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Finalists Named for Historic MN Bridge

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

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Last week, reports indicated that only four communities remained in a fight to claim and reuse a historic bridge from southern Minnesota.

The Kern Bridge, a retired, single-span, wrought-iron, bowstring arch through truss resting on limestone abutments, was constructed by John Mahowald and the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in 1873. At the time of its construction, the bridge was considered significant as it was the only example of a bowstring through truss bridge in Minnesota, in addition to its long span length.

Originally located in the southeast corner of South Bend Township in Blue Earth County, Minnesota, the structure was removed last February due to crumbling abutments. Using two cranes, the 189-foot-long wrought-iron bridge was hoisted from its perch above the Le Sueur River and placed along the riverbank where it was dismantled and stored in four storage containers awaiting relocation.

Eligible Recipients

According to MPR News, to be eligible as a recipient of the bridge, the individual(s) must be able to rehabilitate the bridge to its historic standard.

“We want (the bridge) to be re-listed” on the National Register of Historic Places, District 7 State Aid Engineer Lisa Bigham said. “We want it to be used. It wasn’t just to put it somewhere and forget about it. We want it to be restored and used and maintained.” / Nathan Holth

Last week, reports indicated that only four communities remained in a fight to claim and reuse a historic bridge from southern Minnesota.

In addition to restoring the structure to historic standards, the Minnesota Department of Transportation noted on its “Available Bridges” page that cities, counties and state agencies qualify as recipients for the structure, however, cities of less than 5,000 population required a county sponsor.

Thus far, the Kern Bridge has received eight applications and letters of intent, to which MnDOT has already narrowed down to four finalists: Watonwan County, Sherburne County, Mankato and Fergus Falls.

Bigham anticipates a decision to be made next month, with the installation of the bridge at its new location sometime in 2024, once all the parts are refurbished and reassembled. Federal funding would provide the recipient of the Kern Bridge 80% of the money needed to relocate the span, which Bigham estimates will cost about $2 million.

Buying Bridges

The Kern Bridge isn’t the only available bridge to the public, though. For just $1, someone could buy the Eden Bridge in Brown County, Minnesota. Built in 1918, this Warren pony truss bridge carries County State Aid Highway 8 over the Minnesota River and links Eden Township in Brown County to Camp Township in Renville County.

According to reports, the structure has plans to be replaced as it's too narrow for modern farm equipment—measuring only 18 feet wide.

While the cost of the bridge is extremely low, Bigham says that whoever purchases the bridge will have to haul it away themselves. The county is accepting letters of interests through the end of June.

Like MnDOT, other state agencies have also attempted selling, auctioning or in some cases, giving away its retired bridge structures. Most recently, in November of last year, the Michigan Department of Transportation made five sections of original steel grating from the Mackinac Bridge available through the Mackinac Bridge Authority.

The five sections went up for auction on GovDeals, a liquidity services marketplace. Each piece of the steel grating weighed roughly two tons and measured 5.5 feet by 38 feet long, with a depth of 5 inches. According to MDOT, each piece featured corrosion and section loss appropriate to steel of its age.

However, the grating was also originally coated with lead-based paint. Although much of the coating system worn off, highest bidders awarded the auctioned sections were required to sign a “hold harmless agreement” related to the lead paint and the structural condition of the grating.

A year before the auction, the Missouri Department of Transportation announced that a number of bridges were available for free. The catch? Interested parties had to pay for structure relocation.

The bridges on the list were eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, or had already been marked as being on the list. The structures available at the time included:

  • The Moscow Mills Bridge, a 215-foot-long pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge, built in 1885 by Raymond & Campbell, the first all metal truss wagon bridge trail to cross the Cuivre River in Lincoln County;
  • The 305-foot-long Thayer Viaduct, a one pin-connected Pratt through truss and two rigid connected Warren pony trusses built in 1930 by M. S. Cartter & Co., St. Louis and Martin Wunderlich;
  • The 157-foot-long Little Black River Bridge, a structure consisting of three Pratt pony truss spans, built in 1949 by Blackburn & Whiteside; and
  • The longest of the bunch, the Buck O’Neil Bridge, which is 2,764 feet long and was built by the American Bridge Company from 1955 to 1956, and is a steel tied through arch bridge.

Others on the list included: Highway 40 Bridge over Salt Creek and Katy Trail; Poplar Bluff Viaduct; Leeper Bridge; and Bridge 076001.4, Long Branch Bridge.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; Department of Transportation (DOT); Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Quality Control; Rehabilitation/Repair

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