102-year old truss bridge scheduled for replacement; lumberjacks provide county with head start.
Over 80 historic bridges will be the focus of the upcoming Historic Bridge Weekend in Iowa during the weekend of August 9-12. Sadly, this bridge will be gone well before the event. The Traer Bridge, spanning Wolf Creek carrying Mill Street on the outskirts of the small community of 1700 inhabitants in Tama County is scheduled to be replaced beginning in July. Yet work on the 1911 riveted Pratt through truss bridge, built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company, has already started. As you can see in the most recent photos taken by J.R. Manning, loggers have started to cut down trees at and near the bridge, signalling the plan to build the structure on a new alignment. This makes sense given the fact that the bridge can be reached through a pair of sharp curves, one on each end of the structure. Yet if there was a plan to keep the structure for recreational purposes, that was destroyed due to a tree falling onto the truss bridge itself, causing severe damage to the southern half of the entire structure. As parts of the tree is still hanging on the overhead bracing of the bridge, the structure is in danger of collapse.
Whether this was done on purpose to accelerate the process or if was done by carelessness remains unclear, but given its poor track record on saving the remaining historic bridges that exist, Tama County seems to be getting rid of them at the quickest possible convenience. Several key historic bridges, including the Toledo Bridge (another Clinton Bridge structure), two Lincoln Highway bridges in and around Chelsea and several pony truss bridges have been replaced since 2000. The LeGrande Bridge over the Iowa River was lost to flooding in 2008 and has long since been removed. In addition, a half dozen bridges, including another Wolf Creek structure at W-Avenue have been closed to through traffic due to issues of their own. A couple of them, including the Chambers Ford Bridge over the Iowa River have sustained damage thanks to vandals. The future of these bridges remain questionable. And this despite the fact that the county has numerous historic bridges still in use, including the famous Lincoln Highway Bridge in Tama, whose railings resemble the name of the 100-year old highway.
The damage to this bridge combined with its neglect since its closure should serve as a signal to the county and the community that more proper care is needed to ensure that the historic bridges in that county (and elsewhere) remain in use, even long after the Historic Bridge Weekend has ended in August. Otherwise, there will no longer be any examples of American history left for younger generations to see, and the number of people born after 1980 who are interested in these bridges have increased exponentially since 2000, which should give people in places like Tama County an incentive to save structures like this bridge, which unfortunately will not be one of the fortunate ones.
Note: The replacement bridge will not be made of wood, as many may wish. The replacement structure will be a 130 foot long concrete slab structure.