As of Friday, September 22, 2017
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Jesse Webb's employment. The article has been corrected to note he is an employee of Western Federal Lands Highway Division, a subdivision of the federal government's transportation department. We regret the error. -ao
RIGGINS The new Manning Crevice Bridge may be ready for travelers later this year, and two possibilities have emerged for what may happen to the old one when work is finalized next spring or summer. The questions looming over the old bridge are who, if anyone, would pay the maintenance expenses involved with keeping it in place – and if no one will pay the cost of keeping it up, where it will go when it comes down.
Last month, book publisher Cort Conley advertised an effort toward retaining the bridge, and last week, the Riggins City Council announced a plan to relocate the old north tower to the parking area above Riggins City Park.
While the idea of keeping a piece of the bridge for public display in town may strike some as a bolt from the blue, the council has been pondering it for years, city records show.
“As soon as this project came up, there were some discouraged people about having that bridge destroyed, and the city council took that and came up with this plan,” Riggins mayor Glenna McClure said Monday, Sept. 18. “The new bridge may be driven on later this fall, but they have to epoxy the bridge and it’s my understanding the weather, when it is cold, doesn’t allow for that. So they won’t finalize that until the spring or early in the summer.”
Conley, whose most famous book may be the one he titled “Idaho Loners: Hermits, Solitaries, & Individualists,” did not respond to request for comment Monday afternoon. The advertisement he paid for urged people to contact Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests supervisor Cheryl Probert and Rep. Paul Shepherd.
Here’s a timeline of the council’s deliberations, based on minutes the city has posted online at rigginsidaho.org.
Back in 2010, when the Riggins City Council learned the Manning Crevice Bridge would someday be replaced, their meeting minutes declared keeping the bridge in place would not be workable.
“Authorities have indicated that they may want to give it to the city at some point, to be preserved for historical value,” it was noted in the records kept by then-mayor Bob Crump. “After discussion, it was agreed that the city had no funds to maintain the structure, and would accept it only if the Forest Service, or other government agency, would be responsible for its continued maintenance.”
Before construction began in 2015, the Riggins City Council began talking of having a piece of the bridge that could be displayed in the city “for historic purposes.” In May 2015, the idea was described as possibly involving a tower beam. That June, the council considered one of the “big top beams” might be appropriate, and the minutes note Crump’s successor – incumbent mayor Glenna McClure – passed the recommendation on to the Idaho Transportation Department.
The possibility of constructing an archway for the display was raised in July 2015, and the idea for requesting “uprights with crossbeams” was discussed the next year. In August 2016, replacement engineer Jesse Webb of Western Federal Lands Highway Division told the council pieces of the bridge would be available to the city, and the city asked for “10 feet of one whole end to put at the city park.”
Another step toward agreement on what to do with the old bridge took a step forward last month, with the August 2017 minutes noting the south tower weighs 19,000 pounds without the legs shortened, and last week, the city’s Facebook page, facebook.com/rigginscity, stated an agreement is being finalized for the city to display the north tower starting next summer.
Work on the new bridge is proceeding apace, with completion estimated this November, according to the project website, flh.fhwa.dot.gov/projects/id/manning-crevice, where weekly updates can be found.
Meanwhile, the contractor, RSCI, has asked the Idaho County Commission to accept the presence of a 400,000-pound rock RSCI said workers have nicknamed “humpty-dumpty.” The county commissioners, during their meeting on Sept. 12, considered drafting a letter asking RSCI to remove the rock, as is called for in the project design.