U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Carns State Aid Bridge
|County Road over the Niobrara River
10.8 Miles Northeast of Bassett
Rock / Keya Paha Counties, Nebraska
Total Length: 527 ft.
Roadway Width: 14 ft.
5-Span, Concrete Filled Spandrel Arch 2-Span, Parker and Pratt Through Truss
TYPE: Concrete filled spandrel arch, with Pratt and Parker through trusses
BUILT: 1912-13 by the Lincoln Construction Company
After years of almost continuous repairs, the timber bridge over the Niobrara River at Carns was finally wrecked by ice in the winter of 1910. That April, the Brown and Keya Paha county boards resolved unanimously that "the best and lasting benefits to the people of both counties would be the building and erection of a new steel bridge." Paying for the bridge would be difficult, but the commissioners' prospects improved substantially when the state legislature passed the State Aid Bridge Law in 1911. They applied for and got state assistance to build the bridge that year. The Nebraska State Engineer approved plans for two 160-foot steel spans, which had been presented by the Western Bridge and Construction Company. But at the bid opening all bids were rejected because, as reported by the state engineer, "it was evident there had been no competition in the bidding."
The project was stalled until the following May, when the Lincoln Construction Company was awarded the contract. The steel truss design had by then been scrapped in favor of a concrete structure composed of six 54-foot spans. The Carns Bridge was completed in the summer of 1913. It ultimately proved too narrow for this crossing, however, and in 1962 one of the bridge's six spans, along with several hundred feet of approach, washed out. This span was replaced, and the bridge extended by the addition of two salvaged trusses, including a Parker truss obtained from the Schuyler State Aid Bridge over the Platte River between Colfax and Butler counties.
Although this latter construction has altered its appearance, the Carns State Aid Bridge is historically important as the oldest remaining structure built under Nebraska's state aid bridge program. Forming an important river crossing in this sparsely settled part of the state, it represents the success of the state aid program in providing major bridges for counties perennially strapped for funds.