Reconstruction of Green Bridge Set to Begin

Fifth Avenue/ Jackson Street Pedestrian Bridge in Des Moines. Photo taken in August 2013

Fifth Avenue/ Jackson Street Pedestrian Bridge in Des Moines. Photo taken in August 2013

City Council Approves Plan to Restore Vintage Bridge and Key Des Moines Landmark

DES MOINES, IOWA- It was only two years ago that the Fifth Avenue Bridge, an 1896 product of local bridge builder George E. King, was fenced off to all cyclists and pedestrians, and the Des Moines City Council was seriously considering tearing the entire structure down, which is a National Register Landmark.

At about this time next year, this bridge will be reopened, and connections between downtown and the southern part of the city will be reconnected again. :-)

The Des Moines City Council yesterday approved the proposal to restore the bridge, which will consist of narrowing the bridge deck to 14 feet, adding observation decks and providing LED lighting. It will include some work on the superstructure, which includes strengthening truss points and repainting the entire bridge, while removing debris from previous flooding.

The cost will range between $1.75m and $3.5m, according to information by the Des Moines Register, yet $2.3m has been raised privately through fundraising efforts by Friends of the Green Bridge, with donations from the City Council, the Polk County Board of Supervisors and a grant by the Iowa State Recreational Trails. The Meredith Corporation hired a contractor to inspect the bridge and provide a report, while raising $200,000 for the bridge as well. A list of other key contributors can be found here.

Contract will be let out in the next week with the project expected to begin next Spring. Should all run as plan, the bridge will be open by the Fall, thus reintegrating it with a well-knit Meredith Bike Trail network, which snakes through Des Moines along the Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers, while providing direct access to the parks in the north, the State Capitol Building and the suburbs to the south and west, just to name a few. With the Iowa Cubs Baseball Stadium located at the confluence of the two rivers, it may provide people with an incentive to bike to the baseball game instead of driving the car there.

In the face of the upcoming demolition of the BB Comer Bridge in Alabama and flood damage to the recently restored Riverside Bridge in Missouri, the Green Bridge success story is bucking the trend, providing hope for other bridge preservationists to save their bridges. This includes the Green Bridge in Waverly, located 140 miles NE of Des Moines, where residents are fighting to have the bridge fixed and reopen to traffic. The success story in Des Moines will perhaps provide more leverage for the cause.

More information will follow on the restoration of the Green Bridge with a story on the Waverly crossing and Riverside Bridge to come soon.

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Amman Awards Entry Deadline Extended to January 2016

Hartley Drive Bridge in Allamakee County, Iowa. Photo taken in August 2011

Deadline for Submissions of Photos and Entries extended to January 6th 2016. Voting to Commence in January.

2016 will be the year that the Othmar H. Ammann Awards will be voted on twice. In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, to show solidarity for the people affected by these attacks (including the refugees), to allow for more time for people to submit their entries for the Ammann Awards, and finally to allow time for the author to prepare for the awards, the 2015 Ammann Awards will entend well into 2016. That means between now and January 6th, entries will be taken for voting purposes in the categories of best photo, best example of a preserved historic bridge, lifetime achievement, region with a high concentration of historic bridges, and mystery bridges. More information can be found via link here. Voting will commencence on January 8th and last through January 29th. The winners of the Awards will be given out on February 1st.  The Author’s Choice Awards will be given at the same time.

This decision is unusual, but given the situation at hand, it not appropriate at this time to keep to the December 1st deadline, while in the midst of events that occurred on 13 November 2015, which killed 130 and injured scores of others in Paris alone. In addition, the Chronicles also welcomes any entries of bridges in France and Lebanon to be posted in the online column, and entered in the Ammann Awards. The author visited Paris in 1999 and will present a tour guide of the city’s bridges before the deadline in January, in addition to the bridges in Brussels, where he visited in 2010. That city has also been a focus on the purge of neighborhoods to arrest more suspects involved in the bombings.  It is strongly encouraged that other bridges in France and Lebabon are entered by others to show solidarity and pride towards the infrastructure of both countries.  This in addition to bridges submitted originating from the US and other places.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, together with sisiter column The Flensburg Files are showing solidarity in times of trouble. A pair of articles about the events and the war on terrorism can be found here and here. As mentioned in previous articles, the logos representing France, Lebanon and peace will be presented in every article for the rest of 2015, to show support towards families and friends of people affected by the bombing attacks, with the goal of finding a peaceful way to end the bloodshed and find some sort of co-existence that all sides can benefit from. Some say war cannot be won. That is true, but on both sides. Yet there is always a way to find peace and love. It’s a matter of time before the sides come to a table and find a solution that will satisfy everyone.

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BB Comer Bridge to become History

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

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

SCOTTSBORO, AL (USA)-  As a general rule, democracy works when the majority of the population favor a project that is for the benefit of the community; even if it means putting it to a vote. The campaign to save the BB Comer Bridge garnered massive amount of support from people within Jackson County, as well as many throughout Alabama and parts of the US. It was hoped that the Jackson County Commissioners would put the issue up to a vote, to assume responsibility over a historic bridge with over 80 years of history.

Sadly, County Officials not only rejected the proposition for a vote or even a referendum, but they rejected calls for any measures involving the cantilever span, once and for all. The notion at the council meeting on 9 November effectively closed the last doors to any opportunity to convert the bridge into a recreational area. The contract was signed yesterday to remove the bridge as soon as the new span opened to traffic next spring.

According to a statement by the BB Comer Foundation released yesterday: “It’s sad to see a piece of history destroyed for lack of positive vision.  The hurdles could have been met and crossed if people put their minds to it.  Without doing anything to the bridge it would stand for generations. We are just about to throw a 12 million dollar resource in the trash because efforts to figure out absurd ownership requirements from ALDOT did just what they were supposed to do, stop the preservation of this bridge.”

County officials were concerned about the liability it would have to undertake to preserve the bridge, which includes its maintenance. In addition, some officials questioned the credibility of having a third owner take over the bridge, especially with regards to requirements presented earlier by the Alabama DOT. For cost reasons alone as the official reason, they decided that the effort was not worth it, despite the benefits of using the 1930 bridge that was built by the Kansas City Bridge Company.

“Saving your bridge required the establishment of a governmental entity to assume ownership of the bridge,” stated officials at the bridge foundation. “It would have required no funds from the county or city.  The Comer Bridge Foundation, in concert with the authority, that we were asking them to form could have carried out fundraising activities and, as a government entity, been eligible for grants and other funding mechanisms.  The Bridge could have been used by movie companies for filming at a rate of up to five  thousand dollars a day.  There are many other revenue producing items that would have been available to the Tourism Authority. We were never able to convince the city or the county, despite all efforts, to create the necessary government entity to work with ALDOT on the rest of the conditions.”   Several examples of bridges that became part of a joint cooperation with a private and public sector exist in the United States, including the Sutliff Bridge in Johnson County (Iowa), especially after the bridge was rebuilt in 2012 after sustaining substantial damage in the 2008 flood. This 1896 three-span Parker through truss bridge was one of several examples of historic bridges in Johnson County alone that were saved and reused thanks to efforts by both the private and public sectors. Other examples can be found at FW Kent Park west of Iowa City.

Still, it is unclear how county officials had a change of heart, and how members of the foundation plus other proponents for the preservation of the historic bridge were given the cold shoulder and their pleas were quashed. But apparently the culture of fear factor, combined with behind-the-door politics may have played a key role in sentencing the bridge to death, without any chance to put the proposal up for a vote. A show trial where the defendant is pre-programmed to die is the motto for the bridge.

And with that, time is short; get your photos of the bridge between now and the time the new bridge opens in March- and the historic iconic bridge becomes a memory.

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To show solidarity towards the French and Lenabese and the families who were killed in a series of terrorist attacks on 13 November, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, together with sister column The Flensburg Files, will present a special logo to show support in these dark times. These logos will be used for the rest of 2015. While the photo shows the Bridge of Friendship at the German-Danish border in Flensburg, Germany, the lettering represents the colors of the French national flag.

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BB Comer Bridge: Decision Day

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

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

Voting on the allocation of funds to restoring the bridge to take place on November 9th.

SCOTTSBORO, ALABAMA-  At their Monday working session, the Jackson County Commission agreed to place the proposal to work with Comer Bridge Foundation and NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges on the agenda for a vote on Monday, November 9. The proposal agreed to put 1 million dollars into a county account to start the fund for eventual removal of the 1930 B.B. Comer Bridge, if necessary, and to start the process of design and planning bridge preservation.

Marie Bostick of the Land Trust of North Alabama wrote today, “I just feel so helpless. I know you and so many others have fought hard to save this bridge and it is so obviously the right thing to do.  Unfortunately, if it is demolished, we will regret it. And one day, we’ll be looking for the money to build a new bridge across the river for peds and bikers.  You can just see it coming!” The Economic Impact Study showed that the trail makes economic sense for the region, with a quarter of the impacts directly attributed to the trail crossing over the Tennessee River at Scottsboro.

At this time there are no plans for the Scottsboro City council to take this matter up. However, Scottsboro City Councilman, Brent Miller stated in a response to Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF) outreach, “I’ll be glad to discuss efforts to save the bridge and request that it be added to the next work session so the council can possibly discuss adding it to the agenda. I’ll make a conscious decision based on what I believe is in the best interest of Scottsboro. I’ll be glad to discuss this issue with anyone who would like to express their opinion.” Miller’s office is located at 121 North Broad Street, one block north of Willow Street. He will be out on city business at the end of this week, but if the sign says open, he will be there. We urge citizens to talk to all of their elected officials about how to build Scottsboro using the bridge as an asset and a resource, rather than an old bridge that needs paint. Comer Bridge Foundation board Chairman, Arnold Wheeler stated, “Let’s just hope these political leaders, who have refused to get involved, will now come forward and help us, all of us, save our bridge.”

The Jackson County Commissioners can be reached at 256 – 574 -9280.
Governor Bentley can be reached on Facebook at, or by calling 334-242-7100 or Faxing 334-353-0004. He can also be reached on Twitter under the name @GovernorBentley.  Ask for his input in working with ALDOT to accept the counter offer to his requirement of $5 million dollars in a fund somewhere for something.

The B.B.Comer Bridge, completed in 1930, is the last of the 15 memorial toll bridges enacted by legislation in 1927 that were built by the Kansas City Bridge Company but contracted through the Alabama State Bridge Corporation. Selected for the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in October 2013, the B.B. Comer Bridge was  also included in the 2015 Places in Peril list from the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation.

Contact Charles Holderfield  with any questions: (256) 486-1940 or Comer Bridge Foundation Media at

For more information about the CBF and efforts to save the bridge, visit the CBF website at and consider liking CBF’s Friends of B.B. Comer Bridge at

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 61: Sugar Island Bridge

Bridge damaged by tornado in 1916. Public domain.

Our next mystery bridge takes us to Kankakee County, Illinois and to Sugar Island. There, a fellow pontist brought this bridge to the author’s attention. Little information regarding the crossing can be found, photos included. We do know that the bridge is located 10 miles south of Kankakee and 20 miles south of the interchange between I 80 and I 57 near Chicago.  The current structure spans the Iroquois River on a county road, east of US Hwy. 52 (click here for more information on its location and information). It replaced a multiple-span through truss bridge around 1979 although there was no information on its aesthetical appearance, let alone the bridge builder. That bridge replaced a two-span Pratt through truss bridge, seen in the picture above.  That happened around 1916 after a tornado damaged half of the span, causing it to lean over. More photos of the damage can be found here.

What is unique about the first bridge at Sugar Island is the builder’s plaque that were located on each end of the crossing. Here is where a debate is most likely to be brought up until further research is needed to prove one or the other. On one hand, the plaque looks like one that was used by the Continental Bridge Company in Chicago. The bridge company was located in the Monadnock Building and was in service between 1903 and 1907, with another bridge company located outside the city in Peotone from 1906 to 1931. Yet it is unclear whether the company moved to Chicago from Pennsylvania (where another CBC existed in the 1870s) or was simply shut down and reestablished. A report written by the author in 2005 provides some information on the company’s history and the possible relationship between the Chicago and Pennsylvania firms. A fine example of a CBC product is the Chimney Rock Bridge in Winneshiek County, Iowa. According to the plaque, the bridge was built in 1906 but was relocated to its present site in 1952. Research is still needed to find the origin of the bridge- where it was located prior to its relocation.

Chimney Rock Bridge in Winneshiek County, Iowa. Photo taken in 2005

Looking at the portals more closely, one can see the bridge builder and the year it was constructed.

Builder’s plaque on the Chimney Rock Bridge

Yet by the same token, some people claim that the plaque similar to CBC can be found on some of the bridges built by the Massillon Bridge Company in Ohio, thus creating the argument that the Sugar Island Bridge may have been built by that company. What would be objected is that only a handful of bridges were reported to have carried this plaque before they were replaced. This included the Kilmore Creek Bridge in Clinton County, Indiana, which existed from 1885 until its demise in 1991. In addition, the portal bracings of most Massilon bridges feature an arched Howe lattice portal bracing and not those of CBC, which are Town Lattice with heel bracings, like the aforementioned examples. Furthermore, many counties inside Illinois looked in-state for bridge builders that can assemble a crossing together at a price cheaper than the giant companies, like the American Bridge Company, King Bridge Company and even the companies in Pennsylvania and Minnesota. The cost included the fabrication of steel bridge parts and transporting them to the site for assembly. While Chicago, Springfield and Joliet became main bridge building hubs, serving as competitors to the giants, the most popular was the Illinois Steel Company, which built bridges well into the 1980s. Therefore, it would make sense to buy locally resulting in the ability of these companies to survive on their own.

Keeping these arguments in mind, we now look at the Sugar Island Bridge again, asking ourselves whether the crossing was a CBC or a Massillon bridge. Furthermore, when was the bridge built and what did its predecessor look like. Any ideas? Fill out this form and send it in this direction, so that we can solve the mystery of this bridge. Also helpful is any facts involving the tornado that damaged the bridge to a point where the replacement was a necessity. 1916 was the time of the tornado and the photo taken. Anything else before or after that remains open……


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2015 Ammann Awards Underway/ New Website Relaunched

Bridge of Blue Miracle (Dt. Blaue Wunder Brücke) in Dresden, Germany. Photo taken in December 2011

Bridge of Blue Miracle (Dt. Blaue Wunder Brücke) in Dresden, Germany. Photo taken in December 2011

2015 marks a special year for the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. Five years ago this month, together with sister column The Flensburg Files, the Chronicles was launched on the areavoices platform, operated by the Fargo-based InForum Communications. Over the years, the online column has expanded, winning support from hundreds of readers, preservationists and bridge-lovers alike, including those seeking help to preserve their beloved treasures of their communities.


Again for the fifth time this year, the Chronicles is now collecting entries for the 2015 Ammann Awards. The Awards goes out to people who devoted their efforts into saving historic bridges, as well as historic bridges that are worth seeing, not just from the author’s point of view but also that of others.  Between now and December 1st, you can submit photos for Best Photo, mystery bridges for its own award as well as that for best preserved bridges, cities/regions with a high concentration of historic bridges for the Best Tour Guide, and people for Lifetime Achievement. More information you can find in the front header of the column or by clicking here. It includes the winners of the Awards in the previous years dating back to 2011.  Entries are due by December 1st, 2015 at 12:00am Central Standard Time (or December 2nd at 7:00am Berlin Time).

Voting will then proceed from there, which will be done directly through the Chronicles’ polling page. This was introduced as part of the launch of the Chroncles’ wordpress website page, earlier this year. More instructions to come once the entries are collected.

In addition to the traditional voting, voting will also take place to determine the top five places to visit historic and unique bridges as well as the top five bridges to visit, both on a national and international scale. This is in connection with the Chronicles’ fifth anniversary and it includes not only the bridges and places profiled here to date, but also those you have contributed. If you want to contribute to this part, please let Jason Smith at the Chronicles know. The e-mail address can be found in the header About the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.



After a few months absence, the Chronicles’ wordpress website page has received a much-needed makeover, The reason behind this is due to the problems with the layout, combined with difficulties involving the font size and its contrast with the background color. To better get acquainted with the website and follow, click here.  The website version will focus more on bridge tours, mystery bridges, and themes involving historic bridges and preservation, whereas the areavoices site will focus on news stories involving historic bridges as well as interviews with people and literary profiles, scheduled to be relaunched next year.  Both will have coverage on the Ammann Awards, but the long-range plans is to use the areavoices site for US bridges and the wordpress site for international bridges. But for now, enjoy the new website and there are many ways to follow both for more coverage on historic bridges. :-)


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Green Bridge in Des Moines: An Interview with Carl Voss

Side view of the Jackson Street Bridge.

Side view of the Jackson Street Bridge.

The ale is on the house and people are celebrating! But soon, the Green Bridge, spanning the Raccoon River in the south of Des Moines, will be receiving its much-needed makeover. After raising over $2.3 million over the course of two years, people sharing stories and suggestions for the bridge through its facebook platform and other campaigns, rehabilitation will be undertaken beginning next year with the hope to have the bridge reopened to traffic by 2017.  The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles had an opportunity to interview one of the key figures behind the preservation efforts, Carl Voss, to find out how the group Save the Jackson Street (Green) Bridge, supported by the majority of Des Moines’ population of 230,000, plus numerous people with a connection to the bridge’s history, bucked a current trend the city is witnessing with many historic buildings coming down, to save a rare piece of history that clearly belongs to the city. Here is what we found out from him:

  1. How did you guys collect that much money for the project? What events did you have apart from the marathon and the introduction of the brew?

No marathon; not sure where that came from. Oh, I bet that’s a reference to the Mayor’s Annual Ride for Trails, an annual April event sponsored by Des Moines Parks and Recreation to support the city’s trail network. This year, the net ($12,500) went toward the bridge project.

Tapping of the golden keg for Bridge Builder Pale Ale (Oct. 8) was our only other public event. We hoped 100 people would attend; we ended up with nearly 400. A measure of success: attendees drained the ATM machine, which had to be replenished.

Des Moines looks best when public and private groups come together to support a project. And we had it great outpouring of success.

From the public sector—city, county, and state
$750,000 from the City of Des Moines (money they would have spent to tear down the bridge)
$500,000 from State of Iowa Recreational Trails grant
$225,000 from the Polk County Supervisors
$12,500 from the Mayor’s Annual Ride for Trails

The bridge is part of the Meredith Trail; the Meredith Foundation was extremely generous and made an initial in-kind contribution for a $100,000 engineering study of the bridge rehabilitation. The City of Des Moines Engineering Department accepted the study by Genesis Structures of Kansas City and used that study a basis to assemble the bridge package.

The Meredith Foundation donated an additional $200,000 toward the bridge ($300,000 total). Other contributions ranged from $20 to $200,000. Included in this: family foundations, corporations, the Downtown Neighborhood Association, Capital Striders Running Club, The Society of Italian-Americans Auxiliary, and the Knights of Columbus.

We tried to cover all bases! Yes, we were extremely fortunate. Only one downtown business said no. Incredible.

  1. Who all donated for the project as far as businesses were concerned?

Nearly every downtown developer made a significant contribution to this project. Because the funds are held by the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, there are benefits individuals, foundations, and business contribution as either nonprofit contributions or marketing expenses. Through an agreement with the City of Des Moines, we also accepted three-year pledges; nice for foundations.

  1. What difficulties did you have in the efforts?
    My recollection is that once the $500,000 state grant for recreational trails was secured (required a $500,000) match, we felt the task was doable.
  2. With the Younkers, Methodist Hospital and YMCA meeting their untimely end, was there a point where you were afraid that the Green Bridge would also meet its fate?

A little background. After an initial engineering study determined the bridge to be unsafe (April 2013), the Des Moines city manager recommended tearing down the bridge at a cost of $750,000. After members of the Des Moines Park Board resisted tearing down the bridge and embarked on a social-media campaign, the public joined in (Bridgehunter’s Chronicles was part of this). The Des Moines City Council voted 7-0 in December 2013 to hold off tearing down the bridge and see if dollars could be raised to save the structure. (Side note: I served as an interim city council member when the vote was taken.)

The change was instituted from the ground up by a small group.

Personally, I always felt our volunteer committee was up to the task. It was a fabulous volunteer committee with plenty of community connections. We did this on our own without a professional fund-raiser or marketing professional.

We had a tight timeframe: Raise the funds by the end of August so the bid package could be assembled and bids approved in the December 2015 to January 2016 timeframe. We met our goal.

  1. What exactly is next with the bridge project? What is the time frame we’re looking at between now and the time the bridge reopens?

The bridge packet for potential bidders is being assembled now.

Nov. 22: Council to order construction of the bridge (I think in city language: Bids are advertised)

Dec. 8: Bids due (we’ll have a fingers crossed that the bids come in on or under budget)

Dec. 21: approve contract (assuming a qualified bidder comes in under $3.2 million).

Rehabilitation will begin with the spring construction season (March-April), which helps contain costs (completed in one season). One of the necessary expenses is tenting the bridge to remove lead-based paint.

6.What more is needed for the project? What can a person do to help?

We have raised the $2.3 million targeted for the rehabilitation of the bridge.

Donor plazas. We are now seeking additional dollars for donor plazas (one on each river bank). We already have a $50,000 in-kind gift to tell the story of the bridge construction and the south side Des Moines neighborhood that the 1898 bridge connected. The bridge opened up downtown Des Moines jobs and retail to the vibrant south side neighborhoods, known primarily as an Italian immigrant neighborhood. Many of the descendents of those original Italian families have prospered in Des Moines and served as public officials, business leaders, and restaurateurs.

We are accepting $200 donor bricks for the plazas. I suspect some of these donations will come about when people actually see work being done on the bridge. Details at

LED lights. We are working with a local lighting expert who is really jazzed about adding LED lights to this bridge, which will be opened 24/7 to walkers, runners, and bicyclists. As you might expect, the LED lighting bundle is not part of the basic rehabilitation, so this will be an additional expense.

  1. If a person is interested in the bridge brew, how can it be ordered/bought?

In all, 640 gallons were brewed for this event. Bridge Builder Pale Ale is available at the Confluence Brewery, several local bars and restaurants, and many Hy-Vee grocery stores. Bridge Builder is available in ½ growlers (1 quart) for $10 in the grocery stores.  The brewery created a really nice silk-screen design for the pint glasses and ½ growlers.

  1. Looking at the article released by the Chronicles, there was a nice quote with an analogy to a song by ELO with “Don’t bring me down!” What’s your take on this trend?

I think I can speak for most committee members: We were committed to saving this bridge. Dang, it’s a part of the downtown fabric and was such an important to link the south side to downtown Des Moines. Great stories have arisen from people who remember walking across the bridge to go to a downtown movie. Or terrified teenage boys and girls driving across the rumbling timbers for the first time when it was still opened to auto traffic.

I think we were happily stunned when so many like-minded people stepped up to contribute—local history buffs, bridge fans, walkers, runners, cyclists, downtown developers, and downtown residents.

This project caught the attention of the pubic and the media. We’re so pleased to save this bridge that’s on the National Historic Register of Places.

What’s in a name?

  • We found the original 1896 bridge drawings for the 5th Street Raccoon River Bridge. (Bridge was actually built in 1898.) When the bridge was added to the Historic Register in 1995, it was added as the Southwest Fifth Street Bridge
  • Some people call it the Green Bridge, the current color, even though it’s been dark brown/black, reddish brown, silver or aluminum over the years.
  • Others call it the Jackson Street Bridge, even though there’s no Jackson Street in Des Moines. It’s actually Jackson Avenue, a street name that popped up 10 years after the bridge opened.

If you want to know more about how you can help, please click on the website and there, you can contact the people who can help you. The Chronicles will continue to keep you posted on the latest on the rehabilitation efforts of the bridge, which is about to start.

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Funding for Green Bridge Raised- Restoration to Proceed

Photo taken in 2013

DES MOINES, IOWA-  March 2013: The Green Bridge, officially known as the 5th Avenue or Jackson Street Bridge, was closed to all traffic- cyclists and pedestrians alike. The reason: Structural deterioration, especially among the pinned connections combined with concerns involving the restoration efforts that occurred 20 years ago, after the 1898 structure was converted to recreational traffic. There were worries that the work of art, courtesy of George E. King, who had his bridge building business in Des Moines at around the turn of the century, would end up like the YMCA Riverfront Building and the Methodist Hospital- a pile of rubble!

October 2015- two years later: After two years of efforts and contributions by people of all aspects, the Green Bridge will be rebuilt, thanks to a total of $2.3 million that was raised by the Save the Green Bridge organization through businesses, residents, cyclists, historians, and even bridge-lovers. Even the local bridge company, Jensen Construction contributed in the cause with the bridge inspection which revealed that it could be rehabilitated and reused for less money than the cost for demolition and replacement.

As part of the accomplished goal, Confluence Brewery, located in Des Moines’ southside near the bridge, is producing and selling the Bridge Builder’s Ale, a special beer that is scheduled to be on sale today. A special event will take place this evening at the Brewery, with proceeds going to the new lighting on the bridge. With the money raised and then some, plans are in the work to reconstruct the bridge by building a new deck with some observation points, strengthening the piers, and repairing the steel parts of the bridge. This will be underway come next year with the bridge being reopened by 2017.  The Chronicles will feature an interview to provide more information on the fund-raising efforts and the plans to revitalize the bridge after being closed for two years. This will be featured very soon.

To sum up the efforts to save the Green Bridge, Des Moines has lost some great architectural works during the years the structure was closed off to all traffic. Apart from the CGW Railroad Bridge being removed in 2014 and the historic riverside retaining wall near the Martin Luther King Bridge being replaced, 2015 brought forth the loss of the Younkers Building because of fire a year earlier, the historic Methodist Hospital and the YMCA Riverside Building to implosion. And while Younkers was a loss that was out of the hands of the City, the loss of the Y and Methodist Hospital could have been avoided. Yet its sequential implosions in both buildings provided a good tune to the song by ELO entitled “Don’t Let Me Down.” And while the demolition contractor may be a big fan of the 70s rock group, he will be disappointed to know that the song has a true meaning for a landmark that the majority of Des Moines have fought hard to save- a rarity that does not deserve to be brought down; a rarity that will reopen soon. That means the song will go on, and the demo contractor will have to perfect his ELO song elsewhere. 😉

You can still donate to the bridge project byusing this link:

Interview to follow, click on the highlighted links for more video and info…..


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Linz Railroad Bridge to be Demolished

The Railway Bridge at night but in black and white. Photo courtesy of Madeleine Schneider

The Railway Bridge at night but in black and white. Photo courtesy of Madeleine Schneider

69% of the voters want a new bridge. Demolition and replacement to commence soon.

LINZ, AUSTRIA- The elections in Linz and the region of Upper Austria brought a lot of surprises as far as results are concerned, with the Austrian Volkspartei and the Free Democrats taking the first two places and the political mentality shifting right. The mentality of the citizens of Linz seems to in the right as well, as the majority of the population voted to say good-bye to the old lady over the Danube River today.

After nearly two years of campaigning for and against a new bridge, 68.1% of the population voted in favor of demolishing the three-span curved Whipple through truss bridge, which had been serving traffic for over a century. Already, Linz’s mayor Klaus Luger had already started planning for a new crossing, whose construction is scheduled to begin sometime next year and is expected to last 2-3 years. The new crossing will be a three-span tied-arch bridge with Warren truss features, providing six lanes of traffic including rail and bike lanes. The question was whether a two-bridge solution would be realistic in financial terms. Today’s vote sent a clear message, favoring Luger’s campaign to remove the old structure and put his prized work in its new place.

However, the bridge, which had its Historic Significance status removed by the Austrian Heritage Office last year, may have an afterlife, for plans are in the making to convert the center span into a floating park, resting on pontoons and located adjacent to the new bridge. Whether this plan of salvaging one of the three spans will bear fruit depends on the amount of money and support available. Yet the plan will be similar to the proposal to convert the truss spans of the eastern half of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge into passive housing. The 1936 bridge has been replaced with a cable-stayed span and is being dismantled for that purpose.

Still after years of effort, it appears that the majority would like to see the bridge go, as it has lived its useful life. And while the group and other preservationists are still asking why, they can be given credit for getting the message out there, and receiving as much support despite fighting a battle that is now lost.  One can hope that a small part of history can be saved and reused as a marker indicating how important the bridge was to the history of Linz as well as civil engineering.

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Vote on the Linz Railroad Bridge on 27 September

All photos courtesy of the City of Linz

Photo courtesy of the City of Linz

Vote on the Two-Bridge-Solution to determine the bridge’s fate

LINZ, AUSTRIA- After countless debates and arguments for and against the demolition of a key landmark in the city of Linz, citizens will go to the polls to decide whether to keep the 115-year old Linz Railroad Bridge over the Danube River and have a replacement span alongside it, or to send it off in a pile of rubble. The vote will take place tomorrow and the Chronicles will inform you of the results once they have them. Planners on both sides have been working on proposals on converting the old bridge into a pedestrian- bike trail crossing on one hand, but also a new structure to accommodate all traffic on the other. Arguments for saving the bridge include keeping its structural integrity and integrating it into the cityscape of Linz, while showing people the history of bridge and its contribution during the age of industrialization. Together with the Styregg Bridge, they are the only two Danube crossings in Linz that are more than 110 years old, with the former still serving rail traffic despite turning 130 years old this year. The Austrian Railways, which used to share the bridge with vehicular traffic, has not used the Railroad Bridge since 2013, thus clearing the way for the repurposing proposal.  Opponents have claimed that the cost for renovating the bridge and re-purposing it for recreational use would be more than the cost of a one-bridge solution. In addition, claims of the structure’s instability and it being closed to traffic during the winter instead of salting the roadway were brought up recently during several meetings between both parties. And despite this practice existing in the United States, realigning the roadway would be an inconvenience, according to opponents.

Nevertheless, there are enough arguments for and against the bridge, some of which can also be seen in the videos below. It is more of the question of not only the number of voters going to the polls, but also if the heart lies with keeping the old lady for generations to come or if it is time to let it go. No matter the result though, construction of the new bridge will take 2-3 years to complete with or without the steel bridge in its place.

Here are the videos of the campaign for saving the bridge and voting for the two bridge solution:

An interview was conducted a year ago with the Save the Bridge Initiative, which you can click here for details.



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