Linn County officials continue to evaluate Bertram ‘Blue’ Bridge options

Bridge structure twisted, damaged during April 3 removal project

Bertram Road Bridge preservation update
The Bertram "Blue" Bridge is shown with its wood decking removed. Restoration and preservation options are being evaluated. CREDIT LINN COUNTY

Officials with the Linn County Secondary Road Department and engineering contractors continue to evaluate removal and preservation options for the historic Bertram “Blue” Bridge, after the bridge structure twisted and sustained damage April 3 as crews worked to remove and relocate the bridge.

Crews have removed the wood decking from the bridge over Indian Creek in southeast Cedar Rapids to relieve pressure on the steel frame and make it easier to lift out of the creek. The decking will remain on site as preservation options are being evaluated.

“We, along with many Linn County residents, are disappointed that the relocation of the bridge did not go as planned,” assistant Linn County engineer Garret Reddish said in a release. “However, we remain hopeful that we will be able to honor the 146-year history of the bridge and are continuing to explore all possible options to do so.”

Crews worked April 3 to lift the structure off its foundation as part of a planned bridge replacement and relocation project, Linn County officials said. It was to be moved to the Indian Creek Nature Center for use on the center’s trail system. County officials initially said they did not think the bridge structure was salvageable due to the damage.

The Bertram bridge was built in 1876 by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company (WIBCo) using a design patented in 1876, and was presumably one of the first bridges to use the new design. WIBCo’s patented design was a variation of a standard Pratt truss configuration, employing double-intersecting counter members radiating outward from the center of the span. This early wrought-iron truss features four timber stringer spans at its north approach and is supported by a combination of stone and timber abutments. With no alterations on record, this bridge continued to serve vehicle traffic until 2022 at 146 years old. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The rest of the Bertram Road and bridge replacement project will continue, including removing the existing road, realigning the road for the new bridge, installing new culverts, and replacing the old truss bridge with a new IDOT standard concrete beam bridge. Road closures were already in effect around the project, and many of the closures will remain in effect until the completion of the entire project in October 2023.

Drivers are reminded to comply with all traffic signs around construction projects, and not to drive around the barricades in place in order to protect the public and road crews.