Riddle: I am 102 years old but still have a light in my eyes and a firm arch in my back. Few Logan residents ever notice me, but I help thousands of them get from one place to another each day. A river runs through me. What am I?
Answer: The Logan River bridge on South Main Street.
If you’ve driven along U.S. 89/91 in south Logan over the past year — which nearly every Cache Valley resident likely has — you’ve no doubt noticed a dramatic change in the cityscape there, beginning with large-scale tree removals and building demolitions, followed by major construction projects on both sides of the road.
Between those two phases of change, with everything leveled all around it, the historic bridge came into view for passing motorists like never before. Or at least it did for me, and for the first time I noticed the structure’s early 20th century charm, accentuated by stylized concrete lampposts and parapets reminiscent of the art deco architecture of the times.
But the bridge’s most distinctive and fascinating feature didn’t come to my attention until I did a little online research and then walked down along the river bank to get a closer look. If you’ve ever eaten at the outdoor tables at Elements restaurant, you may have noticed this feature. The 600 South bridge has what is known as a concrete “deck-arch” design, and it stands as one of the few remaining examples of this engineering feature in the region, at least for a bridge of its size.
Testament to this uniqueness is the landmark’s eligibility for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
All of the vital statistics on the structure and virtually every other bridge in the United States are available at the website bridgehunter.com. Among other things, the site informs us that the Main Street bridge over the Logan River was built in 1918, rehabilitated in 1951 and last inspected in 2017, when it earned a safety rating of 91.5, which translates into “good.” The arch spans 69.9 feet, and the bridge’s total length is 98.1 feet. As of 2014, it was handling an estimated 39,035 cars per day.
Because it is on a U.S. highway, the bridge is owned and maintained by the Utah Department of Transportation. But interestingly, the city of Logan has two similarly designed bridges along the Logan River, minus lampposts and most notably arches, which have fallen out of use on bridges in recent years in favor of steel-beam construction. One of these bridges is on 10th West (built in 1978), and another is on First East (built in 2009). A third is planned on First West when the city completes the extension of that street across the river within the next two years.
“They aren’t exactly the same — just that idea of having the parapet wall, the railing on the edge, to have windows in it, to give it that look, we’ve tried to make them at least similar,” Logan Public Works Director Paul Lindhardt said, noting that although structural integrity is always a primary concern, “sometimes engineers get a little wild hair and put some aesthetic into a project.”
Since it sits in a high-speed traffic area, the Main Street bridge doesn’t get many pedestrians, but it does have ample sidewalks for those willing to brave the noise and exhaust to cross the river there. With the Marriott Hotel complex soon to be straddling the river amid a cluster of new retail businesses, one can envision more people walking across the bridge, shepherded in the evening hours by the friendly lampposts.
The lampposts aren’t 1918 originals, but they’re newer than the 1951 renovation listed at bridgehunter.com. UDOT spokesman Zach Whitney wasn’t certain of the date but said a more recent fix-up project, about 15 years ago, involved replacement of the deteriorating parapet and lampposts. When I crossed the bridge last week, I had a suspicion the new lampposts aren’t concrete like the rest of the structure — just fabricated to look that way — but a little rap of the knuckles assured me they are the real thing.
I doubt anyone will ever mount a campaign to get this classic old conveyor of cars and trucks included on the historic registry, but I feel curiously honored to be able to share the little bit I’ve learned about the bridge with Herald Journal readers. Next time you drive across her on your way to or from Macey’s, Hyrum, Sardine Canyon or beyond, I hope you notice this unique piece of living Logan history. And if you’re ever on the patio at Elements, be sure to drink in the scene of the Logan River flowing into the darkness beneath the arch.