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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Fred Schwengel Memorial Bridge
I-80 Mississippi River Crossing At Davenport
Davenport, Iowa

Fred Schwengel Memorial Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI 000000000047720 (IA), 000081001117711 (IL).
• Location: River Mile 495.4.
• River Elevation: 572 Feet.
• Highway: I-80.
• Daily Traffic Count: 34,100 (2003).
• Bridge Type: Steel Girder Concrete Deck.
• Length: 3,488 Feet Overall.
• Width: 61 Feet, 4 Lanes.
• Navigation Channel Width: 350 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 60 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened October 27, 1966, Rebuilt 1996.
This bridge looks much like a modern Interstate highway bridge, with not one cent spent on making it look attractive or decorative, which is unexpected given the size of the river at this location. The river in this area has high banks, so there are no back-water channels for the river to spread out. It is actually very much like a lake. A contributing factor is the lock and dam located just downstream.

There is some controversy among highway fans, road geeks, and state highway transportation groups over the highway numbering scheme in the Quad Cities. Normally, the 2-digit interstate goes through town, while the 3-digit interstates make the loops around town. In the case of the Quad Cities, I-80 is the eastern and norther loop around town. A side effect is that traffic has to take exit and entrance ramps at an interchange on the southeast side of the city in order to remain on I-80. Pundits say that I-80 should continue west along the path currently designated at I-280. In addition, some pundits think that I-74 should continue north from the interchange in question, again avoiding taking ramps, and make the east and north loop around the Quad Cities. Doing so would eliminate the need for the I-280 number. That all sounds good in theory, but in practice, the downtown I-80 simply shifts the interchange with ramps to the west side of town rather than the east side of town, and eliminating the I-280 route leaves the Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge without an Interstate number. Pundits suggest calling that I-174, which introduces yet another 3-digit interstate highway number.

In 1995, this bridge was officially named in memory of Fred Schwengel, an 8-term Congressman from Iowa who was key in getting the Interstate Highway Act passed into law.

The Schwengel Bridge has had a history of problems. Its design consists of two main steel girders. This results in a bridge that is called fracture critical. That is, there is no redundancy in the design. If either girder fails, the bridge will fail. As a result, the highway departments need to keep a close watch on the bridge to detect problems early. In 2003, the lights on the bridge were removed because bridge vibrations put the lights at risk of falling and landing in the traffic lanes. In 2008, the bridge was closed for two months after inspectors found cracks in the steel under the bridge deck. On May 12, 2009, the eastbound lanes were closed when a significant crack was found in the structure. The bridge is expected to remain partially closed until a two week long detailed inspection can be completed.

Fred Schwengel Memorial Bridge
Fred Schwengel Memorial Bridge
Fred Schwengel Memorial Bridge
Fred Schwengel Memorial Bridge
Fred Schwengel Memorial Bridge
Fred Schwengel Memorial Bridge

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