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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.
JULIEN DUBUQUE BRIDGE
JULIEN DUBUQUE BRIDGE.
Quick Facts: When opened on August 30, 1943 the 845-foot span was the:
1) second-longest over the MISSISSIPPI RIVER, 2) fourth-longest in the United States, 3) eighth-longest in the world. (1)
By 1936, the DUBUQUE HIGH BRIDGE was forty-nine years old. Belief that a new bridge would be a good idea began with the Community Service Commission of the Dubuque Post of the American Legion. (2) Four members of the group soon began working independently to advance the bridge concept. These business leaders were Charles Landon or Landon's Furs, Charles G. KRETSCHMER of KRETSCHMER-TREDWAY COMPANY, William CLEMENS. Sr. of TRAUSCH BAKING COMPANY and Thomas M. STAMPFER of STAMPFER'S DEPARTMENT STORE. They were later joined by R. E. Werner, the owner of the East Dubuque Register. (3) In 1938 the Legion joined forces with the Chamber of Commerce to advance the idea.
The idea of a bridge across the MISSISSIPPI RIVER was popular in Des Moines. The Iowa Highway Commission wanted a new route through Dubuque. At the time, the highway used six different streets to wind through the community creating traffic problems. By 1938 Iowa Governor Nelson G. Kraschel ordered that a new route for Highway 20 was a 'must' item for that year. (4)
On April 26, 1938 similar bills were introduced in the United States House and Senate to create a City of Dubuque Bridge Commission with five members who would direct the new bridge and its tolls. (5) Making up this commission were Charles G. Kretschmer, Charles T. Landon, William CLEMENS, Sr., William Edward ELLWANGER, Sr. and Thomas M. STAMPFER. Both houses approved the bill by June 10th and the issue was sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt for final approval.
Problems began. Owners of private toll bridges on the Mississippi were opposed to the bill. (6) The legislation provided for tax exempt bonds to be issued to fund the bridge. By the time the matter had reached the president, he had already expressed his opposition to tax-free bonds and vetoed the legislation by failing to sign it. (7) In 1939 the bill was passed again with the bonds being taxable. Roosevelt signed the legislation on July 18, 1939, and the Commission was established two days later.
The location of the bridge posed problems. Supporters of the approach on East and West Sixth Street, East and West Third Street, and Jones Street all argued their cases. The Army Corps of Engineers were concerned with navigation problems the bridge could cause. They also wanted to be sure the bridge had the load capacity to carry heavy weapons in case of war. For a time the Dubuque Dock Commission objected to the Dodge Street location because of plans to construct a grain elevator in the area. The Commission was joined by the Greater Dubuque Association which felt the location would affect dock terminals and city traffic. Some location businessmen continued to want Highway 20 traffic coming through the downtown area. Perhaps the most important argument came from the barge lines which claimed the bridge would impact river traffic. This could only be remedied, their officials claimed, if the main span of the bridge was increased from 350 feet to 845 feet--a design change that would add $400,000 to the bridge cost. (8)
The problem was resolved by the U. S. Bureau of Roads which had pledged $700,000 towards construction. Bureau officials stated that the money would only be available if the Dodge Street location was used. Discussion of the location ended. (9)
In 1940 a local group proposed that the old bridge could be strengthened and upgraded at a cost of between $180,000 and $200,000. This estimate was challenged by the engineer hired by the Dubuque Bridge Commission. Throughout all of the debate in Dubuque, the Illinois Bureau of Roads offered no arguments. Every solution proposed in Dubuque would serve East Dubuque and Illinois equally. (10)
The bid accepted for the work was for $1,714,118 from Bethelem Steel. The company later reduced its bid to $1,588,618 to keep the costs within the bonding capacity of the Bridge Commission. The Commission was only able to sell $2,800,000 in bonds and the bridge and approaches were expected to cost more than $3,000,000. (11)
Begun in April 1941, the construction of the new bridge began on both the eastern and western shores of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER and eventually met mid-stream. A four-lane bridge was discussed, but rejected due to cost. The Commission had to issue $2.8 million in bonds as only $700,000 came from the federal government.
Structural features of the bridge include: (12)
lowest part of the steel work---16 feet above the bridge roadway
highest point of the steel work---130 feet
top of the arch---156 feet above the river pool level
cantilever span---842 feet over the main river CHANNEL
The structure extended 6,400-feet and consumed seven thousand tons of structural steel, one thousand tons of reinforcing steel, two and one-half million linear feet of piling, and thirty thousand cubic yards of concrete. Because it was wartime, the bridge was painted gray to better camouflage it in case of aerial attack. (13) Costing $3.1 million, the bridge was opened on August 31, 1943, with free passage for the first fifteen hours. East Dubuque residents drove across the DUBUQUE WAGON BRIDGE to join in the occasion. (14) Hazel Skemp, queen of the Shangri-La War Stamp Campaign Committee, cut the ribbon opening the bridge for traffic. Although the bridge has a standard design, it won the American Award for Beauty of Construction in 1943. (15) It is considered another of the high bridges in Dubuque because it stands 65 feet above the water.
Construction of the bridge caused many changes in the Locust Street area. A lengthy problem was involved with finding another site for SWIFT AND COMPANY. Beautification efforts included the development of Maizewood Park from an area of railroad switches and rubbish owned by the MAIZEWOOD INSULATION COMPANY. Improvements were made to the TRAUSCH BAKING COMPANY, INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER COMPANY and the A.Y.MCDONALD MANUFACTURING COMPANY which demolished one of the old Beach Brothers buildings and remodeled the main Beach building. (16)
The bridge was completed at a cost of $3,117,506.87 and opened for business on August 31, 1943. (17) Tolls were first collected at 4:00 a.m. on September 1, 1943. (18)
With the completion of the Julien Dubuque Bridge, the DUBUQUE WAGON BRIDGE, a wooden toll bridge south of the Illinois Central railroad bridge was purchased for just less than $500,000 and then torn down in 1944. (19)
When the bonds to finance construction were issued in 1942 it was expected that the bridge would be paid off in 1969. (20) In 1945 there was refinancing to lower the interest rate from 3.75 to 2% and the paid-off date was moved to 1965. (21) Fears that gas rationing and lower automobile production would cause revenues on the toll bridge to fall short of paying off the bonds were unfounded. Traffic after the war was so heavy that tolls were removed on the bridge December 27, 1954.
On August 16, 1955 the Commission which managed the bridge during its toll collecting days dissolved itself. (22) Their books were $325,000 in the black. (23) The money was divided between the highway commissions of Iowa (40%) and Illinois (69%) along with the maintenance responsibilities. (24) Records kept by the Commission showed that just over 900,000 vehicles crossed the bridge in 1945 as compared to 1,150,000 in 1954, the last year tolls were collected. Since the tolls were removed, the Commission found that an estimated 7,500 cars traveled the bridge daily compared to 5,000 when the tolls were in place. (25)
In 1975 the Dubuque City Council supported the idea of painting the bridge red, white, and blue. This proposal was argued against by the East Dubuque City Council which spoke to the Iowa Department of Transportation Commission. Faced with the debate, the Dubuque City Council chose not to pursue the idea. (26)
In February 1991, the Julien Dubuque Bridge was closed to all traffic to allow major repairs. (27) The structure was redecked, and both the Illinois and Iowa approaches to the bridge were reconstructed. In keeping with the interest in recycling, much of the old concrete was recycled. Asphalt removed from the bridge was recycled at River City Paving's asphalt plant for reuse. (28) On November 2, 1991, the bridge was reopened following a ceremony and a procession of antique cars.
Traffic congestion on the Julien Dubuque Bridge concerned local, state and federal officials in 1997. Their conclusion was that the remedy lay in the construction of a tandem two-lane bridge. Of the 20,000 vehicles using the bridge daily, research indicated that 14,000 were passing through. This eliminated the possibility of shuttling commuters. (29) The discussion in 2002 was whether the Julien Dubuque Bridge design should be replicated or if the design of the Iowa-Wisconsin Bridge should be used. (30)
In 2013 the Julien Dubuque Bridge daily carried 18,500 vehicles. (31)
1. "Julien Dubuque Bridge Opens," Dubuque by the Decades, Telegraph Herald, July 2020, p. 19
2. Bulkley, John. "Planner Recalls First Days of Dubuque Bridge," Telegraph Herald, Sept. 5, 1976, p. 25. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=e_ZQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=kcEMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6928,670872&dq=dubuque+bridge&hl=en
3. Suhr, Jim. "How a Bridge was Built," Telegraph Herald, January 7, 1962, p. 19
5. "Dubuque Bridge Bill Advances," Telegraph Herald, June 14, 1939. p. 1. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=jexBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=IaoMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3595,434233&dq=dubuque+bridge&hl=en
7. "Bridge Bill Believed Killed by 'Pocket Veto,'" Telegraph Herald, June 26, 1938, p. 1
9. "Federal Funds Offered Only for That Spot," Telegraph Herald, October 31, 1940, p. 1A
12. Kruse, Len. My Old Dubuque, Dubuque, Iowa: Center for Dubuque History-Loras College, 2000, p. 101
13. Odegard, Laura. "Link," Telegraph Herald, Nov. 1, 1991, p. 44. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=dBBeAAAAIBAJ&sjid=B2ANAAAAIBAJ&pg=3378,370382&dq=dubuque+wagon+bridge+opening&hl=en
15. "Plaque to Cite Dubuque Bridge As "Most Beautiful" Built in 1943," Telegraph Herald, July 17, 1949, p. 19. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=u-FhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=AXUNAAAAIBAJ&pg=5404,5578543&dq=julien+dubuque+bridge&hl=en
16. "A New Park in Making," Telegraph-Herald, September 12, 1943, p. 5
17. Ullrich, Kurt. "A New Gateway," "Telegraph Herald: A Storied Institution," Telegraph Herald Commemorative Edition: Past, Present and Future, March 26, 2012, p. 21C
18. Kruse, Len., p. 102
19. Bulkley, John.
20. Freeman, Don. "Span Directors Expect the Debt to be Paid By 1955," Telegraph Herald, Aug. 17, 1947, p. 17. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=xkxhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=snQNAAAAIBAJ&pg=4205,1536468&dq=julien+dubuque+bridge&hl=en
22. "Bridge Commission Now Officially Out of Work," Telegraph Herald, Aug. 17, 1955, p. 1. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=XPVQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=nrwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2165,5166353&dq=julien+dubuque+bridge&hl=en
23. "Bridge to be Freed on December 27," Telegraph Herald, Oct. 21, 1954, p. 1
25. "Bridge Commission Now Officially Out of Work," The Telegraph-Herald, August 17, 1955, p. 1
26. Good, Stephen. "E.D. Council Nixes Idea of Tri-Color Bridge," Telegraph Herald, Oct. 5, 1975, p. 37. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=vP1QAAAAIBAJ&sjid=OL4MAAAAIBAJ&pg=3055,987466&dq=julien+dubuque+bridge&hl=en
27. Japsen, Bruce. "Julien Dubuque Bridge is Closing Down, Closing Down," Telegraph Herald, February 3, 1991, p. 21. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=qmxFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=XLwMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2977,608999&dq=julien+dubuque+bridge&hl=en
28. Japsen, Bruce. "JD Bridge Concrete to be Recycled," Telegraph Herald, March 8, 1991, p. 3A
29. McDermott, Brad. "Bridge Job Moves One Year Closer," Telegraph Herald, October 16, 1997, p. 1. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Rh5FAAAAIBAJ&sjid=RbsMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4947,3716245&dq=julien+dubuque+bridge&hl=en
30. Rusk, David Wm. (editorial) "Clear Choice: Replicate Julien Dubuque Bridge," Telegraph Herald, December 18, 2002, p. 4. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=aJ5dAAAAIBAJ&sjid=1lwNAAAAIBAJ&pg=2876,8269217&dq=julien+dubuque+bridge&hl=en
31. "75 Years Ago: Bridge Plan Reaches Milestone," Telegraph Herald, January 14, 2016, p. 5A