N.D. Crews Demolish Last of Old Bridge

Sat November 29, 2008 - Midwest Edition

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) The last two sections of a historic Missouri River bridge, about as long as three football fields, were blasted into the water Oct. 29 as crowds lined up to watch.

“Everything went off perfect,” North Dakota Transportation Director Frances Ziegler said.

Ryan Johnson, a Transportation Department chemist, was chosen to press the button to detonate the old Liberty Memorial Bridge. His name was drawn over 18 others out of a hat.

“Holy moly,” Johnson said, shaking, as he pressed the button and the blast went off. “This is a far cry from blowing up firecrackers.

“All these years of work are gone in just a matter of seconds,” he said.

The Liberty Memorial bridge, built more than 80 years ago, was known as the first car bridge to span the Missouri.

It’s been replaced by a new bridge to the south.

The first of the three sections of the bridge, spanning about 450 ft. (137 m), was destroyed earlier in October. The sections blasted Oct. 29 spanned about 900 ft. (274 m).

The blast could be heard throughout Bismarck.

Officials said the removal of the bridge cost a total of $1.44 million, involving 2,200 tons (200 t) of steel.

Jeff Dahn, the owner of Total Construction Inc., of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., the main contractor for the project, said the steel will be recycled.

“It’ll probably be a new bridge somewhere, some day,” Dahn said.

Phil Mastrangelo, state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agency, fired bottle-rocket type charges to scare away pigeons before the blast. Officials estimate as many as 10,000 pigeons had made the old bridge home.

Transportation Department spokesman Mike Kopp said the new bridge has anti-pigeon strips to prevent the birds from roosting under the girders.

“The birds will probably go to other bridges or other tall structures,” Kopp said. “They’re like rodents. They will go wherever they can find a home.”

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