5 votes

Center Street Bridge


Photo taken by Jason Smith in August 2011


BH Photo #213967

Street Views 


As part of the riverwalk project to commemorate its 125 year anniversary, the Principal Financial Group included this bridge as part of its riverwalk project along the Des Moines River, which connects with other bike and pedestrian trails in the city. It was nominated and shortlisted for the Bridge Engineering and Design 2011 Footbridge Awards. The bridge is unique as the tied arch serves as a divider separating the pedestrian and bike trails. From an ariel view, the crossing resembles a football over the Des Moines River.


Steel through arch bridge over Des Moines River on Pedestrian and bicycle trail at the Principal River Walk
Des Moines, Polk County, Iowa
Open to pedestrians and bikes only
Built in 2010 as part of the Principal River Walk trail network along the Des Moines River
- ARUP of London, England, United Kingdom (Designer)
- Cramer & Associates, Inc. of Grimes, Iowa (Contractor)
- Safdie Rabines Architects of San Diego, California (Designer)
- Syroka & Associates of Des Moines, Iowa
- Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Designer)
Steel tied arch bridge
Also called
Women of Achievement Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.59189, -93.61862   (decimal degrees)
41°35'31" N, 93°37'07" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/448441/4604650 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Des Moines SE
Inventory number
BH 49667 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • March 28, 2019: New photos from Daniel Barnes
  • July 8, 2018: New photos from Daniel Barnes
  • June 27, 2018: New photos from John Bernhisel
  • January 30, 2018: New photos from Kevin Skow
  • May 31, 2017: New photos from Daniel Barnes
  • May 26, 2014: Updated by Luke Harden: Added category "Cramer & Associates, Inc."
  • October 31, 2013: New Street View added by Luke Harden
  • July 24, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Added official name in alt names section
  • September 20, 2011: New Street View added by Jason Smith
  • September 19, 2011: Added by Jason Smith


  • Jason Smith - flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com
  • Luke
  • ARUP - bridge engineer
  • Daniel Barnes
  • Kevin Skow - weatherbum [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • John Bernhisel - Johnmbernhisel [at] gmail [dot] com


Center Street Bridge
Posted December 3, 2021, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

I am not a modern bridge expert however despite this bridge resembling a network tied arch in elevation, apparently to be considered "network" the diagonals must be double-intersecting and hangers must be running at a diagonal to produce the intersections. This bridge has angled hangers, but for the purposes of reaching the deck, not intersecting other hangers. Most arch bridges have two arches with one deck in between, this one has one arch between two decks. So its really probably just a tied arch. Thats a bridge historian's interpretation of a modern bridge anyway. Seems to be listed correctly on this website at least.

Center Street Bridge
Posted December 3, 2021, by Paul Plassman

The suspenders look pretty small to be structurally truss members in a bowstring truss....hard to tell for sure but I'd say tied arch.

Center Street Bridge
Posted December 3, 2021, by Art S. (Asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

BTW, is the bridge in this link a bowstring, a tied arch or something else?: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tied-arch_bridge#/media/File:P...

Center Street Bridge
Posted December 3, 2021, by Art S. (Asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Copyright and patent are fuzzy areas, to some degree so is plagiarism.

I like Led Zeppelin. They plagiarized blues artists. However, I don't consider their work to be simply blues covers.

There are plenty of houses built in the Prairie style that aren't by Wright. Personally, I wouldn't call them rip-offs. (As a side note, during design review, engineers told Wright that Falling Water needed much more structural reinforcement - he knew better - the caretakers have been dealing with his poor decision ever since).

Looking at the bridge example, you can see how bridge design went from diverse to standard though a series of cycles as the available material and technology changed while meeting changing requirements and aesthetic tastes. As an example look at Pratt truss bridges. The designs started as quite diverse and converged to something fairly standard by the late 1890s, then improved field riveting and requirements generated by automobiles caused change.

The cable stayed suspension bridge is not novel. Roebling used it supplementally for increased stability in their bridges since the 1840s, Morrison (CBW) had it as the prime structural element in at least one bridge (1857). In Europe it was used earlier.

Modern materials (specifically the newer pre-stressed concrete compression members and heavy cable tension members) and revised requirements have brought the cable stayed design back as a popular approach to big bridges in the latter 20th century and it is still being incorporated into a number of signature structures. In turn, the design elements and techniques used in cable stayed bridges have been used to update the tied arch and bowstring designs.

Often, when an entity (government, etc.) wants a signature bridge, they don't say invent something new for us; they say 'that bridge looks nice, make something like that for us' or they have a design competition as an arms-length way of achieving the same thing. If there isn't a design patent on what is selected - no royalty. Even with a deign patent it would be for an exact copy. [I don't think the discussion is about other types of patents, so I won't go there.] None of these similar bridges are exact. Also, modern computers enable asymmetrical and quirky designs to be analyzed, which combined with these materials and building techniques result in the designs being discussed. Even so, they don't always get it right. e.g. the "Wobbly Bridge" in London.

Credit is due to not only the designers but to the governments and other entities that are willing to step up and risk using something incrementally novel in what they build and pay a bit extra for the privilege. In return they get something that may be an elegant or iconic addition to their city.

Hopefully, this forward looking trend will be matched with the ability to look back at preserving what they have as well (New York City should get special recognition for this).


Art S.

Center Street Bridge
Posted December 3, 2021, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

I am not an expert on architecture copyright, but I would take some issue with what Michael was saying when he said "you can't be Frank Lloyd Wright by building a copy of Fallingwater." I get what he is saying in essence, but also in my observation of architecture, it is not unusual for other architects to borrow ideas from famous architects who came up with new groundbreaking approaches that nobody had done before (like Frank Lloyd Wright). This is why we have the "Prairie Style" of architecture because lots of people copied off of Frank Lloyd Wright's ideas, some of which Frank Lloyd Wright encouraged by developing his school at Taliesin. As such, while Calatrava might not have his own school, what he does is so unusual in the modern context (architects are no longer employed in bridge design except under exceedingly rare circumstances), that much like Frank Lloyd Wright, he is undoubtedly influencing other architects and engineers. Most bridge engineers alive today have never been exposed to the concept of a bridge actually having beauty, beauty not being a major consideration (or even a minor one) in the vast majority of projects for many decades. (FYI, "Context Sensitive" decorations on a slab of concrete does not count as architecture (see texts from leading early 20th century engineers and architects), so I am excluding those in this statement). The actual bridge structure needs to be aesthetic in itself (Calatrava bridges generally qualify under this).

Center Street Bridge
Posted December 3, 2021, by Craig Carlson (Craig9876 [at] aol [dot] com)

Michael Taylor, 2016, claims that "the only reson [sic] this modern bridge looks good is because it ripped off the Millenium [sic] Bridge by Spanish Architect Santiago Calatrava (who is one of the greatest modernest [sic]) architects still active, and like the other commenter said I doubt they even gave him credit."

As far as I can tell, Calatrava was not involved in the London Millenium Bridge (or more commonly the "Wobbly Bridge" which was closed for two years after being opened for one day! :) - it was in fact designed by the same group as this bridge in Des Moines - ARUP. While they had to fix the bridge in London, they have also done famous project, like the somewhat well known Sydney Opera House.


It is perhaps an excusable mistake since there are dozens of modern "Millennium Bridges" designed as landmarks in various cities. I assume he is thinking of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge on the River Tyne in Newcastle, England/UK. However, that also does not appear to have any connection to Mr Calatrava...but is similar in his typical 'white' composite material. A cool thing about this bridge in Newcastle is the deck 'lifts' by rotating 40 degrees.


Overall, there are lots of white, composite material, 'modern' bridges, and many of them (being load bearing structures) are "arches". Copyright!!

As far as what dog I have in this fight - none! Lol, just a citizen bemused by the aggressive tone of some of the commenters. This and the other recent Des Moines River replacements are all fine, but to be honest I prefer the original Court Avenue Bridge (with its lovely balustrades, which was once replicated all along the other Grand/Locust/Walnut bridges and associated embankment/riverwalk) and the other neoclassical, stone (or at least not steel) civic buildings as part of the "City Beautiful Movement' period...


Also, if anything, per Mr Taylor's criteria, I think Arup could claim copyright against Mr Calatrava as his two recent bridges - in Wuhan, China and Grueningen, Switzerland, both include the London Millennium Bridge's outside/below suspension support style. I can't load any more URLs but you can google:

calatrava huashan-canal-bridge-wuhan-hubei

calatrava grueningen-bridges-grueningen

Copy of Londons Millenium Bridge
Posted April 16, 2016, by Michael Taylor

The only reson this modern bridge looks good is because it ripped off the Millenium Bridge by Spanish Architect Santiago Calatrava (who is one of the greatest modernest architects still active, and like the other commenter said I doubt they even gave him credit.

Calatrava's designs are unique and that is what makes them special weather it is a bridge or building. His bridge work is usually some of the finest in the modern age if local governments don't stifle his vision. Someone here wanted to desperately be Calatrava and just copied his legendary UK bridge. However what makes a designer legendary is deeper than aesthetics, you can't be Frank Lloyd Wright by building a copy of Fallingwater.

Center Street Bridge
Posted September 14, 2015, by Bill (Bkalton [at] aol [dot] com)

Easy to copy Calatrava without paying him a fee or acknowledgement.

Center Street Bridge
Posted April 5, 2012, by Matt Mazan (mmazan1 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

View from Wells Fargo Arena.

During the building of this bridge, one of the workers gained national recognition when he rescued a woman whose boat had gone over the dam and capsized. He pulled her out of the dams boil by hanging from the end of the cable attached to one of the cranes they were using to construct the bridge.