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Bob Kerrey Bridge, Omaha, Nebraska

The Bob Kerrey Bridge crosses the Missouri River between Omaha, Nebraska and Council Bluffs, Iowa. Completed in 2008, the bridge is a large-scale bridge crossing a major river, but is unusual in that it is pedestrian-only. The bridge does not carry traffic. It is not a historic bridge that is being preserved. It does not connect urban or tourist areas that would create incidental foot traffic.

Instead, the bridge exists almost solely to connect bike and pedestrian trails on the Nebraska side of the river to those on the Iowa side. On the Nebraska side, the bridge entrance is located in a plaza at the National Park Service Midwest Regional Office. This building also houses the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Visitor Center. Trails that follow the riverfront past the Park Service building include: the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Trail, which links 16 historic and memorial Lewis and Clark sites in the Omaha area; the 3,700 mile-long Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, which passes through Omaha on its journey between Illinois and Oregon; and the Omaha Riverfront Bike Trail, which connects to other bike trails throughout the Omaha area.

The structure consists of two slender, needle-like towers holding cables at their tops. The cables then fan out at increasingly shallower angles to support the deck. In an unusual and appealing twist, the deck is wildly curved, weaving in and out of either side of the towers. The bridge is very high, with the deck sitting more than 50 feet above the river and the towers reaching 200 feet. The river is about 1,000 feet wide, but the lengthy, curved approaches on either end of the bridge increase the total length to about 3,000 feet. The bridge was apparently designed to sway and, if you visit on a windy day, you will find that it sways a lot. The movement is not noticeable while you are walking, but when you stop and sit in the middle, it is clear that the deck is moving several feet in each direction.

The profile is so striking that I made it the back cover of my book, Bridgespotting: A Guide to Bridges that Connect People, Places, and Times. To capture this bridge, I knew that I would have to make a special trip, halfway across the country. Fortunately, it is located close to the airport, making a one-day, hit-and-run visit possible. Alternatively, it is not located far from Interstate 80, requiring only a small side trip if you happen to be driving cross-country through Nebraska.

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