ED HUSAR: Anyone interested in a free bridge? All you have to do is move it

Posted: Apr. 10, 2014 9:34 pm Updated: Jul. 4, 2014 8:15 am

Residents, take note.

You can have your very own historic bridge that's eligible for listing the National Register of Historic Places -- for free.

There's just one tiny hitch.

You'll have to move the bridge yourself. And it's not something you can simply toss into the back of a pickup truck -- not when we're talking about a 296-foot-long span nearly 22 feet wide.

You might need a fleet of pickup trucks, or maybe even a flock of Huey helicopters, to wrangle the bridge to a new home.

Nonetheless, free bridges don't come along every day. So if you're interested in putting one in your pocket, you have until June 2 to submit your application to Karen Daniels, the Missouri Department of Transportation's senior preservation specialist.

So far, Daniels has received no takers.

"Not yet," she said.

The free bridge is in the southwest corner of Adair County, roughly 22 miles southwest of Kirksville. It's on Route 11 and crosses the Mussel Fork Drainage Ditch.

Built in 1933, the rusting bridge has a 20-ton load limit. It's also not wide enough to handle two large vehicles simultaneously. So the bridge has been reduced to one lane and is slated to be replaced in 2015 with a bigger bridge, which will have to be built on the same spot occupied by the old bridge. "So obviously we can't leave it in place," Daniels noted.

Because this is a historic bridge, MoDOT can't simply knock it down.

"We are required by federal law to make any historic bridge that we replace available for reuse to other entities," Daniels said.

For that reason, MoDOT recently issued a news release offering the bridge for free to any historic or civic group, government agency or private citizen. All you need to do is submit a proposal detailing how the bridge would be dismantled and relocated and how it would be used in the future.

Daniels said MoDOT isn't interested in giving the bridge away simply for its scrap value.

"We want somebody who is going to preserve the bridge," she said. "We want them to have a plan for how it's going to be used and how they're going to preserve the elements that make it eligible for the National Register."

What makes this bridge special from a historic standpoint is it's a good example of the "pony truss" style used by MoDOT until the 1960s.

"Pony truss bridges were kind of our go-to thing for decent-sized streams," Brown explained. In other words, if a stream crossing measured 80 to 100 feet, MoDOT often turned to the pony truss.

"As our highway system has expanded, especially since the 1950s, we've gone to other bridge types for that span length," Daniels said. As a result, pony truss bridges are gradually vanishing.

Daniels hopes a civic group interested in building a hiking or biking trail might find a way to use the Mussel Fork bridge as a solution to cross a creek or gully.

"Bridges can be moved in a lot of different ways," she said. "This one is riveted, so dismantling it would be an option."

One time, she recalled, an Iowa National Guard unit acquired a MoDOT bridge to use for training exercises. "They did an airlift on it," she said.

If no interest is expressed in reusing the Mussel Fork bridge before the bridge-replacement contract is let later this year, the contractor will be allowed to calculate the scrap metal value "and take that as part of his compensation for the project," Daniels said.

She would love to see the bridge reused. Daniels visited the bridge one frigidly cold day this past winter to take some photos for MoDOT's website. She feels it's worth preserving.

"It's not quite as pretty as a covered bridge. But after you spend a lot of quality time with pony trusses -- and I have, trust me -- they can grow on you."


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