The Rock Island Swing Bridge (JAR Bridge)

October 15, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Posted in Abandoned Highways | Leave a comment
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Although locally called the “Newport” bridge, it is actually between Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul. The freeway bridge nearby, the pre-interstate Wakota Bridge, is one of the worst bottlenecks in the metro area, so many locals gladly paid 75 cents to bypass it. It used to be the only bridge between downtown St. Paul and Hastings, and was the original routing of the first Twin Cities beltway; MN 100.

This is a two level bridge, with a railroad on top, and a roadway on bottom, built in 1895. Rail service was discontinued in 1980, and the bridge was sold to a Joan and Allan Roman of Chicagoland; special legislation was needed to allow a private toll bridge in the state.

In 1999, this bridge was declared unsafe due to a bad, and was closed down since the owners didn’t have money to rehabilitate it. The bridge passed into Washington County ownership due to tax forfeit in 2003, and the county has no interest in restoring or rebuilding it, which could cost  $10,000,000. Additionally it was damaged in a fire in 2005, and there are navigational and “Homeland Security” issues due to the proximity of an oil refinery.

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John Dillinger Fled Here: The auto deck back in the day. Minnesota Historical Society

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Abandoned and vandalized toll House. Back in the day a car cost 20 cents, a sheep cost 3 cents. The final toll rate was 75 cents for a car, no official rate for a sheep. 

Abandoned Toll House. Back in the day a car cost 20 cents, a sheep cost 3 cents The final toll rate was 75 cents

With demands from the Coast Guard for removal as a navigational hazard, the National Park Service held a tour in fall of 2008 to build support for rehabilitation in whole or in part.

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Waiting in Line to get on the bridge

Rock Island Swing Bridge / JAR Bridge 2008 tour

On the Bridge

Rock Island Swing Bridge / JAR Bridge 2008 tour

The end of the bridge

Rock Island Swing Bridge / JAR Bridge 2008 tour

Swing Span

Rock Island Swing Bridge / JAR Bridge 2008 tour

Sign

However, later than winter a portion of the eastern span collapsed into the river. Demolition of the remainder of the swing span and the eastern span began that winter, however in 2009 a two year moratorium was placed on demolishing the west span. Plans began to come together to save 2, 4, or 5 of the western segments. What eventually resulted was four of the fiver remaining piers were saved, the best two of the old steel spans were restored while a modern steel replacement on the existing piers was installed to bridge the gap between the shore and the old span.

Rock Island Swing Bridge

Plaque by the bridge

Rock Island Swing Bridge

New Span leading to the old span

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Benches at the end of the old span

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