Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Bridge with the See-Thru Roadway

Late yesterday we drove seven miles west to the bridge across the Missouri River at Decatur, Nebraska.


The bridge has been a toll bridge ever since its inauguration in 1955. This day we paid $1 to go across and $1 to come back. We wanted to see the rising Missouri. And so we did. Many others were doing the same and I think the toll booth made a bundle this week from river viewers. Perhaps next week may not be so lucrative...it is a possibility the road on the Iowa side of the river may be closed due to water covering portions of the roadway.


Yesterday we drove down underneath the bridge. The road there leads to a few cabins and a restaurant now closed for obvious reasons. A city park sits next to that road. The walkway bridge was blocked with yellow tape. Water was seeping at the edge of the road yesterday. Today it is flooded and closed.


I found this history of the bridge at this website. I'm old enough that I can remember as a small child the talk about the bridge...the dry land bridge. Here's a history as found at the site.

  • In 1946, the Burt County Bridge Commission asked the U.S. Army Engineers to approve a bridge site at Decatur. Construction of the Decatur Bridge was authorized in 1950.
  • The village of Decatur received nationwide notoriety in the 1950s because of the famous dry land bridge that was supposed to be across the Missouri River. The original plans were to build the bridge across the Missouri River to connect Decatur to Onawa, Iowa. The river, on the other hand, had different ideas and changed its course, thus leaving the proposed bridge site about a quarter of a mile distant from the river. Plans were changed and the bridge was built on dry land with the river to be rechanneled under the bridge upon completion. The bridge was completed in 1951 but, because of the Korean War, Federal funds could not be appropriated to place the water under the bridge. The $2 million bridge soon was well known as the bridge "that went nowhere, because it lost it's river." Funds finally became available to move the Missouri River under the bridge and the first traffic crossed the bridge on December 19, 1955. The bridge was officially opened May 5, 1956 during Decatur's Centennial.

The deck (roadway) of this bridge fascinates me. It's the only bridge I've ever seen whose roadbed is constructed of grated metal. No concrete. Just a grated metal floor. The grating makes for an irritating road surface, causing tires to howl-howl-howl all the way across. And they are designed such that they pull the car this way and that necessitating a careful grip on the steering wheel to keep the car in its own narrow lane. The bridge was constructed in 1951 and is did I say it is narrow?


Barn swallows love the bridge. I was careful to not stand long underneath their nests for fear of whitewash in my eyes.


By today, Thursday, June 9, the river has risen past its flood stage of 35 feet. At 9 pm tonight the water hit 36.6 feet which is 1.6 feet above flood stage. River water is flowing onto farmlands so fast that occasionally the river gauge reads an inch or so lower than the previous hour...merely because the water upstream is flowing out of its bed instead of under the bridge.

Tuesday, June 14, the water will peak at 38.2 feet (3.2 feet above flood stage. That's five days from now. There will be much more flooding. But we are not alone. Flooding is occurring along the entire stretch from Sioux City south to Missouri...the entire western border of Iowa.

Today Interstate 29 is closed in both directions between Exit 61 to Exit 71 just north of Council Bluffs due to flooding.

Sioux City will see increased train traffic due to flooded areas in Omaha. Read more here.

Several roads in our county near the River have been flooded and closed. And some homes near the river have been evacuated. Read more here.

The Sioux City Journal reports homes evacuated on the Nebraska side at Macy.

And that doesn't include the huge number of homes evacuated at Dakota Dunes, SD, Sioux City, IA and South Sioux City, NE (and other areas).

Everyone is wondering how western Iowa will be affected these next two months. Homes are already lost. More homes will be flooded. Farmers will lose their entire crops for the year. Jobs will be lost. Rumors are rampant. The Summer of 2011 will be a bad summer in western Iowa and eastern Nebraska. Not to mention all the other communities north to the headwaters and south to the Mississippi.

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7 comments:

Caroline said...

That's a lot of flooding. There is a bridge in downtown Boston which is also a see through bridge. It crosses the Fort Point Channel and is now closed to cars as part of the big dig. It is now a pedestrian bridge. I hated driving on it and hate walking on it- what if my foot slips? Never mind that the grates are too small for a foot to get caught.

Diane said...

Unbelievable; amazing the power water has. Praying for all those people - things don't go back to normal just because the water goes down.

Grating for decks - a friend and I went to Myrtle Beach via Charleston a few years back. At that time, the long, long bridge that carried the highway up over the harbor had that kind of deck, and was also a narrow bridge. Yikes.

Sandy said...

Our country has had tough weather as of late it seems. Much snow last winter in areas and then all the horrible tornadoes and now flooding. In Arizona we have a very large wildland fire burning. It is all just so horrible!

Servivorgirl said...

Always thinking of you and praying that you will be spared the wrath of the floods. Peace and Blessings

Glenda said...

Oh my! So sad to think of all the destruction . . . and so hard for us here in northwest Louisiana to imagine. It has been so very hot and dry . . . burn bans . . . gardens dying. But we finally got some rain yesterday afternoon, and we are thankful.

The bridge is so unique - and full of history!

Kim @ Stuff could... said...

Bridges are fascinating to me. This one being see-thru is neat but a bit scary to me? Water needs to be crossed, of course

Beth L. Gainer said...

Wow. The flooding is amazing. Still, the pictures are compelling, and I LOVE the way you write, with such comprehensive detail.