The sleepy town of Grand Junction, Iowa, has the distinction of being on both the Transcontinental Railroad and America's first paved coast-to-coast road, the Lincoln Highway.
Just east of Grand Junction is the "Four Bridges Area" where examples of these important transportation milestones are visible, within yards of one another. The roads all had to cross West Beaver Creek.
The first bridge was built by the Chicago & Northwestern Railway as part of the Chicago to Omaha link of the Transcontinental Railroad. In 1915, the Lincoln Highway crossed West Beaver Creek on the north side of the C&NW bridge. The community was proud to be on the Lincoln Highway and the highway logo, featuring red, white and blue indicia and the letter "L" were cast into the parapet walls of the bridge.
Motorists who traveled the Lincoln Highway were often at peril because the road often crossed the busy railroad tracks. With no crossing gates, lights or warnings, other than crossbucks, motorists often had no idea that a speeding express train was bearing down upon them.
In order to make the road safer, the alignment of the highway was changed to eliminate as many grade crossings as possible. One such change was made on this segment of the Lincoln Highway in 1921. The alignment was moved to the south side of the railroad tracks and a new bridge was built to carry the highway across West Beaver Creek. In 1926, named highways were outlawed and the road became known as US 30.
US 30 was again moved in 1957 when the town of Grand Junction was bypassed by an entirely new alignment that passes the town to the north.
The original 1915 bridge is extant, and was purchased by Lincoln Highway enthusiasts and historians, Bob & Joyce Ausberger. The 1921 bridge is extant, although it now carries 222nd Street, allowing local residents easy access to US 30. The railroad bridge? Still there, too, although the C&NW was acquired by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1995.
It is possible to see all four bridges if you stand in the right place.
The Lions Club also donated land for an interpretive area between old and new alignments of US 30, just east of the four bridges. The interpretive area was under construction the last time this reporter visited the location.