New Des Moines Bridge Might Not Feature Arches

Thu March 13, 2014 - Midwest Edition

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Des Moines should recreate its trademark arches when rebuilding a well-known downtown bridge, say some City Council members, despite others’ arguments that it would be too expensive.

Councilwoman Christine Hensley said the arches on the Grand Avenue bridge are an iconic symbol of the city, and it’s critical that they’re reflected in the design for the new, $7.2 million structure. Work is expected to begin in the summer of 2015 and take about a year to complete.

“It’s part of our logo, and it’s critical that we retain those arches,’’ she said. “It would be a mistake to change that.’’

The nearly century-old bridge spans the Des Moines River. It was built in 1916 and rehabilitated in 1967, The Des Moines Register reported. It carries about 8,200 vehicles each day, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Deputy City Engineer Pam Cooksey said replicating the architecture of the existing bridge will likely be too expensive. She also said that style of architecture doesn’t meet state transportation design standards.

“That type of construction was done 100 years ago,’’ she told the newspaper. “While there was some equipment, most of it was labor. Now we’re in a world where most of the hard work is done by equipment. There aren’t hundreds of workers; it’s much less.’’

City officials decided to replace the bridge because it would cost as much to repair it. A new structure also will have a longer life span.

The Grand Avenue bridge and three others nearby have a rich history, according to state historians. Jack Porter, a preservation architect with the Iowa Historical Society, said crossing the Des Moines River was a huge obstacle for commerce, and joining the east and east portions of the city began tying the community together.

Porter, who also is a former City Council member, said the Grand Avenue bridge is part of a historic district in the area.

“I think their design basis should be more respectful to the actual historic bridge rather than looking ultra modern,’’ he said.

City Council Member Chris Coleman said he was hopeful that officials could reach a solution that preserves the history.

“On Grand Avenue, I’d like to keep working on it until we know it’s absolutely not possible,’’ he said.

City officials said Des Moines has dozens of bridges that need at least $70 million in improvements and repairs.

“The Grand Avenue Bridge and the others that cross the Des Moines River throughout town are among the most visibly noticed bridges in the city,’’ said City Manager Rick Clark. “We’re going to have to take into account design features that make them really attractive. There’s a lot of ways you can echo design features that are also cost-effective.’’