Historic Court Avenue Bridge Rehabilitation
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- Des Moines, Iowa
The Historic Court Avenue Bridge is a five-span, concrete, open deck arch bridge with solid concrete exterior spandrel walls with limestone facing. The bridge carries Court Avenue over the Des Moines River in the heart of downtown Des Moines. The 496’ long, 69’ wide bridge with 15’ sidewalks opened to the public on July 10, 1918. Now over 100 years old, it is the oldest bridge to retain its original ornamentation in the Des Moines Civic Center Historic District and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge serves as a cornerstone for the Court Avenue Entertainment District and provides key access to downtown living, entertainment, shopping, restaurants, and local events.
In 2016, the City of Des Moines submitted the project proposal Bridges to Opportunity: Des Moines’ Community Connection to the US Department of Transportation for consideration in the “Tiger Discretionary Grant” program. The proposal included the replacement and rehabilitation of several bridges, including the Court Avenue Bridge, considered essential to the downtown street network because they provided access to homes, jobs, government services and employment, entertainment, recreation, and special events. The City’s submittal was selected to receive the Tiger Grant funding award and ultimately the City selected the HR Green team to design the Court Avenue Bridge Rehabilitation project.
Over the years, the bridge has retained its structural integrity with no major alterations to the main supporting arch elements or limestone facing. The bridge has undergone several repair projects. A rehabilitation project in 1953 included a bridge deck overlay and lighting modifications. A more extensive rehabilitation project occurred in a 1982 reconstruction project which included the replacement of the entire superstructure above the arches. A 2001 project focused mainly on repairs to the railing.
The condition of the bridge prior to this project warranted repairs to address aesthetics, lighting and deteriorated structural elements. The goal of the current project was to improve the appearance and durability of the bridge and extend the life of the structure. The primary focus was to address the deterioration of the limestone façade and balustrade railing; improve the light distribution on the bridge; repair, or replace, damaged structural elements, and address the drainage and structural capacity of the sidewalk.
Because of the bridge’s historic designation, all repairs required coordination with, and approval by, the City of Des Moines Urban Design Review Board (UDRB) and the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO).
The high-profile Historic bridge is renewed and strengthened to continue its service to the downtown Des Moines Civic Center Historic District for decades to come.
ACEC Iowa – Engineering Excellence Award