Humboldt bridge to be replaced this year

HUMBOLDT – Humboldt is replacing its Sumner Avenue Bridge this spring.

After more than three years of planning, the $2.3 million project was approved in February by the Humboldt City Council.

“It was identified that the Sumner Avenue Bridge was pretty deficient. It was showing its age,” Aaron Burnett, Humboldt city administrator, said. “We had to start restricting the weight on the bridge, and just knew it was time for it to be replaced.”

Funding the project, though, remained a challenge for the city, Burnett said.

“We’re a community of a little under 5,000 and it’s a $2.3 million project to replace the bridge,” he said. “As anyone across the state can tell you, transportation funding is difficult for any city, county or state.”

The bridge replacement project will use $1.3 million in local option sales tax and $1 million in Iowa Department of Transportation funds.

“After being on the list for the state and federal funding, city bridge replacement in the city bridge program, we finally got high enough in their formula to get funded,” Burnett said. “They funded us at $1 million, which is their maximum funding.”

He added, “That notice we received early last year, and so at that point everything was a go.”

The aesthetics of the new city bridge were considered carefully, Burnett said. The bridge will blend with other limestone structures in the community, similar archways, lighting and ornamental barriers between pedestrians and vehicles.

It will also feature an overlook with a flag pole honoring veterans, a privately funded effort.

“It’s more than an interstate bridge. It’s something that’s a strong sign of the community,” he said. “A portion of the funding was dedicated toward making sure we had those sorts of elements in the bridge, so that when this bridge lasts another 90 years, like the previous bridge, it can be a landmark for the community.”

Before the project can begin, the utilities running through the bridge must first be removed.

“MidAmerican (Energy) is off the bridge, but CenturyLink is not off the bridge yet. Obviously we can’t demolish it until those utilities are moved,” Burnett said. “MidAmerican moved their gas line, they’ve bored down there and are almost completed. But CenturyLink is still on the bridge and they start boring this week, if not already.”

Another challenge, one unexpected, is an environmental concern: the possible presence in the river of an endangered minnow called the Topeka shiner.

“From talking with several people, it’s never been identified in the West Branch of the Des Moines River. It was confusing how we got to that point,” Burnett said. “There were some last-minute issues as far as how do we get this bid still through and address the requirements that are being placed on the project. We’ve got the bid finalized and the contractor understands that those concerns exist.”

The project is expected to begin in April or May and, while delays are possible, expected to be complete in November.

“There’s a concern that if we don’t get into demolition before that Topeka shiner requirement kicks in, that could delay the project,” Burnett said. “There’s several moving targets and critical paths we have to hit to make sure the project moves through in a relatively efficient manner.”

Burnett said the project is an exciting one for the city.

“I think the design the engineers put together is going to be a beautiful statement,” he said. “While you’re losing a piece of history in tearing down this bridge, that’s got 90-plus years on it, you’re replacing it with something the community can be proud of.”