Fight to save and relocate Iowa’s historic Red Bridge continues

Jasper County Museum Executive Director Joe Otto wants to save the historic Red Bridge, the last truss bridge of its kind in Jasper County, Iowa, by having it relocated from Reasnor to Colfax at Quarry Springs Park. The bridge, which was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1998, was built in 1892 on the edge of the South Skunk River Wildlife Area and connected Newton with Monroe and Pella before Highway 14 was built.

“I would come back year after year and watch this bridge fall apart over time,” Otto said during a December presentation, according to the Newton Daily News. “Once the road was closed, the county just kind of left this bridge to die.”

Efforts to save the crumbling bridge over the years had not gotten anywhere until Otto got involved. He wants the bridge to serve as a footbridge over the Skunk River, connecting downtown Colfax with Quarry Springs Park, and said he has received support for the project from many organizations, including the Quarry Springs Park Board, the Colfax City Council, the mayor of Colfax, and the Colfax Historical Society.

Otto succeeded with his request to not demolish the bridge, but his request to have it surveyed to determine how much it would cost to move the bridge to the bank has not yet been completed. He has petitioned the Jasper County Board of Supervisors to take action on the bridge before it crumbles and falls into the river.

“The county engineer was ordered to survey the bridge … that was done last June, and we are still waiting on the county engineer’s office to act on this matter,” Otto said during the presentation, according to the news agency. “I’m having a very difficult time getting the county engineer’s office to comply with the supervisors’ orders. That is where we are stuck today, waiting on this.”

Jasper County Engineer Russ Stutt said a survey has not yet been ordered for the bridge, but he spoke with a bridge inspection consultant who expressed concerns about moving it, because it might collapse in the move.

Otto went over the costs of Phase One, moving the bridge, including the cost to the county and what costs could be fundraised by those who support the cause. To move the bridge from its current location, a crane would be used at an approximate cost of $25,000, which would be the county’s responsibility.

“It sounds like a lot, but (if the bridge were to collapse) the county would have to bring a crane in there anyway and also pay public works guys to cut it up and the dump trucks, it would be an expensive operation either way,” Otto said during the presentation, according to the news outlet. “Whether it is demolished or taken apart and moved, it costs the exact same amount of money to rent a crane.”

Phase two includes an estimated $45,000 for a local house mover who would transport the bridge to Colfax. Phase Three would cost $250,000 to $300,000 to rebuild the bridge once it’s in the new location. “The different phases, while they all work toward the same goal, are not incumbent on the county to fund those other two phases,” Otto said during the presentation.

Otto said the public can help save the bridge by contacting county officials to ask them to move forward with Phase One before the bridge ends up in the river.