Community learns more about work taking place regarding Black Hawk Bridge project ...

Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond.
Photo by Julie Berg-Raymond.

by Julie Berg-Raymond

Meehan Memorial Lansing Public Library hosted a presentation Thursday, January 12 updating the community about the historical and archaeological work continuing to take place for the Black Hawk Bridge replacement project. Addressing a standing-room only audience in the library that evening were (pictured left to right in photo at right) Clayton Burke, Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) overseeing engineer on the bridge project; Ray Werner, historian with Tall Grass Prairie Archaeology LLC, Iowa City; and Brennan Dolan, cultural resource project manager, District 2, with the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT).

Dolan told attendees that a special bid letting - the Lansing bridge project is the only project in this letting - will take place in the summer 2023. The contractor for the project should be known by late August or early September. “This time next year folks will likely see work underway for the new piers,” Dolan said.

The bulk of the evening’s presentation was offered by historian Ray Werner and involved explaining the supplemental historical research he conducted on the bridge. This research fulfills the third of four component stipulations in the DOT’s mitigation agreement with the City of Lansing. Stipulation I is to build a similarly designed steel truss bridge. Stipulation II is to produce a mini-documentary focusing on the bridge’s history in the greater Lansing community, and the team will be asking for interviewees as the project develops. The mini documentary will focus on three themes: 1) history of the bridge, 2) stakeholders and 3) project process. Stipulation III involves the supplemental historical research conducted by Werner. Stipulation IV involves a retention plan/element salvage for the following: all four center span connection pins - two to Iowa, two to Wisconsin, various locations; end of a select eye bar, approximately 24” - Iowa DOT Bridge Bureau; McClintic-Marshall 1931 date plaque - Iowa DOT Bridge Bureau; and west portal - City of Lansing. Werner’s presentation focused on the historical context from the late 1920s through the 1950s when the bridge was opened and became ensnared in extensive fraud trials. Copies of Werner’s research presentation are available at the Meehan Memorial Lansing Public Library.

Clayton Burke, with the Iowa DOT, is the overseeing engineer on the bridge replacement project and introduced himself to the attendees at the end of the presentation. Burke, who lived for a while in Lansing and will be onsite through most of the project, noted, “Part of my assignment is to be physically in town - to be the ‘face of the project’.” He thinks of his onsite presence and work on the project as being, in part, “an opportunity to re-connect with the Lansing community. This bridge is going to be cool.”

The team involved in the project knows, though, that the new bridge has a lot to live up to: “It’s an understatement to say that (the present) bridge is an endearing bridge,” Dolan noted. “And it’s a resilient bridge that has overcome a lot in its time.”