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City: Stay away from the Charley Western Bridge

By Thomas Nelson,

City officials are urging people to stay away from the Charley Western Bridge for their own safety.

Charles City Chief of Police Hugh Anderson is advising residents to stay at least 100 yards away from the bridge on the water, because of the possibility of falling debris or even a full collapse.

“We’re trying to urge people to stay off because it could obviously be at a critical point right now,” Anderson said about the bridge. “It could be catastrophic if that thing did have a complete loss.”

The Charley Western Bridge partially collapsed Saturday morning and the damage was reported to the Charles City Police department at 7 a.m.

An archway of the bridge partially pulled away from the structure and part of the trail surface collapsed.

The Cedar River surrounding the partially collapsed bridge is closed to activities, Charles City Administrator Steve Diers said in an email to media Monday morning.

“No recreational activities including boating, tubing, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, swimming or general use of the river within 100 yards of the bridge,” he said.

“We are working with bridge engineers to address the problem, but want to make sure the public is aware of the potential danger of the bridge structurally and caution them to stay away,” Diers said.

On April 3 the Charles City Council voted for an evaluation of the Charley Western Bridge and the Main Street Bridge. Now those plans may be changed.

“The (evaluation) on Main Street is going forward,” said Charles City Engineer John Fallis. “The second one, on the Charley Western Trail, we have to re-look at the scope of services.”

The Charley Western Bridge was built in 1910 and is more than a century old.

“It’s likely that it cannot be repaired,” Fallis said.

Currently there are no physical measures being taken to prevent activity on the Cedar River near the bridge.

“We’re working on that with the DNR (Department of Natural Resources). We’ve talk to them and they’re actually putting out a press release tomorrow,” Diers said.

The area of the white water course is upstream of the bridge and is safe, Diers said.

The Charles City Chamber of Commerce has contacted business that sell or rent products used on the river to advise against going near the bridge.

The city intends to put more permanent barricade fencing around the bridge entrances because it is unlikely the bridge can be repaired, Diers said. The goal is to have a chainlink fence around the entrances to prevent use.

Some people continued to go near and on the bridge even after warning signs were placed, Diers said.

“It’s a lot more than just a trail. That’s an emergency crossing for the city during high flood times,” Diers said. “In times of emergency we can get equipment across there.”

The Charley Western Bridge was the highest bridge in Charles City and used for emergency access when the bridges on Main Street and Brantingham Street were closed by flooding.

“It’s also a common link for a lot of people that live on that east part of town,” Diers said.

The trail is heavily used by people wanting to go to Fareway or K-Mart who live on the other side of the bridge, Diers said.

“We’re talking about several hundreds of thousands of dollars of work,” Diers said. “Hopefully that’s all it is. It’s going to be a substantial project.”

Charles City has recently finished its budget estimate for the next fiscal year.

“The budget is a best guess, and that’s why you try to plan ahead,” Diers said.

Diers didn’t want to make any guesses before there was an estimate on what needed to be done, because the price would be a major factor.

“If we’re going to ultimately replace it, it’s going to need funding sources from multiple areas to make that happen,” Diers said. “We’ve reached even this morning to FEMA, to see if there’s anything that be can be done.”


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