Julien Dubuque Bridge

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Julien Dubuque Bridge
Julien Dubuque Bridge 066951pr.jpg
Julien Dubuque Bridge, late 1980s
Location US 20, between Dubuque, Iowa and East Dubuque, Illinois over the Mississippi River
Coordinates42°29′30″N 90°39′22″W / 42.49167°N 90.65611°W / 42.49167; -90.65611Coordinates: 42°29′30″N 90°39′22″W / 42.49167°N 90.65611°W / 42.49167; -90.65611
Area3.8 acres (1.5 ha)
Architectural styleTrussed arch bridge
NRHP reference #99001034
Added to NRHPAugust 27, 1999

The Julien Dubuque Bridge crosses the Mississippi River. It joins the cities of Dubuque, Iowa, and East Dubuque, Illinois. The bridge is part of U.S. Route 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, Oct. 2008
Julien Dubuque Bridge, July 2010

During World War II, 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 initially operated as a toll bridge. Proceeds were used to help pay off the bonds. In the post-war years, traffic was so heavy 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 replaced, and a new walkway was installed. For many years, the bridge was a dark green color; however in more recent times it again has been painted a light gray color.

Prior to the construction of the Dubuque-Wisconsin Bridge, the Julien Dubuque Bridge also carried US highways 61 and 151. This resulted in both of these highways passing a short distance through Jo Daviess County, Illinois between Dubuque and Wisconsin. Now both highways cross the Mississippi on the Dubuque–Wisconsin Bridge, which directly connects Wisconsin and Iowa, with neither US 61 nor US 151 passing through Illinois.

2008 barge collision[edit]

On June 9, 2008, the bridge was struck by a number of runaway barges shortly after 8 p.m. 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 the bridge was stable, authorities temporarily closed it 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 2:30 p.m. they had reopened the bridge to traffic. Authorities believe rapid currents present in the Mississippi River caused the barges to come loose and strike the bridge. The pilot and crew of the barge tested negative for alcohol intoxication and foul play was not suspected in this case.[3][4]

The future of the bridge[edit]

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 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, officials are leaning towards building another bridge adjacent to the existing bridge.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Julien Dubuque bridge closed after barge strike". Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Woodward Communications, Inc. 2008-06-09. Archived from the original on 2008-06-12. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
  2. ^ "Major Eastern Iowa Bridge Hit by Barges, Bridge Closed". KCRG. Cedar Rapids Television Company. 2008-06-10. Archived from the original on 2008-06-11. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  3. ^ "Julien Dubuque Bridge reopens". Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Woodward Communications, Inc. 2008-06-10. Archived from the original on 2008-06-12. Retrieved 2008-06-10.
  4. ^ "Rapid Current Blamed For Bridge Crash". Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Woodward Communications, Inc. 2008-06-10. Archived from the original on 2008-06-12. Retrieved 2008-06-10.