The Blue Bridge is gone! Well, it was still there, but when we saw it on April 4, 2023, its back was broken and its span sagged down into Indian Creek. Seeing the prostrate structure and after thousands of crossings on that historic iron bridge, we got a case of the Blues.
From Horse-Drawn Buggies to Modern Vehicles
Spanning Indian Creek near the Indian Creek Nature Center, the blue bridge was built in 1876 for horse-drawn vehicles. It easily made the transition to cars early in the 20th Century but only got its name in 1991 when Linn County painted it bright blue. For decades it was one of several iron bridges in Linn County. Few remain, that we know of, all dating from the late 19th Century.
The old span was rugged. We watched it flex when flood water pushed against it. When the water receded, the county was able to quickly reopen the undamaged span.
The old bridge remained functional but, in the eyes of traffic engineers, it had a major flaw. It had but a single lane, meaning when two cars approached from opposite directions one had to wait for the other to cross. It also wasn’t aligned perfectly for speed.
Civility vs. Speed
“I loved the lesson in civility the Blue Bridge provided. I’ve crossed it every day for years and when I wait for another car to pass that driver waves and smiles in thanks. The bridge may have lacked efficiency but it fostered courtesy,” said Jean Perkins, a local resident.
Speed counts these days, and the County is building a modern double-lane concrete bridge with a straight alignment. It is expected to open this fall, allowing faster-moving cars to pass each other as they cross Indian Creek with nary a nod to acknowledge the other.
Here’s what society lost with the passing of the Blue Bridge:
- Courtesy, smiles, and polite waves from waiting and passing motorists.
- While waiting for another car to transit, a motorist had a few seconds to enjoy the balm of Indian Creek, nearby trees, and trail users passing under the approach.
- About 15 seconds of time gained by not having to wait and a faster speed limit.
- Heavy vehicles can transit it.
Goodbye to History and Beauty
The new bridge is a concrete structure that will look like dozens of similar bridges. The Blue Bridge lasted 147 years. It’s hard to imagine its replacement having a useful life that long.
We’ve traded the history and beauty of the old bridge, along with courtesy, for speed and efficiency. Perhaps we’ve lost more than we’ve gained. That gives us the Blue Bridge Blues.
Post Script: Recently we visited Motor Mill in NE Iowa and found a lovely steel bridge that had been rebuilt to modern standards and which retained the old feel.