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Rehab of Devil’s Elbow Bridge progresses April 10, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Preservation.
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The rehabilitation of the historic Devil’s Elbow Bridge on old Route 66 in Devil’s Elbow is proceeding smoothly and will reopen to traffic by August at the latest, according to a report in the Rolla Daily News.

The newspaper included a photo of the work being done on the bridge. It added:

According to the HAER Bridge Inventory, a list of historic bridges in Missouri, the Devil’s Elbow Bridge may be eligible for a place on the National Register of Historic Places. It is believed to be one of the earliest examples of Missouri State Highway Department long-span truss design still in existence.

Additionally, Newkirk noted it is also one of only two remaining bridges in the state containing a curve. The second is the Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis, which was recently converted to a pedestrian bridge. Wiles added that it is the only curved bridge on the original Route 66 still open to traffic. [...]

The framing of the new deck is in place and half of the decking concrete has been poured with the remaining half expected to be poured by mid to late April. Once the remaining portion of the deck has been poured, the bridge will be painted and additional structural work will be completed.

Local officials are using a variety of funding for the $1.3 million project, including from the Missouri Department of Transportation, Missouri Department of Economic Development Community Development, Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and Pulaski County. And officials ensured the work would keep up the bridge’s historic look.

The truss bridge, built in 1923, is nearly 600 feet long. Local officials knew of the historical and tourism importance of the bridge, and spent years trying to secure funds to repair it. It sits near the popular Elbow Inn restaurant and bar on the Big Piney River.

(A 1931 image of the Devil’s Elbow Bridge by Chuck Coker via Flickr)

A great spot for a Route 66 selfie March 15, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Photographs.
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Route 66 News reader Mark Nicklawske of Bangor, Maine, wanted to pass along a great spot to shoot a photo of a Route 66 landmark or a self-portrait, aka selfie, with your smartphone.

That landmark is the historic Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, Calif., which carries westbound Route 66 travelers to Los Angeles.

I’d always seen terrific photos of the Art Deco bridge taken from close to underneath the span, but never investigated how to get that angle. But Nicklawske, with the help of a friend, figured out how.

He wrote in an email, which I’ve edited slightly:

I’m attaching a picture taken by my cousin Chris Higgins, who lives in Pasadena. Chris took us underneath the 1913 Colorado  Blvd. bridge, one of the most beautiful bridges on the old Route 66. We discovered a fantastic place to photograph the bridge — an exposed sewer pipe and manhole. The spot is located just off North Arroyo Boulevard, which runs under the east end of the bridge. Adventurous photographers should park in a small lot north of the bridge, cross under the bridge and look for the exposed sewer pipe and manhole sticking out from the river bank. Your readers will find it a great perch for a “selfie.”

Here’s a map that will help you get close to that spot:


View Larger Map

I’m sure Scott Piotrowski, who’s an expert on all things about Route 66 in Los Angeles County, knows about the vantage point. But now that I have it, I’m passing it along.

(Image courtesy of Mark Nicklawske)

Nominate endangered Route 66 places to the National Trust list February 19, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Motels, Preservation.
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If you think a Route 66 landmark faces imminent danger from the wrecking ball, you can do something that might make a difference.

Kaisa Bartuli at the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is recommending that roadies make nominations to the National Trust for Historic Preservation‘s list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2014. She explained in an email:

The primary focus of listing on the 11 Most list is to raise awareness about sites and threats to their existence. A number of past 11 Most listings are also now National Treasures (a relatively new program within the National Trust), which receive more in-depth assistance from the Trust on specific challenges. The listing of one or more Route 66 sites would bring important attention to Route 66 [...]. Even if some or all of the nominated sites are not listed, the simple act of submitting the nominations raises important awareness within the National Trust.

Route 66 motels made the 11 Most Endangered list in 2007,  and a similar listing later helped save the historic Boots Motel in Carthage, Mo., from destruction. The Boots Motel is operating as a motel again after a decade-long hiatus.

The 1921 Rock Creek Bridge near Sapulpa, Okla.,  closed to traffic about a year ago because of physical deterioration, probably would be a good nomination. But if there are other endangered Route 66 properties you’d like to nominate, you can do so with this online form here. The deadline to make a submission is March 3.

(Image of the Rock Creek Bridge near Sapulpa, Okla., by David Sugden via Flickr)

A hike to Padre Canyon Bridge near Twin Arrows January 7, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges.
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An editor for the Arizona Daily Sun newspaper apparently figured out a legal way to get close to and then hike over the 100-year-old Padre Canyon Bridge that once carried Route 66 near Twin Arrows.

You can’t access the bridge from less than a mile west of the new Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort because it’s labeled as private property. However, you can go to the Winona exit several miles to the west off Interstate 40 and double back east on the north frontage road.

We drove east along the road, marked as FR510 on the Coconino National Forest Service Map, for about five miles until it forked into two dirt tracks up a slight rise that would have required slipping our Jeep into four-wheel drive. But since we were out for some exercise anyway, we disembarked and continued east on foot.

The highway includes a mix of pavement and dirt for about a mile until reaching the canyon, where it curves north. The bridge is around a bend, out of sight of I-40, but when it comes into view, it appears almost to be a mirage in a wilderness landscape.

The right of way descends to the elegant concrete span, which had tire tracks across but appeared to be in poor condition. Most of the concrete pillars supporting the railings had crumbled, and in one section a railroad tie served as the railing and the only thing preventing a 60-foot fall to the rocks below.

The bridge dedication plaque had been pried nearly off, but two black-and-white Route 66 logos were still perfectly preserved on each of the eastern concrete abutments.

Here’s a Google Maps satellite view of the old bridge:


View Larger Map

Due to the fragility of the bridge and the rocky terrain leading there, it’s probably inadvisable to drive over the bridge. Hiking less than a mile probably is more fun anyway.

The writer added this intriguing suggestion to his story, which I hope is taken seriously:

Our recommendation to Twin Arrows Casino would be to work out access rights and develop a walking trail to a National Historic Register structure right on its doorstep.

(Image of Padre Canyon Bridge near Twin Arrows, Ariz., by Bill Morrow via Flickr)

A closer look at the MacArthur Bridge December 21, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, History.
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Rich Dinkela produced this video that takes an in-depth look at the long-closed MacArthur Bridge that connects East St. Louis, Ill., to St. Louis and served as an early alignment of Route 66. The bridge also has been called the St. Louis Municipal Bridge or Free Bridge.

The bridge has been fenced off and part of the roadway deck removed right in the middle for decades. However, Dinkela learned the railroad that owns the bridge is slowly removing all of the road deck. So Dinkela felt urgency to document what was left.

Dinkela interperses the clip with old images and even used a drone for aerial footage. (I predict drones will be used much more in the future to document hard-to-access areas on Route 66.) This footage is unprecedented because the bridge is so difficult to access.

Dinkela has produced a bunch of videos (his channel is here), but this is the best thing he’s done.

(Old postcard image of the MacArthur Bridge by katherine of chicago via Flickr)

Santa Monica Pier considers designs to replace its aging bridge December 13, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Bridges.
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The city of Santa Monica, Calif., is mulling over several designs to replace its 1939 bridge that links the mainland to the Santa Monica Pier, according to a report in The Malibu Times.

The city had discussed replacing the bridge in the 1990s. But the passage of time and an upcoming light-rail line that will bring more foot traffic has made replacing the bridge more urgent.

The current bridge is described as “functionally obsolete,” which means it’s too narrow for motorists and pedestrians.

The city is considering at least four options. One favored by the city widens the bridge by 70 percent. However, this option would make it wider than the current pier.

A second option that’s found favor would build a second bridge for vehicles from Moss Avenue. A new bridge at the current site would be used only by bicycles, pedestrians and emergency vehicles. (The grade of the current bridge is too steep to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act.) Several businesses at Ocean Front Walk oppose the Moss Avenue bridge because it would block views of the ocean.

Here’s one of the artist’s renderings of the replacement bridge:

Other artist’s renderings of the designs can be seen here and here.

A final design for the bridge is expected by fall 2016. After that, construction will take 12 to 18 months.

The Santa Monica Pier has become the traditional endpoint for westbound Route 66 travelers, although Route 66′s real western terminus sits at a much more mundane site about a mile away at Lincoln and Olympic in Santa Monica.

(Hat tip: Scott Piotrowski; image of the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier by Larry Myhre via Flickr)

Preservation of historic Los Angeles bridge hits a wall November 12, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Preservation.
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Proponents of an effort to keep a historic bridge in Los Angeles and make it a pedestrian span has hit a wall. Instead, the bridge likely will be demolished, according to a report in The Architect’s Newspaper.

The old Dayton Avenue Bridge (aka the Riverside-Figueroa Bridge), built in 1927 and improved in 1939, once carried Route 66. Initial plans were for the bridge to be demolished sometime next year after a nearby new bridge is completed. Kevin Mulcahy and fellow architects at RAC Design Build drafted a plan that preserves the bridge as a pedestrian park.

The proposal met with favorable response for a while. But it recently hit a snag, as the newspaper details:

According to Mulcahy and Rick Cortez, principal at RAC Design Build, the city’s Bureau of Engineering manipulated the project’s cost estimates “in a strategic way” to prevent City Council from requesting a feasibility study.  Without a feasibility study, the project can’t move forward.  “We still believe the council members and the Mayor have the city’s best interests at heart,” Mulcahy said.  “They’re just ill-informed.  It appears more of a risky venture on their end.  Because there aren’t groups or people asking for the Landbridge, it makes it seem like they’d be going out on a limb.”

Deborah Weintraub, Chief Deputy City Engineer at the City’s Bureau of Engineering, said “we took a very serious look” at RAC’s proposal, and noted that there was no cost manipulation. She said the $4.9 million estimate that the project’s contractor, Flatiron Construction, gave her department was their “first take,” and likely would have changed following a closer look. Any changes to the original plan, she added, would likely not have federal funding, making a change this far into the process more challenging. “The funding implications required close consideration by our policy makers,” she said.  “The cost didn’t justify the benefit.”

Mulcahy and Cortez argue that their bridge-reuse proposal would be relatively inexpensive and easy to implement quickly.  The architects want to preserve one section of the existing bridge, the steel span built in 1939 as part of the Army Corps of Engineers’ work to channelize the Los Angeles River.  Renderings show a concrete pedestrian and bike ramp leading to an elevated pedestrian mall, with plantings and wooden benches and chaise lounges.  The Landbridge park in turn connects to an articulated pedestrian and bike bridge over the railroad tracks.

Prospects for the bridge’s preservation look dimmer. But Mulcahy said political pressure could make the city’s government reconsider. The architectural firm is asking those who want to keep the bridge to sign this Change.org petition.

(Photo of the Riverside-Figueroa Bridge courtesy of Ian Bowen of the California Historic Route 66 Association)

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