3 votes

2nd Avenue Overpass


Iowa Department of Transportation


BH Photo #270771

Street View 


This concrete structure functions as a grade separation, carrying Second Avenue over Birdland Drive in Des Moines. Comprised of over 800 cubic yards of concrete and almost 120,000 pounds of reinforcing steel, the Second Avenue Overpass is made up of three rigid-frame spans - a 44-foot center span flanked on both sides by 27-foot spans - supported by concrete abutments and piers. It was designed early in 1936 by the Iowa State Highway Commission as part of Primary Road 60. Designating the structure USWP Highway Project Number WPMH-132-D, the commission solicited competitive proposals in March. A contract to build the overpass was awarded in April to Snyder and Johnson of Humbolt, Iowa, for $28, 382.95. The contractors began work soon thereafter, completing the bridge later in 1936. The Second Avenue Overpass has carried relatively light urban traffic since that time, in essentially unaltered condition. As part of the effort to create jobs during the Depression, Congress in 1934 passed an act allowing federal monies to be used for road and bridge construction within municipalities. Of all of Iowa's cities, Des Moines benefited most from this new legislation, as the state highway commission built a number of large-scale bridges and viaducts in the city through the late 1930's. The Second Avenue Overpass is one of these structures. It is thus historically important as one of the bridge projects funded through the New Deal's Hayden-Cartwright Act. The bridge is technologically significant as an example of an uncommon structural type - the concrete rigid frame. Developed in Westchester County, New York, in the early 1920's, the concrete rigid frame style became especially popular for federal relief projects during the 1930's. Both picturesque and practical, the flat arched design appealed to proponents of urban beautification. Located adjacent to a city park, where aesthetics were of concern to the ISHC engineers, the Second Avenue Overpass typifies this trend. It is a well-preserved example of a structural type that received experimentation, but not widespread use, by the state highway commission in the 1930's.


Rigid frame bridge over Birdland Drive on 2nd Avenue in Des Moines
Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa
Replaced by a new bridge
Future prospects
Replacement under construction. West half open as of November 2022. Full bridge anticipated to be open late 2023.
Built 1936; rehabilitated 1985
- Iowa State Highway Commission of Ames, Iowa (Design)
- Snyder & Johnson of Humbolt, Iowa
Concrete rigid frame
Length of largest span: 44.0 ft.
Total length: 98.1 ft.
Deck width: 56.1 ft.
Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.61393, -93.61986   (decimal degrees)
41°36'50" N, 93°37'11" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/448355/4607098 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Des Moines SE
Average daily traffic (as of 2016)
Inventory numbers
IA 501160 (Iowa bridge number)
BH 14240 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of July 2017)
Overall condition: Poor
Superstructure condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Serious (3 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 36 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • January 11, 2023: Updated by Andy Winegar: Original bridge demolished. Replacement under construction.
  • February 6, 2022: Updated by Andy Winegar: Added its scheduled demolition in 2022
  • February 10, 2017: New photos from Daniel Barnes
  • November 20, 2013: New photo from Luke Harden
  • June 24, 2012: New Street View added by Luke Harden
  • July 27, 2011: Updated by Luke Harden: Changed bridge type, added description, added photograph