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Julien Dubuque Bridge
Julien Dubuque Bridge, late 1980s
Other name(s) High Bridge
Carries 2 lanes of U.S. Route 20
1 pedestrian walkway
Crosses Mississippi River
Locale Dubuque, Iowa, and East Dubuque, Illinois
Design Continuous steel arch truss bridge
Total length 5,760 feet (1,756 m)
Width 29 feet (9 m)
Longest span 845 feet (258 m)
Clearance below 64 feet (20 m)
Opened 1943
Coordinates 42°29′30″N 90°39′22″W / 42.49167°N 90.65611°W / 42.49167; -90.65611

The Julien Dubuque Bridge traverses the Mississippi River. It joins the cities of Dubuque, Iowa, and East Dubuque, Illinois. The bridge is part of the U.S. Highway 20 route. It is one of two automobile bridges over the Mississippi in the area (the Dubuque-Wisconsin Bridge three miles (5 km) north links Dubuque with Wisconsin), and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



For a number of years, people living in the area wanted a bridge to replace the old bridge, which was called either the "High Bridge" or the "Wagon Bridge." However, economic conditions at the time made it difficult to get the financing together to build a new bridge.

Julien Dubuque Bridge, September 2007

During World War II, the importance of a new bridge became even more important as it would help facilitate military transportation. In 1942, the first parts of the bridge were begun. In 1943, the bridge was completed. It was painted gray to help camouflage the bridge in case of enemy attack.

Because the bridge was financed with bonds, it was initially operated as a toll bridge. Proceeds were used to help pay off the bonds. In the post war years, traffic was so heavy that the bonds were paid off 11 years early, and the bridge became toll-free in 1954.

In the early 1990s, the bridge underwent an extensive renovation. The deck was completely replaced, and a new walkway was installed on the bridge. For many years, the bridge was a dark green color; however in more recent times it has again been painted a light gray color.

2008 barge collision

On June 9, 2008 the bridge was struck by a number of runaway barges shortly after 8:00 pm. Fifteen barges — which were loaded with corn, soybeans, and iron ore - struck one of the pillars on the eastern side of the main channel. Unsure of whether or not the bridge was stable, authorities temporarily closed the bridge until an inspection could be performed. Traffic was rerouted on to the Dubuque-Wisconsin Bridge a few miles to the north.[1][2]

On June 10 the Iowa Department of Transportation inspected the bridge and determined that it was safe for traffic. By 2:30pm they had reopened the bridge to traffic. Authorities believe that rapid currents present in the Mississippi River had caused the barges to come loose and strike the bridge. The pilot and crew of the barge tested negative for alcohol intoxication, with drug tests pending, and foul play was not suspected in this case.[3][4]

The future of the bridge

Downtown Dubuque with Julien Dubuque Bridge in background

Over the years, there has been considerable debate about the future of the bridge. Much of this debate centers on having a four-lane connection with Illinois. The debate has produced several options,

  • Expand the existing bridge to support four lanes.
  • Build a second two lane bridge next to the existing bridge, and have traffic one way on each bridge.
  • Build a new four lane bridge south of the Julien Dubuque Bridge, and leave the current bridge intact as an attraction or as a bridge for local traffic.
  • Tear down the Julien Dubuque Bridge, and replace it with a four lane bridge that looks similar to the current bridge.

Most officials have indicated that they would rather not do anything that detracts from the historically important bridge. Discussion about expansion of the bridge continues. While no firm plans have yet been made about the future of the bridge, officials are currently leaning towards building another bridge adjacent to the existing bridge.

See also


  1. ^ "Julien Dubuque bridge closed after barge strike". Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Woodward Communications, Inc.. 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2008-06-09.  
  2. ^ "Major Eastern Iowa Bridge Hit by Barges, Bridge Closed". KCRG. Cedar Rapids Television Company. 2008-06-10. Retrieved 2008-06-10.  
  3. ^ "Julien Dubuque Bridge reopens". Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Woodward Communications, Inc.. 2008-06-10. Retrieved 2008-06-10.  
  4. ^ "Rapid Current Blamed For Bridge Crash". Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Woodward Communications, Inc.. 2008-06-10. Retrieved 2008-06-10.  


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