Bonding over the Bunker Mill Bridge

King Iron Bridge CoThe Iowa Department of Transportation’s 2,700 employees come from all walks of life and backgrounds. One thing we share is a core value of “Servant Leadership.” How this value plays out in everyday life varies, but it tends to spread throughout everything we do, both at work and at home.

Steve Rauch, a leader in our Coralville garage, has a hard time sitting on the sidelines when he sees something that needs to be done. He also has a knack for bringing others along with him. Back in 2013, a historic walking bridge over the English River near Steve’s former home outside of Kalona was severely damaged by a fire. The officials in Washington County were preparing to tear it down.

Steve said, “This bridge was only about a mile from our house at that time. One day my son came home after he had been helping with the clean-up after the fire and asked if I would come down to help. Once I got my hands dirty, I was committed to the project.”

Washington County was prepared to pay $80,000 for the bridge demolition.” Steve explained, “That money went quickly because they had to rent a crane and there was a lot of ironwork involved just to get the damaged parts removed. A woman named Julie Bowers from Grinnell and her group, Workin’Bridges got involved to help with raising money to rebuild the bridge.”

Steve had construction experience that was very useful for the reconstruction. He said, “I jumped in with my sons. With the help of a lot of others, we worked on it for the next three years. It really became our passion.”

Alec and an Amish gentleman
Steve's son Alec working with a community member on the bridge deck planks.

Working nights, weekends, and on his days off, the new bridge took three years to build. Steve said several of his friends came in and out along the way to loan equipment or help. He said they had assistance from local community members, too. “We had a group of Amish who came to help us put the planks on after my sons cut them. It was a great experience for the boys to learn different ways of doing things from them.”

The project was difficult and time-consuming, but Steve said it was fun getting to work with his family and friends. He said, “We spent so much time on that bridge and we all learned a lot. My son Alec is now a welder, and I think he chose that because of his experience building the bridge. They learned to work hard through this long process.” 

Now, Steve says the bridge serves as a source of pride for his family. He said, “While it was fun working together on the bridge, the best part is knowing that years down the road, it will still be there for everyone in the area to enjoy.”

Steve, AJ, Amish, and other volunteers,

What an outstanding job you worked on and finished!! Well done for their labor of love to get this bridge open again for them/others to come for decades.

Betty Gordon, Ames, retired 28+ yr. DOT secretary

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