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What bridges in Nebraska have historical significance? That was the concern of Federal officials, and it eventually led to the1987 Federal Aid Highway Act provision requiring states to determine which bridges were of historical significance.
In 1991, working with the Federal Highway Administration, NDOR developed the Historic Bridge Management Plan. It called for the inventory of highway bridges in the state from the period of 1870 thru 1947. Consultants hired to conduct the study searched 16,000 records in state and county files, conducted personal interviews, checked library records, and made bridge inspections. The study concluded that approximately 100 bridges located in 51 Nebraska counties qualified to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The study was updated in 1996, which supplied a pool of additional bridges that were eligible for the National Register.
In 2007, the National Register Evaluation of Nebraska Bridges 1947 to 1965 was completed. The report is the culmination of the Historic Bridge Inventory update of Nebraska bridges. The inventory evaluated 1,405 bridges built during the subject period. A second component of this project was the reassessment of 46 bridges from the 1991 Nebraska Historic Bridge Inventory and the 1996 Nebraska Historic Bridge Inventory Update. The 2007 inventory concluded that out of the 1,405 bridges built from 1947-1965 and the 46 bridges which were reassessed, 40 total bridges were identified as being eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Currently, NDOR is working in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration to update the Historic Bridge Management Plan. While working through this process, a current list of all historic eligible bridges in Nebraska has been developed. As of 6/16/2009, there are 120 bridges on this list. Each county was contacted to verify current information about their historic bridges.
Historic bridges come in many designs and sizes. and feature different engineering features. Examples can be found across the state. They include:
- A three span, 644-foot-long, US-281 Red Cloud Bridge spanning the Republican River two miles south of Red Cloud, Nebraska. From a technology standpoint, engineers delineated a continuous truss for the replacement bridge rather than using simple truss spans. Historically, the bridge is significant because it was a major highway crossing of the Republican River in southern Nebraska.
- A 3,013-foot double-deck structure on US-81 spanning the Missouri River south of Yankton, South Dakota. Work began on the bridge in 1920. The original intent was to design a combined railroad and highway bridge, with a movable lift span to allow unobstructed river navigation. The structure, completed in 1924, was equipped with two decks -- an upper level for highway traffic, and a lower level for railroad traffic. The anticipated rail route never materialized, and the bridge became a pure highway facility. The lift span had very limited use after construction, and in the early 1980's was deactivated. The bridge will remain in its present location as a pedestrian bridge.
Multifaceted Bridge Program
The Program also addresses disposition of the bridges. In addition to demolition and the removal/reestablishment of bridges, certain bridges, while being outdated for one purpose may be quite satisfactory for another purpose. These are marketed by NDOR. Some years ago, the Verdigre Creek Bridge in Cedar County, Nebraska, was disassembled and reconstructed at the waterfall at Smith Falls along the Niobrara River northeast of Valentine, NE. It now has a new purpose as a foot traffic facility.
Another bridge near the town of Wyoming, NE (no longer in existence), in Otoe County, was removed. The 80-foot-long structure was moved to Lincoln, NE in 2004. It is in place at the Lincoln Saline Wetland Nature Center east of Capital Beach Lake. It's part of a woodchip trail through the wetland, and it also serves as a viewing platform.