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This time, engineers decided to raise the bridge deck still more, bringing the total height it had been lifted since 1924 to 7½ feet. The increase was accomplished by adding concrete “caps’’ to the otherwise stone-faced pillars, raising the suspension cables supporting the deck.
Total length of the reconstructed bridge: 200 feet, with a 126-foot span over the river.
2012 flood was worst ever
Last year by the time Luschen had decided to evacuate Jay Cooke, the raging St. Louis had risen to the level of the Swinging Bridge deck, and its loss seemed fated.
Unknown was whether the bridge’s stone support pillars would survive.
Some of the smaller pillars that supported the gangplank leading to the bridge had already given way to the flood. So survival of the taller support pillars seemed problematic.
But survive they did.
“The pillars lost some of their rock facing,’’ Luschen said. “But they came through the flood largely intact.’’
When the St. Louis had finally receded to normal levels, pieces of the bridge were strewn 7 miles downstream.
Some cleanup occurred last summer. But much of the salvage work didn’t start until this spring, after a reconstruction plan was approved.
The Swinging Bridge, one of only two suspension bridges in the state parks system, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places like other structures at Jay Cooke State Park,.
So “modernizing’’ it wasn’t in the cards.
Instead, in its rebuilding, the bridge will get a more retro look still.
In a nod to the original stonework completed by the CCC, the concrete caps on top of the support pillars will be removed with jackhammers and replaced with stone.
Construction will cost about $1 million, with completion expected by about Labor Day.
“The bridge should be open again by our fall color season,’’ Luschen said.
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