The Ak-Sar-Ben Bridge was a Whipple through truss bridge that was the first road bridge to cross the Missouri River connecting Omaha, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa. It was replaced in 1966 by the Interstate 480 girder bridge.
|Official name||Douglas Street Bridge|
|Owner||Group of businessmen|
|Followed by||Unnamed I-480 girder bridge|
|Engineering design by||Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway Company|
Originally called the Douglas Street Bridge, the bridge was built by the Omaha and Council Bluffs Street Railway Company in 1888 at a cost of $500,000. It was designed to handle streetcars and replaced a ferry service that had opened in 1854. It was originally built as a single bridge. Due to increased demand, they built a twin sister bridge next to the existing one. It was the Lincoln Highway bridge from 1913 to 1930. (Notice the L for Lincoln Highway in the picture.) It was then the Highway 30 bridge, then Highway 30A, then Highway 30 S until its destruction.
It was a toll bridge. As automobiles became more popular, there were resentments about the tolls. In 1895, a group of businessmen formed the "Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben" ("Nebraska" spelled backward). In 1938, they sold bonds to finance the purchase of the bridge for $2,350,000. They continued to charge tolls until 1947, at which point the bonds were paid off and the structure, along with the South Omaha Bridge, became free bridges. The hated toll booths were paraded through Omaha before a crowd of 35,000 observers to celebrate Free Bridge Day on September 24, 1947. The estimated traffic on the bridge doubled the following year.
Replacement and RemovalEdit
It was replaced in November 1966 with an unnamed I-480 girder bridge (I-480 was to go on and be named the "Gerald R. Ford Freeway" after the native son President). Attempts were made to salvage the bridge as a pedestrian walkway, but it was demolished in 1968 although the east pier remains in the river just south of the interstate on the Council Bluffs side.
U.S. Route 6 overlaps the interstate to cross the river.
- Star, JIM MCKEE For the Lincoln Journal. "Jim McKee: Connecting our state and Iowa with a road bridge". JournalStar.com. Retrieved 2020-05-28.