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Unique, historic Green River bridge near Dickinson may have to go

Press Photo by Sean M. Soehren A riveted Pratt pony truss bridge spans the Green River northeast of Dickinson on Friday. The crossing is one of three bridges of its kind in North Dakota and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

A bridge near Dickinson that is nearly 100 years old is eligible for a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, but it will take relocating and a bit of maintenance to keep it spanning through time.

A riveted Pratt pony truss bridge about four miles northeast of Dickinson that was built in 1912 is one of three bridges of its kind in the state, Lorna Meidinger, North Dakota State Historical Society architectural historian said.

"With that particular design, it's special primarily for the engineering that was involved and the fact there are so few of them left," she said.

Meidinger said that bridge style was one of the earliest to go from wood to metal and the welding techniques used are unique, but the structure just can't meet demands of new vehicles and new equipment.

Stark County Road Superintendent Al Heiser said the bridge has a minimum of 100 trucks driving on it daily from nearby gravel pits and that it needs to be replaced.

"It's a lot of traffic and it's getting old and they get weak as time goes on," he said. The bridge is one lane and cannot accommodate large farming equipment in the area, he added.

The bridge is slated to be replaced in 2012, but interested parties could "adopt" the bridge, which means they would move the bridge to a different location and assume maintenance.

Maudinger said that in similar projects bridges have been transplanted to golf courses, subdivisions or used as pedestrian bridges.

Tim Kelly, project manager and representative from Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson, said because of the historic potential of the bridge it must be offered to the public through the National Historic Preservation Act, but if there aren't any interested parties, the bridge will likely be demolished.

"Ideally they would like to see this thing preserved, but sometimes it is not practical," he said.

A concrete bridge that is rated for bigger vehicles is planned so there would still be a crossing over the Green River, Kelly said.

Maudinger said the rivets and welds are unique displays of craftsmanship and that it would be a loss if the bridge was demolished. She said she hopes the bridge could be used someplace else.

"When we can save a piece of history while still achieving society's goals, that is really the best option," she said.

The public can give input on the bridge through Sept. 3 by mailing comments to Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson, P.O. Box 290, Dickinson, ND 58601.