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Current view of Washington Avenue Bridge
Courtesy of the Iowa Falls Historic Preservation Commission

This impressive two-span, open spandrel concrete arch crosses the Iowa River in Iowa Falls. The Washington Avenue Bridge was opened in 1934 and carries Washington Avenue (old US Highway 20) through the center of the city. This structure was preceded by a steel bridge, known as the Foster Bridge, whose construction history is well-documented in county records. In late May of 1911, county commissioners adopted plans and specifications for the proposed bridge and immediately advertised for construction bids. Fifteen bids, ranging from $8,450 to $11,400, were received by June. Low-bidder Lana Construction Company of Harlan, Iowa, was awarded the contract, and the company began work soon after. Evidently the Foster Bridge experienced severe problems in the next few decades, and these structural difficulties precipitated construction of a new permanent bridge in 1933. That year the state highway commission designed this two-span concrete arch structure and hired the Weldon Brothers Construction Company of Iowa Falls to build it. Costing $51,710, the Washington Avenue Bridge was opened ceremoniously on July 24, 1934, by Mrs. F. H. Cottrell, wife of the Iowa Falls mayor, with several thousand people in attendance. "I christen thee the Washington Avenue Bridge," she intoned, "a beautiful bridge over a beautiful river."

Historic view of Washington Avenue Bridge
Courtesy of the Iowa Falls Historic Preservation Commission

Although highway commission engineers typically used riveted steel trusses for medium-span river crossings in rural settings, they used concrete open spandrel arches for a number of urban and small town structures in the 1920s. The Washington Avenue Bridge is distinguished as a well-preserved, two-span example of this application of urban bridge design. By using open spandrel arches, the state of Iowa could achieve a relatively long span at a reasonable cost, while contributing aesthetically to the urban settings in which the bridges stood. Since its completion, the spandrel arch has functioned in place, carrying heavy urban and highway traffic, with only maintenance related repairs. The city of Iowa Falls assumed ownership of the bridge in November 1995, when the new US Highway 20 was routed south of Iowa Falls.

The Washington Avenue Bridge crosses the Iowa River in Iowa Falls via Washington Ave.

[graphic] Collage of different scenes from Hardin County
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