite getting a much-needed facelift, one of the key landmarks people should see while in Zwickau.

Russia’s bridges:

With that, I have a “Denkzettel” for Donald Trump with regards to another runner-up, the bridges of Russia, according to the magazine Russia Today. The author there found some very unique and fancy bridges- some rolling back bridge types that had been scrutinized by many bridge engineers and politicians and some that are pure eye-openers. Donald Trump vowed to invest billions of dollars in funding to improve the infrastructure and build great bridges. How can he do that? He should use the playbook of the bridge types that have been rendered useless in the past but are being used in other countries. That means if he wants to make America great again, he needs some signature structures like the Bollmann Bridge in Savage, MD, The Hulton Bridge near Pittsburgh and even the arch bridges along California’s coast. If he continues the policies of building cable-stayed bridges, like the Kit Carson Bridge in Kansas City or the Fort Steuben Bridge near Wheeling, WV, he will make America blander and more boring than it is right now. So Mr. Trump, I challenge you to make America Great by not only preserving our American heritage and history but also build your fancy bridges that we want to see for generations to come. Put the Twitter down and get to work. Any ugliness on the landscape and we will make sure these eyesores are gone at the same time as you are, which will be much quicker than you think. If Russia and China can do it and the Europeans can preserve their past heritage, so can the United States of America, the Republic to which it stands, one nation, under God and under several prophets from Jesus Christ to Muhammad to Siddartha Buddha, indivisible, with liberty, justice and equality to all, regardless of preference.

And now to the Ammann Award results………

2016 Author’s Choice Awards

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Boone. Photo taken in September 2010 when the bridge was closed to all traffic. It was torn down in 2016 after the western half of the structure collapsed. 

While voters are scrambling to cast their last-minute ballots for the 2016 Ammann Awards by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, we have a wide array of bridges that received the Author’s Choice Awards. The awards are based on the author’s selection of bridge stories that were either the most talked about or the most unique, pending on the categories here. What is even interesting about this year’s awards is that they are being given on the eve of Donald Trump taking office as the next President of the US on January 20th. As he promised to spend billions on improving infrastructure, he has no clue as to how to allocate these funds properly, let alone specify , how these new bridges are to be built, I decided to pose a challenge to him on that to see if he’s paying attention to the needs of Americans in his quest to “make America great again.” You will see that in one of the categories…..

 

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the winners of these awards and their runners up…..

 

Most Spectacular Disaster:

 

US-

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Iowa

The Wagon Wheel Bridge is the tragedy story of 2016, but started in September 2015. We had an arsonist set fire to the planks which set the motion for its demise. In February 2016, floating chunks of ice in the Des Moines River rammed the western half of the bridge, tilting the already tilting cylindrical steel piers even further and creating an “S” shape in the structure. The last nail in the coffin was the collapse of one of the middle spans in March. While a pair of eyewitnesses saw the event live while fishing, neither of them were hurt.  The wrecked span and the westernmost span were removed in June, but not before saving a pair of planks awaiting display at a local historical society in Minnesota. The rest of the spans- including the longest of the 730-foot bridge- were removed shortly before Christmas.   The Wagon Wheel Bridge represented a tragedy in two parts: There was tragedy because of Mother Nature and there was tragedy because of years of neglect. While Boone County was relieved of its liability, its next step is to preserve its legacy in a form of a memorial or exhibit. That has yet to be seen.

 

Runner-up-

Tappan Zee Bridge in New York

During work on the replacement of the 1952 cantilever truss span over the Hudson River at Tarrytown, a crane located at one of the towers of the new bridge collapsed, falling onto the old structure, stopping all traffic in both directions for hours. No casualties were reported, but one of the propane truck drivers travelling eastbound barely missed the crane by feet! Luckily, the old structure, which is scheduled to be demolished in 2018 after the new bridge is open to traffic, sustained no damage to the super structure but minor damage to the railings on the deck the crane fell. The cause of the collapse was high winds. It was a close call and one that brings up the question of strength and effectiveness of truss bridges as they appear to be gaining favor over cable-stayed and modern beam bridges, for many reasons.

 

International- 

Suspension Bridge in Bali:

We had several bridge disasters on the international scale this year. The Lembogan-Ceningan Bridge was the worst of them. Built in the 1980s, this suspension bridge collapsed under a weight of pedestrians and motorcyclists who were participating in a Hindu ceremony on October 16th. Nine people were killed and scores of others were injured. The cause of the collapse was a combination of too many people, which exceeded the weight limit, and design flaws. The collapse rekindled two disasters that we’ll be commemorating this year: The 50th anniversary of the Silver Bridge collapse over the Ohio River and the 10th anniversary of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis. Both bridges had design flaws that caused their failures respectively.

 

Runner-up-

Mahad Bridge in Mumbai, India:

India had two major bridge failures in 2016- the Kolkatta Flyover which killed 23 people and this one, spanning the Savitri River between Mumbai and the State of Goa. This one was far worse, as the stone arch and steel structure that dated back to Colonial British rule collapsed under the pressure of floodwaters, taking with it two busses full of passengers. Nine lives were lost including one of the two bus drivers. Dozens were injured and at least 20 had been reported missing. The bridge collapse combined natural disasters with inadequate bridge design and lack of maintenance, both of which were brought up to the national government afterwards.

 

Biggest Bonehead Story:

US-

Broadway Bridge in Little Rock:

How many attempts does a person need to demolish a bridge? For the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, one needed three to bring down a steel arch bridge in 1987 in favor of the current suspension bridge. That bridge was 100 years old at the time of its demise. For the Broadway Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas, a multiple span arch bridge featuring a 1974 tied arch main span plus multiple span concrete closed spandrel arch approaches built in 1893, one needed EIGHT attempts! Very lame attempts to not only justify the bridge’s weaknesses prior to the demolition by government officials, but also in demolishing the structure through implosions. The bridge was finally brought down with the crane for the eighth and final time. Yet the epic failures did raise a question of whether the bridge was THAT functionally obsolete and whether the new tied arch bridge will survive as long as the downed span. I don’t think so…..

Photo courtesy of Dr. Benita Martin. Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Viadukt_Chemnitz.jpg

Runner-up-

Two-Mile Creek Bridge near Hatfield, AK:

2016 started off with the demolition of this through truss bridge over Two-Mile Creek, the last of its kind in Polk County, by an oversized truck with trailer!!! The bridge was replaced in quick time, being opened by November! Thanks, dude for your ignorance!

 

International-

Chemnitz Viaduct in Germany:

As part of the plan to modernize the rail track between Kassel (Hesse) and Chemnitz (Saxony) via Erfurt, Jena and Glauchau, the German Railways are trying to replace a 120+ year old historic bridge that is perfectly in good enough form to last another 120 years. Its replacement proposal: An open spandrel steel arch bridge with very little aesthetic value. Good thing the people in Chemnitz are speaking out against that proposal and for restoring one of only a handful of pre-1939 landmarks in Chemnitz. But will their voices be heard? Die Bahn macht man mobil!

 

Runner-up-

Eisenbahnviadukt in Linz, Austria:

Linz’s mayor Klaus Luger had it his way when he campaigned for the 1912 three span bridge spanning the Danube River to be demolished and 70% of the Linz community voted for it. However, haste made waste when one of the three spans, removed from the river and on a hydraulic lift, collapsed! That span was to be reused as part of an a plan for a park. This put the last nails in the coffin regarding any chance of saving the bridge’s legacy. Luger must’ve really hated the bridge enough to see it to a recycling complex.

 

Hamilton County Bridge. Photo taken by Tony Dillon

Best Use of a Restored Historic Bridge-

Molly’s Landing Bridges along Historic US 66:

While the historic bridges in Oklahoma are dwindling rapidly every year, a successful attempt was made to relocate one of the twins of the Bird Creek Bridge. Slated for demolition in 2012, Russ White, owner of Molly’s Landing found a creative way of saving the 1936 spans for their complex near the Verdigris. This led to Roger’s Landing to take the remaining spans of the bridge some time later. While the Bird Creek Bridges are no longer on Route 66, one can see them on display not far apart from each other.

 

Runner Up:

The Bridge at Strawtown Koteewi Park and White River Campground in Hamilton County, Indiana.

This was almost a toss-up between this bridge and Molly’s Landing. But the bridge in Hamilton County definitely deserved at least runner-up of this award because engineers and park officials managed to import three historic bridges from three different counties to form a 285-foot long super span, featuring a Pratt through truss, a Whipple through truss and a rebuilt deck girder span connecting the two spans! Indiana has been well-known for restoring and reusing historic bridges, yet this one takes bridge preservation to new levels.

 

Worst example of reusing a Historic Bridge:

B.B. Comer Bridge in Alabama: The multi-span cantilever through truss bridge was demolished earlier this year, after officials in Alabama rejected a proposal to even talk about preserving the 1930 span. As compensation, ALDOT offered one of the bridge’s portal bracings to be erected at a park near the bridge. If this was compensation or a strategy to save Governor Bentley’s “legacy” in the face of scandals he was facing at that time, here a simple Denglish term to keep in mind: “Ziemlich Lame!”and “Opfer eines F**k- ups!”

Photo taken by Victor Rocha. Link: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/41/Bridge_to_Nowhere%28San_Gabriel_Mountains%29.JPG

Best Find of a Historic Bridge-

US-

Bridge to Nowhere in San Gabriel Mountains (California):

California is well known for its multiple-span concrete open spandrel arch bridges, especially along Highway 101. However, this bridge, located near Azusa, can only be accessed by foot! Built in 1936, the bridge was abandoned after a mudslide blocked the key highway between San Gabriel Valley and Wrightwood in March 1938. Today, the bridge can be reached by foot, although it is seen as a liability because of a high rate of fatalities. The US Forest Service owns the bridge and has been working together with local groups on how to minimize it. Nevertheless, the bridge has a unique background worth seeing.

Lungwitz Viaduct spanning a creek and major street in Glauchau (Saxony). Photo taken in 2016

International-

The Bridges of Glauchau (Saxony), Germany:

The author visited this community in the summer 2016 and was quite impressed with its bridges. While the town is located along the Zwickauer Mulde, which is laden with modern bridges, most of the arch bridges dating back to the 1800s and earlier are located either along the railroad line, or on the hill spanning gulches and moats at or near the city’s two castles. Very atypical for a city in a river valley, where normal historic bridges would be located.

Röhrensteg in Zwickau (Saxony), Germany

Röhrensteg in Zwickau, Germany:

The Bridge of Pipes is the oldest of Zwickau’s bridges. It is also the most unique because of its design and function. It has two different truss spans- one per side- two different portal bracings and until 70 years ago, used to transport water over the river from Reinsdorf to Zwickau’s city center using wooden pipes! This was one multi-functional bridge and despite getting a much-needed facelift, one of the key landmarks people should see while in Zwickau.

 

Russia’s bridges:

With that, I have a “Denkzettel” for Donald Trump with regards to another runner-up, the bridges of Russia, according to the magazine Russia Today. The author there found some very unique and fancy bridges- some rolling back bridge types that had been scrutinized by many bridge engineers and politicians and some that are pure eye-openers. Donald Trump vowed to invest billions of dollars in funding to improve the infrastructure and build great bridges. How can he do that? He should use the playbook of the bridge types that have been rendered useless in the past but are being used in other countries. That means if he wants to make America great again, he needs some signature structures like the Bollmann Bridge in Savage, MD, The Hulton Bridge near Pittsburgh and even the arch bridges along California’s coast. If he continues the policies of building cable-stayed bridges, like the Kit Carson Bridge in Kansas City or the Fort Steuben Bridge near Wheeling, WV, he will make America blander and more boring than it is right now. So Mr. Trump, I challenge you to make America Great by not only preserving our American heritage and history but also build your fancy bridges that we want to see for generations to come. Put the Twitter down and get to work. Any ugliness on the landscape and we will make sure these eyesores are gone at the same time as you are, which will be much quicker than you think. If Russia and China can do it and the Europeans can preserve their past heritage, so can the United States of America, the Republic to which it stands, one nation, under God and under several prophets from Jesus Christ to Muhammad to Siddartha Buddha, indivisible, with liberty, justice and equality to all, regardless of preference.

 

And now to the Ammann Award results………

 

Wagon Wheel Bridge Meets Tragic End

Side view of the bridge taken in Aug. 2013. The eastern half- a Pennsylvania petit and a Pratt are all that is left of the bridge. Those are to be taken down soon.
Side view of the bridge taken in Aug. 2013. The eastern half- a Pennsylvania petit and a Pratt are all that is left of the bridge. Those are to be taken down soon.

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1910 Des Moines River crossing coming down after years of neglect, vandalism and natural disasters

 

BOONE, IOWA- Three years ago, the Wagon Wheel Bridge was one of the main attractions of the Historic Bridge Convention, which was attended by over 25 pontists from five states and two countries. It was originally part of the Kate Shelley Tour conducted by the Boone County Historical Society. It was one of the longest multi-span truss bridges ever built by the Iowa Bridge Company, one of many in-state companies that had dominated the scene since the consolidation of 29 bridge companies into the American Bridge Company consortium in 1901. The 1910 bridge had a total length of over 700 feet.

 

Now the steel span is coming down for good- in sections. Workers from the Hulcher Services began pulling down the western half of the bridge yesterday, which included two Pratt through trusses, one of which sustained damaged in an ice jam in February  and subsequentially fell into the river in March.  According to the Boone County engineer Scott Kruse, as soon as the water levels of the Des Moines River recede , the eastern half, featuring the Pennsylvania through truss and another Pratt through truss will be removed. The cost for the bridge removal will be $150,000, some of which will be deducted from the county highway fund, while the taxpayers will contribute to the rest of the expenses.

 

For many who know this bridge, it brings to an end a bridge that had historic character but was highly ignored and neglected. Closed since 2007, the bridge sustained damage to the eastern approach trestle spans in 2008 during the Great Flood. It took four years until new wooden decking was built on the span, but not before residents having voted against the referendum calling for the replacement of the bridge in 2010.  Debates on the future of the bridge came to a head, as talks of converting the bridge to a memorial honoring Kathlyn Shepard came about in 2013. Reports of the leaning pier between the collapsed Pratt through truss and the one closest to the Pennsylvania truss span raised concerns that the structure would collapse, creating warnings even from local officials that one should not cross the bridge. But the last ten months brought the bridge to its untimely end, as vandals set fire to the eastern trestle spans last August, prompting the county to removed them completely. The arsonists have yet to be found and apprehended.  The ice jams and the subsequent collapse of one of the spans, prompting the county engineer to put the bridge out of its misery for good.

 

The removal of the Wagon Wheel Bridge brings closure and relief to the city of Boone and the county, for despite pleas by preservationists to save at least part of the bridge, the county is doing its best to eliminate a liability problem that has been on the minds of many residents for nine years. The county engineer declared that they do not want any more problems with the bridge and therefore entertains no plans for keeping what is left of history. The mentality of “Good riddance to bad rubbish,” is floating around in the community, yet the city and the county will lose a key piece of history that was part of Kate Shelley’s childhood past as well as the history of Iowa’s transportation heritage. A piece of history which, if thinking dollars and sense, could have been saved years earlier, had everyone read their history books in school, and come together to contribute for the cause, that is. One wonders what Kate Shelley would think of this.

 

Facts about the bridge, based on the author’s visit in 2010 can be found here.

 

If you wish to know more about Kate Shelley, a link to her life and how she became famous can be found here.

 

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has changed its cover pages on its facebook and twitter sites to honor the bridge and its heritage. If one is interested in relocating the Pennsylvania span, please contact the engineer using the information here. Hurry while the water levels are still high!

 

It is unknown if even a marker at the site of the bridge will be erected once the bridge is gone. Given the sentiment towards seeing the girl leave, chances of happening is highly unlikely unless a book is written about the county’s bridges or the bridges along the Des Moines River and the bridge is mentioned there….

 

 

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Ice Jam Seals Fate of Popular Historic Bridge

Ice Jam Seals Fate of Popular Historic Bridge

Wagon Wheel Bridge struck by ice during unusual spring thaw- damage beyond repair- demolition expected within a year

BOONE, IOWA- Mother nature has finally taken its toll on a popular historic bridge in Boone.

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Boone. Photo taken in September 2010 when the bridge was closed to all traffic. Recently it was rehabilitated and reopened to pedestrians only.
Wagon Wheel Bridge in Boone. Photo taken in September 2010 when the bridge was closed to all traffic. Recently it was rehabilitated and reopened to pedestrians only.

The Wagon Wheel Bridge, spanning the Des Moines River at 200th Street, a product of the Iowa Bridge Company, was struck by ice on 22 February causing severe damage to the two middle Pratt through truss spans. The ice struck the pier connecting the two trusses, causing it to shift at a 60° angle and the third truss (from west to east) to slip off the pier. A couple pictures by Chris Johnson shows the extent of the damage:

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More pictures of the damage can be viewed here.

Fearing the potential of collapse, the Boone County Engineer has barricaded the bridge within a parameter of up to a mile from the structure to ensure no one goes near it. At the same time, he announced that the bridge will be removed at the earliest possible convenience, with a target of it being pulled out within 12 months.

This latest disaster tops a list of disasters that has happened to the Wagon Wheel Bridge in over 10 years time. Sections of the eastern approach spans were misaligned during the Great Flood of 2008, which prompted its closure to all vehicular traffic.

While that section was restored and the bridge was reopened to pedestrians and cyclists in 2011, arsonists struck the bridge during August of 2015, setting fire to the eastern approach spans. They were sub-sequentially removed afterwards. The shifted piers had been there prior to the flooding, as floodwaters slightly shifted it in 2011. Still the bridge was reopened in time for the 2013 Historic Bridge Weekend in August.

Negligence on the part of the county and the citizens also contributed to its demise, as a referendum was voted down in 2010 to replace the bridge but keep the structure in place. In addition, a planned memorial on the bridge, honoring a teenager who was kidnapped and murdered near the bridge was met with protest as to how it should be commemorated with proposals to use the bridge as an observation deck being balked by those preferring the bridge to be restored and retain its function.

This disaster represents an example of how negligence combined with politics have led to it being condemned. With the bridge being an impediment to the raging waters of the Des Moines River, it was a matter of time before something like this was going to happen.

Inaction does produce its consequences in the end, and many opportunities to restore the bridge came and went without much interest in the structure and its role in Boone County’s history. If there is any chance of saving the bridge, it would most likely have to be like with the Horn’s Ferry Bridge, located downstream in Marion County: keep the outermost spans as observation decks with a plaque describing the bridge’s history. Rebuilding the bridge and elevating it to accommodate floodwaters, including new piers are possible, but at nearly 800 feet, the costs maybe more than the county’s budget, unless the county receives help from contributing factors outside. Then there is the option of relocating the spans for reuse elsewhere in the county. That has been done with the Bird Creek Bridge along US 66 in Oklahoma, but in this case, many actors would be needed here.

No matter what options are available, the consensus is clear: something will need to be done with the Wagon Wheel Bridge before it collapses into the river. It may not happen now, but without a short- and long-term solution, it will happen eventually, which will be lights out on a piece of Boone County’s history.

Whether or not Kate Shelley crossed this bridge in her lifetime, I don’t know if she would be happy to see her heritage go like that. In her shoes, definitely not. What about you?

Pictures of the Wagon Wheel Bridge before its latest disaster can be found here. This includes those taken during the Historic Bridge Weekend in 2013. Should you have any ideas to present to the county engineer, please contact Scott Kruse, using the contact details here.

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Wagon Wheel Bridge Damaged by Fire

West entrance to the bridge. Photo taken during the 2013 Historic Bridge Weekend.

Fire damages east approach span. Investigation ongoing.

BOONE, IOWA- Law enforement authorities are investigating a possible arson, which occurred on the Wagon Wheel Bridge most recently. According to reports from multiple sources, the fire was reported by Union Pacific Railroad on Sunday night at 11:00pm at the eastern end of the bridge. While the fire was brought under control and no damage was done to the multiple span truss bridge, the eastern approach spans were charred, prompting county officials to remove the spans. The bridge has since been closed off to pedestrians and cyclists with its future in limbo. Any information pertaining to possible arson should be directed to law enforcement officials in Boone as soon as possible.

The Wagon Wheel Bridge, built in 1910 by the Iowa Bridge Company in Des Moines, has seen its best and worst times, the latter occurring within the past eight years. Damage was sustained by high water in 2008 when sections of the eastern approach spans were washed away during the worst flooding since 1993.  Attempts were made to pass a referendum in 2010, calling for a new structure to be built in place of the vintage structure, only to fall on deaf ears by a vast majority. Two floods later, the structure had been still been standing in tact with new decking added to the entire 710 foot bridge. Even an idea of having a memorial at the bridge site, dedicated to Kathlynn Shepard was brought up in 2013. This was in addition to having two bills passed to make kidnapping a felony and increase the age of the vicitims of such crimes to 15 years of age (instead of 12). More on the efforts can be seen through Kathlynn’s Hope facebook site.  Homage was paid to the bridge through the Historic Bridge Weekend that same year, where 20 people from all over the US attended the event, with Pam Schwartz of the Boone County Historic Society providing the guided tour of that and other bridges- many in connection with the famous Kate Shelley story (click here for details).

With the eastern approach spans removed, attempts are being made to restore the bridge to its original glory. This includes providing new decking that will not be vulnerable to fires. But also the need for repairing the truss parts and stabilizing the cylinder piers are there. All of this is part of the plan to use the bridge as a centerpiece of a bike trail to connect Boone and Odgen with a possibility to connect with the trails in Des Moines. Already, a facebook page has been launched with over 1440 likes on there. The main goal is to raise enough funds to realize the project. Repairs are estimated to be betwene $700,000 and $1m. But the race against time is underway. While the bridge is fenced off to all traffic with the eastern approach spans are removed, consideration is being taken to remove the entire structure for safety reasons. This is being met with solid opposition from locals, the state and other members favoring the preservation of the bridge becaus of its connection with the city’s history. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1998 and any plans to alter, replace, or remove the bridge will require approval and survey, which could take time and money to take. With the love towards the bridge being as high as it was when the referendum failed in 2010, many paths to Rome will be built to ensure that the historic bridge will be saved from becoming scrap metal, even if it means spending more to rehabilitate the structure and make it part of the city’s history and bike trail network. It is more of the question of the availability of resources and effort to undertake this mission. If new decking was added after 2010 with no problems, and looking at the success with Sutliff Bridge, another multiple span truss bridge, people will more likely look at ways to make this project bear fruit.

The Bridgehunter’s Chroncles will keep you posted on the latest on the Wagon Wheel Bridge. Please click on the highlighted links to take a look at the stories written about this bridge and other items. Join the group saving the bridge on facebook and get in touch with them if you are willing to provide some ideas and help to restoring the bridge.

 

Oblique view of the longest span. Photo taken in 2010
View of the east approach. This is where the fire took place recently. The photo had been taken in 2013.

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Newsflyer: 15 May 2013

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Boone. Photo taken in September 2010 when the bridge was closed to all traffic. Recently it was rehabilitated and reopened to pedestrians only.

 

So far this year, it has been Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde when it comes to historic bridges being preserved in comparison to those that are on the way to the scrap heap. For the latter in this Newsflyer, it has more to do with stupidity than with natural disasters and structural deficiencies that are justified in their replacement. Yet there are some bright stories with regards to bridges being rehabilitated and reopened. Here are some of the headlines:
 

Bascule Bridge in Michigan Damaged by Drunken Bridge Operator.

Spanning the Rouge River in Detroit, the Jefferson Avenue Bridge features a double-leaf bascule design, whose truss type is similar to the ones found in Chicago, like the Clark Street Bridge. Unfortunately, the future of this bridge, built in 1922 by a Chicago bridge builder is everything but certain for it sustained extensive damage to the bridge deck. More peculiar is the fact that the damage was caused by the bridge operator who closed the bascule bridge as a barge was about to cross underneath it. The operator was taken into custody on suspicion that he was operating while intoxicated. The bridge is now closed and is in an open position to allow for marine traffic to pass underneath it. It will remain closed until further notice while inspectors will look to see whether the bridge can be repaired or if replacement is necessary. More information on the bridge disaster can be found here, along with information on this bridge. This is the second bridge to fall victim to carelessness this past weekend, for another bridge located in Iowa is on its way to the dumpster after a tree landed on it. The Chronicles has an article that you can see here.

 

Photo taken by James Baughn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quincy Memorial Bridge to be demolished and replaced?

“The bridge is more than 80 years old and has been on a priority list for replacement,” stated Roger Driskell, Deputy Director at the Illinois Department of Transportation.  It is ironic to say something about a bridge that has spanned the Mississippi River for over 80 years and appears to be in tip top shape, given its recent rehabilitation. But that is not enough for the Illinois DOT to proceed with plans to demolish the 1930 Warren through truss bridge built by a company based in New York. So far, $1 billion has been put aside for the planning and it is expected that an additional $3 billion will be needed to actually do the work, which is scheduled to begin in 2018. Since 1986 the bridge has served eastbound traffic of US Hwy. 24, while the Bayview Bridge, a cable-stayed suspension bridge carries westbound traffic. However, a long fight to save the Quincy Memorial Bridge is in the making, for the historic bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which means before construction begins on the bridge, Section 106 will be required, meaning alternatives to demolition will be brought onto the table and locals associated with the bridge will fight to ensure the bridge remains standing in use for another 80 years. The Chronicles will be keeping you informed on the latest in that story.

 

Worley Bridge Being Altered?

Located over the San Gabriel River west of Rockdale  in Milam County, Texas, this 1911 Pratt through truss bridge, eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was closed to traffic and was to be rehabilitated this summer. Yet, unlike some of the bridges that were rehabilitated using hot rivets, as was done with another county truss bridge the Sugarloaf Mountain Camelback Truss Bridge, Worley will be rehabilitated using field rivets and gusset plates. The difference can be seen in the pictures by clicking on the links above. How this will alter the truss bridge remains unclear, but it is expected that the project will take three years to complete, for the bridge will be taken apart, renovated in parts and built on new abutments to be reopened to traffic. More information and comments on the renovation plans can be found here.

 

The spans with the railroad viaduct in the background

Boone Bridge now open to pedestrians- part of Kate Shelley Tour on 12 August

There is some good news for another Iowa historic bridge that will be part of the tour during the Historic Bridge Weekend in August: The Wagon Wheel, the longest surviving pre-1920 vehicular truss bridge along the Des Moines River west of Boone is now open to pedestrians. Built in 1909 by the Iowa Bridge Company, the five-span through truss bridge, featuring one Pennsylvania, three tall Pratt and one smaller Pratt, sustained extensive damage during the 2008 Floods, as the east approach span was partially washed out.  Debate on the future of the bridge lingered on for the next two and a half years until a decision was made to convert the bridge into a pedestrian crossing.  Thanks to the opening of the bridge for pedestrian use, people can now walk across the bridge and see the Kate Shelley Viaducts again, without having to take several rather painful detours.

The Wagon Wheel and Kate Shelley Viaducts, together with the Madrid and Bass Creek Viaducts will be part of the 2-3 hour tour fn the bridges of Boone County and the life of Kate Shelley on the last day of the Historic Bridge Weekend, August 12, beginning at 10:00am. The venue will be the Boone County Historical Center in Boone (info on location here.) and after touring the exhibits devoted to Kate Shelley, a trip to the railroad and bridge remains at Moingona and the bridges will follow. If interested in participating in the Kate Shelley and Bridge Tours on 12 August, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles before 15 July, using the contact details provided here.

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Boone, Iowa

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When looking at the picture above, one may see this as a simple single span Pennsylvania Petit through truss bridge spanning a large stream that was built at the turn of the century. However, if you look at the next three pics, you will find that there is more to this bridge than its appearance. Have a look below:

 

This bridge consists of a total of eight spans: four trestle spans on the east side, the Pennsylvania Petit truss design that is 200 feet (61 meters) long, and three Pratt through truss bridges with two center spans that are taller and 20-30 feet longer than the western most span. The total length of the bridge is 703 feet (214.3 meters), making it one of the longest combination spans to not only cross the Des Moines River but also one of the longest bridges of its kind in the state of Iowa. The history of the bridge is unique as it was built by one of the main local bridge companies in Iowa, the Iowa Bridge Company of Des Moines, Iowa. The company was founded in 1902 by James Carpenter and together with its rival company the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company, they became the primary bridge builders in Iowa and the surrounding area for the first three decades of the 20th century. While it is unknown how long this company was in existence, the Iowa Bridge Company was responsible for the construction of this bridge in 1910, although according to local records, the company constructed another larger bridge down stream to serve the Lincoln Highway (US Hwy. 30, now a county road). While that bridge was replaced twice and now a concrete bridge serves that road, the Wagon Wheel Bridge still provides travellers going down 200th Street with a scenic backroad route exiting Boone from the northwest and snaking its way down the Des Moines River Valley. When crossing the bridge, one can see the Kate Shelley Viaduct on the left hand side (both the 2009 modern concrete and the 1912 steel viaducts) and a lot of greenery and hills on the right hand side.

Sadly however, this bridge has been the focus of an intense debate on its future, as it has been closed to traffic since 2007 and has sustained structural damage to the east approach as a result of the Great Flood of 2008. While the bridge has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, its future is being threatened through a referendum that states that Boone County residents would pay $22 per $55,000 worth of owned property to replace the bridge completely with a new structure built 60 feet away. This has been met by stiff opposition by some members of the Boone County board of commission and many residents who cannot afford to have their property taxes raised for this bridge project. Furthermore, should the majority vote for the project on 2 November, it cannot be started until a series of surveys are carried out to determine the environmental impact of the bridge project. It also has to go through the Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Act, which was put into law in 1966, to determine the adverse effects of altering or demolishing a bridge protected through its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. These surveys could take 3-5 years to complete and cannot be circumvented.

Contrary to the belief that the bridge would fall into the river as the county board of commissioners have claimed, upon visiting the bridge this past summer, from what I could see with the structure, the truss superstructure appeared to be in decent shape with the exception of some minor repairs done to it. The only recommendations that would have to be made would be to reconstruct the trestle approaches, as two of the spans have been misaligned as the result of the flooding. Furthermore new flooring may be needed in order for it to be a functioning unit again- be it for vehicles or for recreation, the latter of which is being pursued by many people.

Looking at the Wagon Wheel Bridge from a strategic and economical standpoint, going ahead with the referendum to demolish the bridge for a new structure that may serve up to 20 vehicles a day- given the current circumstances with the economy- is not in the best interest for the people of Boone County. Many residents are struggling to keep afloat due to high debts and unemployment, something that will continue to linger for many months and possibly years to come. Furthermore, the nearest crossing is only 3 miles to the south on the former Lincoln Highway, where travelers have been used to taking this route since the bridge’s closure in 2007. In addition, as one resident pointed out, the Wagon Wheel Bridge would make a better fit for recreation purposes, given its approximate location to the Kate Shelley Viaducts and due to the fact that there are not enough bike trails in and around the Boone area. Having a bike trail cross this truss bridge complex would provide tourists with access to not only the beautiful green Des Moines River valley but also to the past as they would learn about how this bridge was constructed and how it played a role in shaping the American infrastructure during that particular time.

To conclude this article, I would like to present you with this photo of the Wagon Wheel Bridge, up close and personal and have you ask yourself, is it really worth the price to replace this bridge, which would represent a bigger tourist attraction if rehabilitated to serve its purpose for recreation, for a bridge that will only accomodate up to only 20 cars a day, at the expense of the tax payers and another piece of American History, just because of the fear that the bridge might fall into the river, something that is more a theoretical than practical?

More photos of the Wagon Wheel Bridge can be seen in the bridgehunter.com website. Click here for more detailed shots taken by the author (mostly) and three others who have visited the bridge since 2009.

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