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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
Historic Missouri River Highway Crossing
Omaha, NE

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI 43570 (IA), S275 19041 (NE)
• Location: River Mile 612.2
• River Elevation: 960 Feet
• Highway: Former US-275, IA-92, NE-92
• Daily Traffic Count: 12,525 (2006)
• Bridge Type: Steel Continuous Through Truss
• Length: 4,381 Feet, 525 Foot Longest Span
• Width: 22 Feet, 2 Lanes
• Navigation Channel Width: 514 Feet
• Height Above Water: 62 Feet
• Date Built: Opened January 18, 1936, Closed September 8, 2009
While this bridge is officially named South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge, it is often referred to as the South Omaha Bridge or the Veterans Memorial Bridge. This series of photos were taken on September 7, 2009, the last full day that the structure was open to traffic. The bridge was closed permanently the next morning. The western trestle spans were in the way of the new replacement bridge, resulting in this river crossing being closed until the new bridge was opened for traffic on May 28, 2010.

For many years, the Douglas Street Bridge, located just downstream of the present day I-480 Grenville Dodge Memorial Bridge, was the only highway crossing in the Omaha area. Residents complained about that bridge being so far away from the south side of Omaha and the southern suburbs. The city of Omaha attempted to issue bonds for a new bridge in 1931. Due to the depression, the bond issue failed. In 1933, the city formed the Omaha Bridge Commission to apply for government loans to build a toll bridge.

The original 1933 bridge design called for seven truss spans of 400 feet each. The US Army Corps of Engineers, however, was working on a plan to alter the course of the Missouri River to consolidate two smaller branches of the river into a single navigation channel. The bridge design was changed to a single long Warren through truss structure with two 525-foot long spans. Construction on the bridge began in 1934. Since the river channel had not yet been modified, the bridge was built over dry land. That made construction easier, but it was an unusual sight to see a large bridge crossing open prairie when the bridge was opened to traffic on January 18, 1936. The river channel was diverted that summer, resulting in the navigation channel being under the western of the two spans of the truss structure. The bridge loans were paid off in 1947 and the tolls were lifted on September 25 of that year.

Two issues conspired to bring an end to this structure. First, the bridge was narrow. At 22 feet, it had no shoulders, no sidewalks, and while it was very tight for cars, it was too narrow for two large trucks to comfortably meet on the structure. The other issue is that the structure had deteriorated. A project in the late 1990s extended the life of the bridge, but by that time, weight limits had to be posted. Those weight limits were reduced further and an 8-foot height limit was imposed on the structure in 2008. By that time, a replacement bridge was underway.

While the main river span of the new bridge would be built parallel to the 1936 structure, the trestle spans on the Nebraska end of the 1936 bridge were in the way of the path of the western spans of the new bridge. As a result, the bridge was closed permanently on September 8, 2009 at 9:00 AM. Workers starting removing the deck from the trestle spans right after the bridge closed. The western half of the trestle was imploded on Sunday, October 4, 2009. The western 600 feet of the main span structure was brought down at 11:30 AM on Tuesday, February 23, 2010. The eastern half of the main span truss was dropped into the river on Sunday March 14, 2010.

The photo above is the south face of the South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge on its last full day of operation as seen from along the west bank of the Missouri River. While this location was fenced off and posted for no trespassing, the security guard was allowing people to walk into this area. He said that the old bridge meant a lot to the neighborhood, and a lot of people were coming down to the riverfront for one last visit before the bridge was closed. Too bad it was such a gray foggy day, but perhaps that was an appropriate backdrop for a day when a community was about to lose an old friend.


South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
These two photos are vies of the through truss structure looking to the northeast from the Gibson Road Viaduct leading down to the river flats on the west side of the Missouri River. The photo above has an unobstructed view of the western half of the continuous truss span, while the photo above focuses on the center bridge pier by looking over the top of an oil terminal tank farm.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
The photo above is looking east across the Missouri River between the new and old bridge structures. The Missouri River is flowing south to the right in this view. We see that while the main structure is a continuous through truss, the trestle spans are deck truss spans with the steel structure under the highway. The photo below is the main truss structure as seen from the levee just downstream of the river crossing. The activity in the foreground is a staging yard for the replacement bridge.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
These two photos are views of the bridge trestle looking towards the bridge abutment on the Nebraska side of the river. The photo above is looking northwest, while the photo below is looking southwest from the north side of the structure. Notice that the trestle curves as it approaches the abutment. Also notice the concrete columns that will support the deck of the new bridge. This shows how much wider the new bridge will be than the 22 foot wide 1936 structure. The bridge also crosses a set of railroad tracks, which are owned and operated by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
These two photos are views of the trestle on the Nebraska side of the river as seen from Gibson Road. The photo above is looking north where the bridge crosses Gibson Road. The photo below is looking east along the south face of the trestle structure.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
These two photos are looking back to the west from the levee that runs along the Missouri River. The photo above is looking along the south face of the trestle spans, while the photo below is looking between the two bridges along the north face of the trestle spans. This photo shows how the new bridge is curving to the south where the old trestle spans are in the way.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
The photo above is the second trestle support tower when heading west from the main truss spans. This tower has four legs. There is one more tower between this location and the first concrete bridge pier, and that tower has only two legs. The vantage point is the levee along the west side of the Missouri River. The photo above is looking skyward under the trestle bridge deck at the location of another four-legged tower.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
The photo above is the base of one of the four-legged support towers. The photo below is a close view of the concrete foundation of one of the tower legs.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
The photo above is where the deck truss trestle spans meet the main steel continuous through truss spans, which is supported by a large concrete pier. The photo below is looking through the archway in this pier under the deck of the bridge as it passes over the river navigation channel. Note that the mid-river span does not have an archway.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
These two photos are the first of a series of 13 photos showing a typical bridge crossing heading westbound from Iowa and driving into Nebraska. The photo above is heading westbound on highways IA-92 and US-275, where we see an electronic signboard stating that the highway would be closed the following morning. The photo below is an archway on the Iowa side of the river. The bridge ultimately had a 5-ton weight limit. To keep trucks from cheating on the limit, an artificial 8 foot height limit was placed on the structure, preventing anything taller than a passenger car or light pickup truck from using the bridge.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
These two photos continue our westbound crossing of the South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge. In the photo above, we are approaching the east end of the structure. We have entered the trestle spans on the east end of the bridge in the photo below. The new bridge is built just upstream of the 1936 structure.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
These two photos continue our westbound crossing of the South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge. In the photo above, we are approaching the grade leading up to the continuous through truss structure that carries the road across the Missouri River. In the photo below, we are climbing up that grade.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
These two photos continue our westbound crossing of the South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge. In the photo above, we are approaching the top of the grade leading up to the main truss structure. In the photo below, we are the east span of the main truss structure high over the Missouri River.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
These two photos continue our westbound crossing of the South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge. In the photo above, we are approximately halfway across the main bridge structure, while in the photo below, we are crossing the western of the two continuous truss spans over the river navigation channel.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
These two photos continue our westbound crossing of the South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge. In the photo above, we are crossing the trestle spans on the Nebraska side of the river. The photo below shows the curve in the trestle spans leading up to the western bridge abutment.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
The photo above concludes are westbound bridge crossing as we approach South 13th Street. Heading north will take us to Interstate highway I-80 near Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, while heading south will take one towards Offutt Air Force Base. The photo below is a view of several trestle spans as seen from South 13th Street, with the new bridge visible in the background.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
These two photos are the first of 8 photos showing a typical bridge crossing heading eastbound from Omaha driving into Council Bluffs. In the photo above, we are driving eastbound on Missouri Avenue, which is also NE-92 and US-275, approaching South 13th Street. Missouri Avenue has already been upgraded west of South 13th Street, but those lanes are not yet open. In the photo below, we have passed through the stop lights and are approaching the archway on the Nebraska side of the structure.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
These two photos continue our eastbound crossing of the South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge. In the photo above, we are crossing the trestle spans on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River, and are just exiting the slight curve at the west end of the bridge. We are approaching the main truss spans in the photo below. Note that there is no grade leading up to the truss when approaching from the west unlike what we saw when heading eastbound.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
These two photos continue our eastbound crossing of the South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge. The photo above is crossing the western of the two spans of the continuous through truss, while the photo below is crossing the eastern of the two spans on the Iowa side of the river.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
These two photos conclude our eastbound crossing of the South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge. In the photo above, we are crossing the trestle spans on the east side of the Missouri River. We have exited the bridge in the photo below, and we are approaching the archway on the Iowa side of the river.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge
I was back to visit the new Veterans Memorial Bridge in the spring of 2012. The photo above is the scene looking east across the Missouri River where the old bridge used to stand. The only evidence that I could find of the old bridge on the west side of the river are these concrete footings located just west of the road leading down to the sewage treatment plant.

South Omaha Veterans Memorial Bridge

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