CU Denver engineering team to help restore historic bridge

Team will collaborate with state and local officials to save Iowa stone bridge

September 9, 2016
Ely Stone Bridge near Monticello, Iowa
Ely Stone Bridge near Monticello, Iowa

Built in 1893, the historic Ely Stone Bridge near Monticello, Iowa has seen better days.  That’s why a team from University of Colorado Denver plans to analyze, rehabilitate and repair the 60-foot-long bridge built of native stone masonry.

Made from local Iowa limestone by Reuben Ely Sr. and his son Reuben Ely Jr., the bridge was in excellent condition and enjoyed a high degree of historic and structural integrity when it was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

But today its walls are crumbling. The masonry in the arches is cracking and recent surface paving is causing additional damage. As one of Iowa’s few stone-arch bridges and the state’s only remaining three-arch stone bridge, locals are concerned the landmark will continue to fall apart.

Jones County Historic Preservation Commission has invited a team of 14 engineering faculty, staff and students from the CU Denver, the Jones County Engineer and Board of Supervisors, along with a handful of officials from the State Historic Preservation Office, the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to discuss how to save the bridge.

The goal is to analyze the problems and repair the structure to prevent further deterioration. Also included, is a preliminary long-term idea of creating a roadside park for viewing the bridge.

On Friday, September 9, the CU Denver team, led by Civil Engineering Dept. Chair Kevin L. Rens, PhD, PE, and Roxanne Pizano, M.Ed, program coordinator in the civil engineering department, will inspect, photograph and take video of the bridge during a field test.

The team expects to release its initial findings by the end of the year with a proposal that outlines a stabilization and restoration plan. It will also include sustainable maintenance strategies for the bridge’s long-term safety and serviceability.

The University of Colorado Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science provides a diverse community with an accessible, quality education. The college offers innovative programs that are designed to meet real-world current and future industry needs while fostering an environment for creative problem solving. Undergraduate programs are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC). Students and faculty build working relationships with area industries and organizations through hands-on research and learning experiences