Work crews demolish last of old bridgeThe last two sections of a historic Missouri River bridge, about as long as three football fields, were blasted into the water Wednesday as crowds lined up to watch. “Everything went off perfect,” North Dakota Transportation Director Frances Ziegler said.
By: By James MacPherson, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — The last two sections of a historic Missouri River bridge, about as long as three football fields, were blasted into the water Wednesday as crowds lined up to watch.
“Everything went off perfect,” North Dakota Transportation Director Frances Ziegler said.
Ryan Johnson, a Transportation Department chemist, was chosen to press the button to detonate the old Liberty Memorial Bridge. His name was drawn over 18 others out of a hat.
“Holy moly,” Johnson said, shaking, as he pressed the button and the blast went off late Wednesday morning. “This is a far cry from blowing up firecrackers.
“All these years of work are gone in just a matter of seconds,” he said.
The Liberty Memorial bridge, built in 1922, was known as the first car bridge to span the Missouri. The lifespan of the bridge was estimated at 50 years.
It has been replaced by a new $60 million bridge to the south, which spans 2,369-feet. The new bridge opened for traffic on July 31.
The first of the three sections of the old bridge, spanning about 450 feet, was destroyed earlier this month. The sections blasted Wednesday spanned about 900 feet.
The blast, triggered by 100 pounds of plastic explosive, could be heard throughout Bismarck.
Officials said the removal of the bridge cost a total of $1.44 million, involving 2,200 tons of steel.
Jeff Dahn, the owner of Total Construction Inc., of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., the main contractor for the project, said the steel will be recycled.
“It’s good iron,” Dahn said. “It’ll probably be a new bridge somewhere, some day.”
Total Construction is allowed to keep the profits from the sale of the steel. But Dahn said the price of steel has slid from $300 a ton in August to $60 a ton in October. The company bid the job believing the scrap steel would fetch at least $120 a ton.
“It went way up, but the bubble burst,” Dahn said.
State Transportation Department spokeswoman Billie Jo Lorius said the steel trusses of the last two spans were kept largely intact for easier removal by cranes. She said all bridge debris should be cleared from the area in less than a month.
Phil Mastrangelo, state director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services agency, fired bottle-rocket type charges to scare away pigeons before Wednesday’s blast. Officials estimate as many as 10,000 pigeons had made the old bridge home.
Transportation Department spokesman Mike Kopp said the new bridge has anti-pigeon strips to prevent the birds from roosting under the girders.
“The birds will probably go to other bridges or other tall structures,” Kopp said. “They’re like rodents. They will go wherever they can find a home.”