Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lincoln Highway Historic Bridge at Tama, Iowa

Three years after the first trancontinential highway was completed in the United States, the town of Tama, Iowa (a 42N city) constructed a one-of-kind showpiece that connected to the Lincoln Highway. Tama's Lincoln Highway bridge was built in 1915 and spans Mud Creek just east of the town. What makes the bridge so unique is that the guard rail sides spell out LINCOLN HIGHWAY in glorious block lettering concrete. Today the fully operational bridge is celebrated as a member of the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge is also the center of attention for an annual local celebration of the Lincoln Highway usually held in May. Many Lincoln Highway enthusiast tours often stop in Tama to observe the active link to the past.

Within a few hundred yards directly west of the bridge on 5th Street E the road joins present day US Highway 30, which runs either directly on or in parallel to the original Lincoln Highway. Near that junction is a still functioning road cafe complete with a neon Indian head profile sign. Tama is home to the Meskwaki tribe who bought their settlement area in the 1800s. If you follow the original Lincoln Highway west of town you will travel near the settlement. Look for the red, white and blue L signs like seen above to guide you.

In 2009, the Iowa department of transportation is constructing the latest segment of the widening of US Highway 30. Portions of the highway are already four-lane. The plan calls for more sections to be widened from two lanes to four to help with the growing use of the road. Currently work on the Tama bypass is focused on clearing farm and timber land for the construction of the wider lanes, standard exits, entrances and new bridges. The work will connect the existing four lane terminus near the casino west of town to a spot a few miles east of Tama - and the Lincoln Highway bridge.

This means that one day Highway 30 travellers will be guided to the original Lincoln Highway only from an exit on the bypass. There, the 21st century traveller will see the bridge that helped make coast-to-coast travel possible in the early 20th century or at least over Tama's Mud Creek. Know that.

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