Preservation of Velva’s historic bridge begins

Jill Schramm/MDN New abutments are being built in the gap where Velva’s historic bridge enters the park. The bridge, at left, has been temporarily removed from its moorings and will be repaired as part of the rehabilitation work.

VELVA – It’s taken several years, but Velva’s historic bridge is finally getting a needed facelift.

Work is under way to repair the bridge that leads into the Velva City Park. The bridge was lifted by crane off its foundation to replace the abutments. It will be sandblasted and repainted as part of the project.

The bridge also will get new decking, replacing the timber covered by a layer of asphalt with a glue-laminated timber, or layers of bonded lumber, according to the North Dakota Department of Transportation. The strength of the bridge also will be upgraded to meet current pedestrian criteria for bridges. Approaches to the bridge will be improved.

The work that began in March is expected to finish in July. Industrial Builders of Fargo is the prime contractor.

Federal, state and local dollars are going into the $1.4 million project. A major share of funding comes from a grant from the Historic Bridge Rehabilitation Program.

“The program basically allows the rehabilitation of historic bridges while keeping them in service, when they would otherwise deteriorate,” said Pam Wenger, historic bridge program coordinator with the NDDOT.

The State Historical Society several years ago verified that Velva’s Pratt through-truss bridge with its pinned cables on the exterior sides is rare. Even more unusual is the preservation of a plaque indicating its construction date and builder.

Fargo Bridge and Iron Co. built the bridge in 1921 to handle traffic on North Dakota Highway 41 on the north edge of Velva. By the early 1960s, the bridge was deemed too small and too narrow. The bridge was scheduled for demolition and replacement. Instead of destroying the bridge, though, the park board was able to get a $6,000 grant to move it in 1968 to its current location over an old river channel, now a storm drainage loop into the Souris River, at the entrance to the park.

Due to time and occasional high water, rust and wear took a toll. Several years ago, engineers declared the bridge to be at only 63 percent of function. The community has been seeking since 2005 to preserve the bridge, however. Residents lobbied the transportation department and worked with the historical society to get the bridge on the state’s radar for rehabilitation money.

“It’s an historic bridge and, of course, we want to keep it around as long as possible. Hence, the work that’s being done to it. It will be repaired and restored and put back to original,” said JP Lohnes, Velva Park Board president.

There will be some additional work done on the local end, such as minor roadwork and replacing shrubbery.

The bridge has been heavily used to access the park and its football and baseball fields, track and swimming pool. Until a second entrance was added in 2017, it had been the park’s only access.