THE HISTORIC ROCKVILLE BRIDGE
Constructed in 1924 and spanning the Virgin River in the Town of Rockville, Utah, this single-lane bridge is the only surviving Parker Through Truss type bridge in the State of Utah. The U.S. Bureau of Public Roads designed the Rockville Bridge for the National Park Service. C.F. Dinsmore, an Ogden bridge contractor, erected the bridge on site from prefabricated steel components manufactured by the Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Company. The structural and historical integrity of the bridge have been exceptionally well preserved and on August 4, 1995, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Rockville Bridge performed a valuable role in the development of tourism in southwest Utah. Between 1924 and 1930, the Bridge provided the primary automobile route for visitors to Utah's National Parks. For early Park visitors, it cut 33 miles off the trek from Zion National Park to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. In 1926 tourists could arrive by train at the south rim of the Grand Canyon and take a daily bus service on a loop tour to Bryce Canyon then on to Zion National Park with a return trip to the Grand Canyon by way of the Rockville Bridge with a stop at Pipe Springs National Monument. When the Zion Mt. Carmel Highway and tunnel was completed in 1928 this more direct and easier route became the favored way to access Zion National Park from the Grand Canyon.
Today the bridge serves Rockville homes on the south side of the Virgin River and recreationists accessing Gooseberry Mesa and Smithsonian Butte. Tourists, as well as historians, cross the bridge daily to visit the Historic Town of Grafton. Rockville faces many challenges from tourism and recreational impacts, with over four million visitors annually descending upon this narrow canyon. The Rockville Bridge is a treasure and important architectural structure. It should be restored and protected for future generations.
The Town of Rockville is considered a rural, residential, and agricultural community, with only 247 residents. Since its founding by Mormon pioneers in 1862, Rockville has maintained the integrity of its historical town plan and has been referred to by historians as "Utah’s last treasure". Rockville has little commercial activity, so the tax base is relatively small.
In late 2012, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) completed a detailed inspection and evaluation of the Historic Rockville Bridge. Their inspection revealed significant deterioration and the load rating was downgraded to 14-tons. Plans were made to replace the historic bridge with a new two-lane bridge using Federal funds. In 2013, the Five County Association of Governments conducted a survey of all Rockville residents and property owners. With a 57% response rate, 74% indicated a preference to restore the existing bridge.
As a result, in 2015, the Town petitioned the Joint Highway Committee to alter the scope of work from a new two- lane replacement bridge to a full rehabilitation of the existing bridge. This rehabilitation would increase the load rating to its original 25-tons and add approximately 45 years to the life of the existing structure. Following a comprehensive feasibility study by Michael Baker International (see below), and given the support of local citizens, the Joint Highway Committee and Utah’s Transportation Commission approved the change to rehabilitate the Historic Rockville Bridge in June 2016.
In light of the efforts to rehabilitate the historic bridge, the community of 247 has been engaged in volunteer fundraising efforts led by Mayor Pam Leach, the Town Council and a Fundraising Committee. These efforts include Town budget allocations, rubber ducky races, art exhibitions and auctions, collection jars, the receipt of several grants and many other activities, which have netted a current fund of $70,000.
The Town of Rockville, with sponsorship from Representative Brad Last and Senator Evan Vickers, has recently made a request to the Utah State Legislature, for appropriation funding in the amount of $100,000. If granted, this funding would complete the matching funds of $169,250 needed from the Town. Assistance from the Utah State Legislature will ensure the preservation of this iconic structure.
Total Project Budget; $2,500,000
-Federal Highway Administration Funding for Rockville Bridge Rehabilitation is $2,330,920.
-Town of Rockville Matching Funds @ 6.77% amount to $169,250 and must be raised by October 2017. Funds raised to date are $70,000 through the combined efforts of grants, events, donors, and Town allocations.
After a lengthy delay to the project, the Design Team is working to expedite the timing of the construction. Currently, it is estimated that construction on the bridge will begin in April of 2018.
The temporary bypass will be created using 5 - 84 inch culverts in the river with road base as the driving surface. This bypass will run along the east side of the bridge. Access to the bypass will be developed off the existing roadway.
Preliminary engineering design plans have been created. These design plans will be reviewed by an independent engineering firm selected by UDOT. Once those plans have been approved by UDOT, they will be submitted to the State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) for review to confirm the design does not affect the National Registry of Historic Places status of the bridge. Preliminary discussions with SHPO have indicated they do not expect the required work to have an adverse affect.
Along with the needed strengthening to the steel members of the bridge, the culinary waterline will be removed from the bridge and a new deck system will be installed. Several deck options have been reviewed - a metal open grid deck, a transverse timber glulam deck, FRP composite deck panels or the lightweight concrete deck. The current choice is the transverse timber glulam deck, which will reduce the deck weight by 41.9 pounds per square foot which will help achieve the required 25 ton load rating, provide a smooth quiet driving/pedestrian surface, and will be in keeping with the original deck system. Given our mostly arid climate, the timber glulam should have a service life of 50 years. The hardwood running boards, which receive the most vehicular wear, can be easily replaced. The bridge paint system will be completed with a final coat of paint that will match the current rusted steel color.
Current cost estimates to complete the project are $2,810,000. The original funding was for $2.5 million, and the Town currently has funds in excess of the original Federal grant match required. As of September of 2017, we currently need an additional $287,485 based on the current cost estimates. Additional grants or low interest loans are being researched to provide any current funding overruns.
Should you wish to make a tax-deductible donation to the Bridge project, you may do so by cash or check in person at the Town Office between 9am and 1pm Monday through Friday at 43 East Main Street.
Town of Rockville
PO Box 630206
Rockville, UT 84763
You can also click the PayPal Donation button below and use a credit card for your donation. The Town will provide receipts for all donations. if you wish to receive your receipt by email, please include your email address with your donation.
Thank you for your support!
Town of Rockville
Historic Bridge Fund
Support/Partnerships include: Grafton Heritage Partnership, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Utah, Simmons Family Foundation, Town of Springdale, Washington County, Washington County Historical Society, Zion Canyon Arts & Humanities Council, & Zion National Park.
Updated September 18, 2017
Rockville Truss Bridge Rehabilitation Feasibility Study
by Michael Baker International
February 5, 2016
Rockville Bridge Budget
July 20, 2017