Eisenhower Bridge turns 50 years oldWhen Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated the then-Hiawatha Bridge in the fall of 1960, Evan Hallstrom was there, 8 mm video camera in hand.
By: By Eric Ludy - Red Wing Republican-Eagle, Pierce County Herald
RED WING - When Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated the then-Hiawatha Bridge in the fall of 1960, Evan Hallstrom was there, 8 mm video camera in hand.
The lifelong Red Wing resident managed to weave his way to the podium, where a security guard he knew from Minneapolis allowed him to get within a few feet of the president as he addressed a crowd of thousands.
"They had all this high security, and here was Evan just walking up and taking moving pictures of him," said his wife, Carol Hallstrom, who was selling flowers at their Hallstrom's Florist shop at the time of the dedication.
This Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Eisenhower Bridge, the 1,630-foot landmark that connects Red Wing with Pierce County. Originally named the Hiawatha Bridge, the steel structure was later renamed after the 34th president.
Jerry Borgen, who was selling commemorative ashtrays outside the Red Wing YMCA on the day of the opening and dedication, remembers the time as an exciting one for Red Wingers. By his estimate, several thousand people packed into the intersection of West Avenue and Main Street to hear the president speak.
"It's not every day that the president comes to town," he said.
According to historical records, the bridge took the place of the old High Bridge, which had connected Minnesota and Wisconsin since 1893. Parts of Barn Bluff had to be demolished to make way for the new project, a point of controversy in the lead up to its construction.
The structure was built at a price tag of $829,199, much of which came directly from federal funding that Eisenhower spearheaded under the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956.
The bill led to the creation of the interstate highway system and funded projects throughout the country.
"Eisenhower was very influential in transportation and he was especially big into funding infrastructure projects," said Chad Hanson, a senior design engineer with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Like other bridges constructed in that period on the Mississippi River, the Eisenhower Bridge incorporates a "through truss" design, according to Hanson. Its triangular steel beams are similar to those found on bridges in Wabasha, Hastings and Winona.
The bridge has "held up well" over the years, according to Hanson. A deck overlay project, some repair work in the early 1970s and three major painting projects have been the only major work conducted on the structure in five decades.
The last paint job cost just over $2.7 million, Hanson said, more than three times the cost of the bridge's construction in 1960.
"It's amazing to see how the prices have gone up," he said.