One-third of the historic Rulo bridge is no more.
At 8:04 a.m. Sunday, as hundreds of people watched — most from the parking lot of nearby Wild Bill’s Bar & Grill, more daring others from the relative comforts of their or their friends’ river-side living rooms — explosive charges blasted the morning serenity as well as the previously cut metal girders of a 425-foot-long span, sending part of a 75-year skyline into the Missouri River. What took years and $760,000 to build in 1938 was in seconds bathing in icy water.
“It went very well; it’s down in the river where it’s supposed to be,” Mike Habegger of the Nebraska Dept. of Roads said.
Officials distributed evacuation notices to residents living under the bridge – some took the advice, others did not. Still, nobody was hurt and no damage was reported. Flag boats were deployed upstream and downstream to keep boats away and onlookers at least 1,500 feet or so away from the blast. In addition, authorities blocked traffic on both sides of the new bridge, which connects Nebraska and Missouri on U.S. 159, and blocked traffic underneath at the intersection of Rouleau and Commercial Streets about an hour prior to the implosion.
Jensen Construction Co, of West Des Moines, Iowa, will blast the other two spans in a similar manner in a couple weeks, Habegger said, after they complete another job elsewhere in Missouri. Jensen’s demolition contract of the old bridge is $1.73 million – yes, about $1 million more than the structure cost to be built.
Then, the historic bridge will only be a memory, preserved no doubt by travelers crossing the Missouri River on the new $32 million bridge, dedicated last September.