A dedication ceremony for the new Big Wood River bridge south of Ketchum on Wednesday was by parts joyous and mournful.
The joy stemmed from celebrating the public art installation on the bridge from artist Kay Kirkpatrick.
Mourning came with remembrances of Idaho Transportation Department Engineer Ken Clausen, who helped design the bridge but died in 2016.
Clausen, 56, died last year as the result of a heart aneurysm while driving back from a committee meeting devoted to selecting the art projects that would adorn the completed bridge, said his wife, Wendy, who joined other family members at the ceremony Wednesday afternoon.
The ceremony was held at the southern end of the trestle bridge over the Big Wood River, which is part of the Wood River Trail system.
Wendy Clausen said her husband began working for ITD in 1984 and designed numerous bridges around Idaho. She said the family would take road trips around the state, checking a bridge off the list once they traveled over it.
“We would always laugh about it when we would go on trips,” she said.
Ken Clausen helped design the new Broadway Bridge in Boise, which was his “magnum opus,” Wendy Clausen said.
The day he died, he called his wife to discuss how enthusiastic he was about the art installation on the new Big Wood River bridge, she recalled.
“He was so excited,” she said. “He totally changed his mind. He was bubbly just talking about it.”
He valued the aesthetic appeal of bridges around Idaho, said co-worker Cameron Sobotka, who works in ITD’s Bridge Design Office.
“Ken wasn’t your typical engineer,” Sobotka said. “He believed bridges were a work of art. The community will have a piece of infrastructure that they can be proud of for years to come.”