Mormon Pioneer Memorial Bridge
|Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography|
I-680 Missouri River Highway Crossing
||• Structure ID:
||NBI S680 01343L (NE), 603305 (IA)
||1,711 Feet, 420 Foot Longest Span
||40 Feet, 2 Traffic Lanes
||• Date Built:
||• Structure ID:
||NBI S680 01343R (NE), 603300 (IA)
||1,603 Feet, 420 Foot Longest Span
||26 Feet, 2 Traffic Lanes
||• Date Built:
||Statistic Common To Both Spans
||River Mile 626.5
||• River Elevation:
||• Daily Traffic Count:
||• Bridge Type:
||Steel Continuous Through Truss
||• Navigation Channel Width:
||• Height Above Water:
The history of this bridge site dates back to a ferry operated by the Mormons
in 1846. The site was later picked as a possible river crossing for the
transcontinental railroad due to the riverbed being rock at this location,
which was thought to be an excellent foundation for a bridge. Local citizens
attempted to get a bridge project going in 1936, but were not successful.
A highway ferry operated up to 1952, when the first span of the Mormon
Pioneer Trail Bridge was opened. The bridge operated as a toll bridge up
to April 21, 1979, when the newer eastbound bridge span was added. At
that time, the two bridges became part of Interstate highway I-680, which
bypasses Omaha on the north and west.
The I-680 bridges are named after the Mormon Pioneer Trail, a 1,300 mile
route traveled by members of the Latter Day Saints as they migrated west
from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake City between 1846 and 1869. The initial
wave of migration left Nauvoo in 1846, planning to arrive in Salt Lake
City by the end of summer. However, they got a late start, and found that
they were not as well prepared as they should be. As a result, they
decided to winter just north of the present day city of Omaha, just west
of the site of the Mormon Bridge. The Saints established small settlements
across the region, with the largest being called Winter Quarters. A ferry
boat was operated at the site of the Mormon Bridge, with a large group
of Saints crossing the Missouri River over the ice in February, 1846. The
only original building still remaining from the Winter Quarters era is the
Florence Mill, which is located just west of the west end of the Mormon
Bridge on the south side of the Interstate highway I-680 right-of-way. The
story of this epic journey is told at the Mormon Trail Center at
Historic Winter Quarters, located in the Florence neighborhood about
a mile from the bridge site.
The toll booth building still exists. After the tools were removed,
the toll booth building was moved to 3010 Willit Street in Historic
Florence, now a neighborhood of Omaha. The building was last used as
a barber shop. It is located next to the Bank of Florence Museum.
Interstate highway I-680 was extensively damaged in the record flood
of 2011. While the Mormon Bridge was not under water, the section of I-680
from just east of the bridge to near the interchange with I-29 spent
months underwater. The current undercut the roadway carrying away much of
the roadbed. The concrete pavement became a jumble of blocks that were
littered with driftwood and tree debris. The road was closed on June 10,
2011. When the damage became apparent, it was estimated that it would
take a year to fix the highway. Contracts were let for the work on September
23, with work starting on September 28. The highway reopened on November 2,
2011, just 34 days later, due to an accelerated work schedule.
The photo above is looking east along the downstream face of the older
eastbound span of the Mormon Bridge. The photo below is looking upstream
to the north towards the main bridge spans from the bicycle trail that
runs along the west bank of the Missouri River through Omaha.
The photo above is the west bridge abutment, with the older eastbound
span in the foreground. The photo below is the steel girder span crossing
over John J. Pershing Drive. The vantage point is standing on the south
side of Dick Collins Road.
The photo above is looking north towards the bridge spans crossing over
John J. Persching Drive, the road that runs along the riverfront in North
Omaha. The photo below is the west end of the large truss spans at the
west end of the Mormon Bridge.
The photo above is looking east across the Missouri River along the
downstream south face of the eastbound 1952 structure. This photo was
a little difficult to take given that there is a tall fence blocking access
to the river given that the property to the north is owned by the US Coast
Guard, and the property to the south is part of the metro water plant.
I had to hold the camera up over my head and shoot blindly. The photo
below is a view of the east end of the bridge structures on the Iowa
side of the Missouri River as seen from the bicycle trail as it runs
past the water plant.
These two photos are views of the bridge at the mid-river piers, again,
seen looking northeast from the bicycle trail as it passes the water
plant. The photo above is a closer view of the truss above the
mid-river piers, while the photo below is a view of the piers. Note
that the fence again is getting in the way of our view.
The photo above is looking east across the Missouri River between the
two bridge structures. The older eastbound 1952 span is to the right,
while the newer westbound 1975 span is on the left. The photo below
is looking east across the river along the upstream face of the newer
westbound bridge span. This area flooded in the historic flood of 2011,
which as left a deep layer of silt in the riverflats.
The photo above is the north face of the bridge abutment, with the newer
bridge span in the foreground. The photo below is the west end of the
truss spans, again, with the newer bridge span in the foreground. Note
the bicycle path running under the truss span. Thankfully, the railing
is low under the bridge, but we see the taller fence that starts just on the
other side of the older span.
These two photos are looking southeast towards the Mormon Pioneer Memorial
Bridge from the bicycle path that runs along John J. Pershing Drive in
North Omaha. The photo above is the bridge structure at the western of
the two sets of main bridge piers. These piers sit right at the edge of
the river, whereas the eastern main span bridge piers are near the middle
of the Missouri River. The photo below shows the eastern half of the
truss spans with the eastern main bridge piers situated in the river.
These two photos are closer views of the eastern end of the Mormon Bridge
spans. The photo above is centered on the eastern of the two main bridge
piers. The photo below is the easternmost truss span on the Iowa side
of the river. Note that the steel bridge girders on the approach spans
differ, with the girders being smooth on the newer structure, but ribbed
on the older structure in the background.
The photo above is a closer view of the bridge structure above the
eastern of the two sets of main bridge piers. While it is somewhat difficult
to see in this view, note that one of the vertical beams on the right side
of the photo is pin connected rather than being bolted to a gusset plate.
This allows the bridge to flex during heat and cool cycles. As the bridge
expands and contracts, it actually tips slightly. The photo below is
the truss spans over the river navigation channel.
These two photos are the underside of the two bridge spans. The photo
above is the older 1952 structure, while the photo below is the newer
1975 structure. The newer structure is wider and has a fifth set of
longitudinal stringers. What is not quite as obvious in these photos is
that the older bridge is riveted, while the newer bridge is bolted.
The photo above is the northwest corner of the newer truss structure
where the bridge is connected to a pier via a large bearing. Note the
ladder leading down from the bridge deck, and a catwalk on the far side
of the bridge pier. This gusset plate appears to have been recently
repaired given that the paint does not match the rest of the bridge.
The photo below are additional gusset plates on the 1975 span. These
also appear to have been repaired, but despite the repairs, there is
already extensive surface rust showing.
The photo above is looking towards the bridge abutment under the steel
girder approach span of the newer 1975 structure. The photo below is
a close view of the southwest corner of the 1975 structure. There is
significant rust and deterioration. It appears that the rebar in the
bridge deck is rusting, which is causing the concrete to break away.
The catwalk also has extensive rust. I noticed water dripping from
this area despite it being a clear warm day. I suspect that there is
a drainage issue on the bridge, with the water being concentrated at
this location. This is a sad amount of damage for a bridge that is
less than 30 years old.
The photo above is a marker for the Mormon Pioneer Trail located just west
of the I-680 river crossing in a small square across the street from the
Florence Mill. The mill is the only remaining structure from the Mormon
Winter Quarters that was established nearby in the late 1840s. The
photo below is a marker for the Mormon Pioneer Memorial Bridge which
relates some local history.
These two photos, and the five that follow, show a typical eastbound
river crossing using the older 1952 span. In the photo above, we start
the crossing entering I-680 eastbound from North 30th Avenue in the Florence
neighborhood of Omaha. In the photo below, we are merging onto I-680. The
merge lane is not very long given how close it is to the narrower downstream
These two photos continue our eastbound river crossing. We are crossing
the steel girder approach spans in the photo above, while we are in the
through truss structure just over the west bank of the Missouri River
in the photo below. Note that there are on shoulders on this bridge span.
These two photos continue our eastbound river crossing. We are passing
over the eastern of the two sets of main bridge piers in the photo above,
and are going downhill on the approach spans on the Iowa side of the river.
The Iowa welcome sign is just to the right of the end of the bridge.
The photo above completes our eastbound river crossing. In this view, we
are traveling over the river flats on I-680 in Iowa. This section of pavement
is only 7 months old. The monumental flood of 2011 put this area under water.
The river current removed the gravel from under the concrete and destroyed
the road. Several miles of highway were quickly rebuilt in the fall of 2011,
with this photo being taken in early June of 2012.
The photo below, and the six that follow, show a typical westbound crossing
of the newer 1975 span of the Mormon Pioneer Memorial Bridge traveling
from Iowa into Omaha, Nebraska. In this photo, we are traveling westbound
about 1/5 of a mile from the bridges.
These two photos continue our westbound river crossing. In the photo above
we are rounding a small bend leading to the east bridge abutment. Note
that we have a head-on view of the older 1952 eastbound span at this
vantage point. The photo below is entering the approach spans on the
east side of the Missouri River.
These two photos continue our westbound river crossing. The photo above
is climbing the small hill on the approach spans to reach the main
truss structure. Note the Nebraska welcome sign, which is attached to
the east portal of the truss structure. The actual state line is in the
center of the Missouri River, located just past the vantage point of the
photo below, which is taken just over the eastern of the two sets of
main bridge piers.
These two photos complete our westbound river crossing. The photo above
is passing through the western section of the main bridge truss, while
the photo below is descending the approach spans on the Nebraska side
of the Missouri River. The first Nebraska exit, exit #13, is for North
30th Street, which is the exit that will take you to the Mormon Trail
Center, which is well worth visiting and is a great introduction to the
history of the Omaha area.