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Julien Dubuque Bridge

Julien Dubuque Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: October 21, 2013

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Key Facts

Location
Dubuque and East Dubuque: Dubuque County, Iowa and Jo Daviess County, Illinois: United States
Structure Type
Metal Continuous Tied Braced Ribbed Through Arch, Fixed and Approach Spans: Metal Cantilever Deck Girder, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1943 By Builder/Contractor: Bethlehem Steel Company of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and Engineer/Design: Howard, Needles, Tammen and Bergendorff of Kansas City, Missouri

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
1992
Main Span Length
845 Feet (257.56 Meters)
Structure Length
5760 Feet (1755.65 Meters)
Roadway Width
28 Feet (8.53 Meters)
Spans
3 Main Span(s) and 13 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
23880

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

View The National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form For This Historic Bridge

Be sure to view the National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for this bridge as it contains a fairly detailed discussion of this bridge. This is a unique iconic landmark bridge of unusual design. It looks like the type of bridge normally described as a continuous truss with a suspended deck. However, the bridge is described as a "continuous tied arch." The bridge was noted as the second example of this bridge type ever built and the longest of this type in the world at the time.

The bridge won an award of "Most Beautiful Steel Bridge" from the American Institute of Steel Construction. In researching historic bridges, the award is a good indicator of a bridge that captured the aesthetic ideals of the period in which is what built. The arch-shaped design of the overall bridge is indeed aesthetically pleasing. Other elements have a visually impressive appearance as well, particularly the unique portal bracing with is a massive "X" that gives the bridge's main spans a dramatic start and finish for anyone crossing the bridge. These main spans rise impressively above the roadway, adding to the dramatic experience of crossing the bridge. Cutting edge for the time, this bridge does not have any v-lacing or lattice in its built-up members. Instead, some of the built-up members on the bridge feature oval hand-holes, a detail common in large steel members on mid 20th Century bridges.

The approach spans, which are deck plate girder spans, are of note too on this bridge. The approach spans closest to the main spans feature an attractive haunched design, while the spans toward the ends of the bridge are not haunched. The deck plate girder spans are also noted for this use of a cantilevered design with suspended spans present, resting on the cantilevered portions of the girders.

Above: These photos show the formwork used for pouring the concrete piers.

Above: These photos show erection of the cantilevered girder approach spans.

Above: The erection of the main spans of the bridge are shown. The most impressive aspects of this construction was the use of balanced cantilever construction where the bridge trusses were built outward from the pier with only a single steel bent next to the pier added for temporary support.

Above: This photo shows the construction of the main span just before closure of the trussed portion of the bridge in the middle of the river.

Above: The construction of the trussed portion has been completed in this photo and the hangers are now being installed.

Above: This photo shows the bridge with the floor beams in place, but the deck not yet constructed.

Information and Findings From Iowa's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Bridge

Named one of the top ten bridges in the country by Road and Bridges Magazine in 2003, the Julien Dubuque bridge spanning the Mississippi River was built by Ned Ashton of Bethlehem Steel in 1943. The current span is the only the latest historic bridge connecting the city of Dubuque with the Illinois side of the Mississippi.

From the start, Dubuque's fortunes have been tied inexorably to the Mississippi River. Founded by lead miners in 1833, the settlement soon became a stopping point for boats that plied the river trade. But Dubuque almost immediately concerned itself with travel across the river as well. One of the first commercial businesses established in the fledgling town was a ferry operation on the river, founded by General George W. Jones. The wagon ferries contributed greatly to the commercial prosperity of Dubuque and influenced the town's physical development through the location of their terminals. But the city paid a premium for its single railroad ferry. "The interests of Dubuque and Northern Iowa suffered for many years in consequence of the lack of transportation facilities between Dunleith and Dubuque," a historian wrote in 1880. "The ferry which plied between these cities was in the hands of the Illinois Central Railroad Company, and it was charged that this medium of communication was not only a merciless monopoly, but inadequate to the purpose."

After years of promoting for a railroad bridge by various Dubuque citizen's groups, the Dubuque and Dunleith Bridge Company was formed in 1866. The company received a Congressional charter for the bridge that year--one of the first such bridge charters granted for the Mississippi River. In January 1869, the company contracted with the Keystone Bridge Company of Philadelphia to build the original railroad bridge. Work on the first abutment began on January 27th; on December 15th the bridge was completed. The railroad bridge was renovated in 1900 and remains in operation today. The Dubuque Wagon Bridge opened in 1887 and was torn down in 1944 after the Julien Dubuque Bridge was completed in 1943. Two parts of the Wagon bridge were saved and used to build two county bridges, the White Water Creek Bridge, and the Cloie Bridge.

Julien Dubuque himself was an early Iowa pioneer, settling in what was then Spanish Louisiana in 1785. A fur-trader and lead-miner, Dubuque remained twenty years in northeastern Iowa, employing indigenous people and French Canadian settlers alike. He was buried on the top of a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River near Dubuque [adapted from Fraser 1993].

Additional Discussion of Bridge

The Julien Dubuque Bridge is a continuous steel-arch truss bridge with a suspended deck that traverses the Mississippi River. It joins the cities of Dubuque, Iowa, and East Dubuque, Illinois.

This bridge was named after Julien Dubuque, a French Canadian who arrived near what now is known as Dubuque, Iowa (which is also named after him). Dubuque was one of the first white men to settle in the area. He initially received permission from the Fox Native American tribe to mine the lead in 1788. Subsequently, the Spanish confirmed that transaction by giving him a land grant in 1796. Once he had received permission from the Fox to mine lead, Julien Dubuque remained in the area for the rest of his life. He befriended the local Mesquakie Chief Peosta, for whom the nearby town of Peosta, Iowa, is named.

The Julien Dubuque Bridge is part of the U.S. 20 route, and carries two lanes of traffic and one pedestrian walkway. It is one of two motor vehicle bridges over the Mississippi in the area (the Dubuque-Wisconsin bridge is three miles north and links Dubuque with Wisconsin) and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the design specifications, the bridge superstructure was constructed with 1,925 tons of silicon steel and 2,292 tons of carbon steel. The approach spans used 3,205 tons of steel. The substructure required 34,087 cubic yards of concrete, 1,232 tons of steel and 2,909 timber piles. The total cost of construction in was $3,175,341.63.

Its longest span is 845 feet, total length 5,760 feet and width 28 feet. The clearance below the bridge is 64 feet. When built, the 845-foot main span was the second longest over the Mississippi River, fourth longest in the United States and eighth longest in the world.

The Julien Dubuque Bridge replaced an aging structure known locally as the "High Bridge" or "Wagon Bridge." Construction of the bridge was attributed in part to World War II and the need to facilitate military transportation. In 1942, the first parts of the bridge were begun. In 1943, the bridge was completed.

The bridge was originally painted gray to help camouflage the bridge in case of enemy attack. It was later repainted a dark green color and stayed that way until the early 1990's, when it was returned to its historic gray color during a renovation.

Because the bridge was financed with bonds, it was initially operated as a toll bridge. Proceeds were used to help pay off the bonds. In the post-war years, traffic was so heavy that the bonds were paid off 11 years early, and the bridge became toll-free in 1954.

In the early 1990s, the bridge underwent an extensive renovation. The deck was completely replaced, and a new walkway installed on the bridge.

Due to congestion on the bridge, the Iowa DOT has developed preliminary plans to build a parallel, two-lane bridge directly to the south of the Julien Dubuque Bridge. Some federal funding has been secured and right of way has been acquired. Construction is contingent upon additional federal funding being received.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes

Visit Iowa's Historic Bridge Website

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Photo Galleries and Videos: Julien Dubuque Bridge

 
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Structure Details
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of detail photos that document the parts, construction, and condition of the bridge. This gallery offers photos in the highest available resolution and file size in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
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Structure Overview
Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of overview photos that show the bridge as a whole and general areas of the bridge. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Photo Gallery
Structure Details
Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of detail photos that document the parts, construction, and condition of the bridge. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Video
CarCam: Westbound Crossing
Full Motion Video
Note: The downloadable high quality version of this video (available on the video page) is well worth the download since it offers excellent 1080 HD detail and is vastly more impressive than the compressed streaming video. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
View Video
CarCam: Eastbound Crossing
Full Motion Video
Note: The downloadable high quality version of this video (available on the video page) is well worth the download since it offers excellent 1080 HD detail and is vastly more impressive than the compressed streaming video. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.

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