Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wheeler Bridge update and pony trusses

Adam Storm photo

Thanks to all --- Mikayla Adams, Adam Storm, Chris Hamilton, Judith Shultz and others --- who shared information about what actually happened a couple of summers ago to disable Lucas County's landmark Wheeler Bridge.

These are Adam's photos and tell the story as well if not better than words do --- a semi driver followed GPS rather than common sense off onto gravel, then down the minimum-maintenance or "B road" turn-off to the White Breast Creek crossing --- and didn't make it.

Adam Storm photo

The east approach to the bridge curves down before it reaches Wheeler to cross the smaller creek that flows down Swede Hollow, then curves up and to the right to cross the larger bridge over White Breast. The driver failed to turn wide enough on the second curve, did not approach Wheeler head-on, clipped the bridge rail with the rear of his trailer, kept going and ended up with rear wheels dangling over the creek.

The driver walked out for help and the trailer had to be unloaded before the rig could be lifted and maneuvered off the bridge --- but the damage had been done.

It's probably better not to ask what in the world the driver was thinking, or not thinking.

In any case, there are at least three reasons to regret the fact Wheeler Bridge now sits there disabled. The bridge was used frequently, even though on a minimum-maintenance road, because it was the only White Breast crossing for several miles to the north or south; it was a local landmark with considerable history behind it; and it was among the rapidly declining number of Iowa's fully fuctional "pony bridges."

"Pony" refers to the "pony trusses" that carry the span across the creek, so-called because they are not cross-braced at the top. 

The great majority of these bridges have been replaced or closed because they were not designed for 21st century vehicles and, when still in use, need to be treated with respect and used carefully --- not by semi-tractors and trailers or oversize equipment.

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