2018 Honor Award
American Council of Engineering Companies of Iowa

Des Moines’ Iconic Red Bridge Raised

In 2007, Stanley Consultants rehabilitated an abandoned 500-foot-long Union Railway bridge in downtown Des Moines, transforming it into a stunning and welcoming pedestrian bridge. Known as the Red Bridge due to its vibrant coloring, it quickly became a city icon.

Ten years later, the City of Des Moines found itself at a critical crossroads when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported that the risk of flooding on the Des Moines River was now nearly double previous estimates. Studies indicated that the Red Bridge was a contributor to increased flooding, creating backwater that could flood the downtown business district.

Stanley Consultants prepared a feasibility study on two options: demolish the bridge or elevate it by 4½ feet, which would reduce flooding by up to 6 inches during severe events. Ultimately the bridge’s history and popularity led the City to spare it from demolition.

To raise the bridge both end spans were removed from the six-span bridge and the remaining spans were raised with 30 hydraulic jacks sitting on lifting points welded to the steel jacketed piers. The million-pound bridge was slowly raised in 12-inch increments. Once the lift was completed, new wider pier caps extensions were poured and the bridge lower into its final position.

This high visibility $2.5 million project was completed within budget and opened to the public on schedule. It helps reduce flooding of some of the state’s most valuable commercial properties and preserves an important historical landmark from the golden age of railroading in Iowa.