2018 has presented itself with many surprises in all aspects. In particular with bridgehunting and bridge photography, where readers, followers and enthusiasts have been awed by many historic bridges abandoned for many years until discovered most recently, communities where historic bridges that are little mentioned are getting recognition, and historic bridges that are the spotlight for photographers and preservationists who worked successfully to breathe new life into them.
And with that, the 2018 Othmar H. Ammann is now open to business. Between now and December 3rd, the Bridgehunter's Chronicles is now accepting entries of (historic) bridges and people who have worked to save them for reuse. Named after the Swiss bridge engineer who left his mark in bridge building in New York and the surrounding area, the Award is given out, both on the national and international levels in te following categories:
Best Bridge Photo
Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge
Lifetime Achievement (including post mortem)
Tour Guide- Communities, Counties, Districts with a high number of historic and fancy modern bridges
and you will be followed to the contact form and e-mail address where you can submit your entries. The contest is open for all people, but please pay attention to the guidelines for Best Bridge Photo. If you have any questions, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles.
Good luck and may the bridgehunting bring you the best bridges deserving the best recognition.
The popular PBS series, NOVA, documented the rebuilding of the Blenheim Covered Bridge, an 1855 structure that was washed washed away by Hurricane Irene in 2011. A replacement bridge, a replica of the original, was built over 2017-2018. This television show documented the rebuilding.
If you missed it on PBS, you can watch it on their website:
The Fox River Navigation System Authority has announced that a swing bridge, previously not operational, has been repaired. The inability of the bridge to open has limited the height of watercraft that use the locks in the navigational channel.
Now that the bridge is operational, the navigation channel is open to all Fox River watercraft that able to lock through Appleton.
Google has announced that they are "streamlining" their tools for embedding maps and Street View imagery on websites. Once you get past all of the buzzwords in their announcement, this represents a massive price increase in their services starting June 11.
Some back-of-the-envelope calculations show that Bridgehunter.com, Landmarkhunter.com, and BridgeReports.com would be on the hook for $19,000 per year at current usage under the new pricing regime.
To mitigate this, I've immediately switched all three sites to use the "Embed" version of Google Maps which will remain free (at least for now). Unfortunately, this version is a definite downgrade: it does not offer Terrain view, the default zoom level always seems to be too close, part of the map is obscured by an overlay that can't be removed, and Google reserves the right to place advertisements within it.
The county maps, Exhibit maps, and editor tools require more advanced services that will cost $7 per 1,000 uses. Google is offering $200 per month credit, but it's possible that we'll blow past that limit even with the changes I've made. We'll have to cross that bridge when we get to it, so to speak.
I have been working on building my own mapping engine, although it's not quite ready to launch. You can try it out at Mapwhatever.com. But keep in mind, as the front page warns, "Things will break. And how!"
I'd love to eliminate the dependency on Google services entirely, but right now Street View imagery is simply too helpful to leave behind. But that might become necessary if Google keeps "streamlining" their services with more price increases.
In order to get a handle on the rising costs of hosting this website and its 300,000 photos, I've reluctantly been forced
to start charging for certain features. Starting later this month, the following fee schedule will go into effect:
À la carte pricing
Site access: 1 cent per bridge page visited (first 10 pages are free)
Photo uploads: 10 cents to upload a single photo of an historic bridge
Photo uploads of UCEBs: $9.95 per photo fee to upload photos of mundane ugly bridges
Adding pages: 10 cents per new bridge page added
Duplicate page fee: $24.95 fee charged if a new page duplicates an existing page
Answers to questions: $2.00 per question asked
Correct answers to questions: $5.00 per correct answer
Steel Rivet Package: Provides access to 250 bridge pages, $1.00
Golden Spike Package: Unlimited access(*) to all bridge pages for one month, $4.95/month
Pro Package: Ability to upload 250 photos, $9.95
Bridge Addict Package: Ability to upload 10,000 photos, $39.95
Mega Smoot Jumbo Deluxe Pro Platinum Enhanced Unlimited Package With Sprinkles: Unlimited(*) use of all site features, $19.95 per month
(*) Unlimited access speeds may be throttled during periods of heavy use (see AT&T for details)
Details on payment methods will be announced as soon as they are finalized by Ms. Lirpa Sloof, the new business manager for Bridgehunter.com.
Starting this year, the Federal Highway Administration is switching to a new system for measuring bridge conditions. It's very simple: bridges will be classified as Good, Fair, or Poor.
The term Functionally Obsolete has been retired, and Structurally Deficient is being redefined more narrowly so that it exactly matches the Poor condition on the new scale.
This seems like a good thing, as Good/Fair/Poor is much easier to explain. I'm looking forward to no longer fielding questions about the intricacies of the terms Structurally Deficient and Functionally Obsolete.
The Good/Fair/Poor scale is based on the ratings for Superstructure, Substructure, and Deck, as determined during each bridge inspection. If any of these three ratings are scored as 4 (Poor) or below, then the bridge is considered Poor. If all of the ratings are at least 7 (Good), then the bridge is considered Good. Otherwise the bridge is Fair. (Culverts have a separate rating field which works the same.)
States will be expected to decrease the number of Poor bridges and increase the number of Good bridges, and will be penalized by FHWA if they don't make adequate progress in that direction.
Interestingly, the new system does not take into account NBI ratings for "Structural Appraisal" and "Waterway Adequacy Appraisal." This means that it's possible for bridges previously considered Structurally Deficient to end up as Fair (instead of Poor) on the new scale. Indeed, doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations shows that this applies to 6,815 bridges. Of these, 756 are truss bridges.
Likewise, the elimination of the term Functionally Obsolete also makes a difference. Of those bridges previously declared as Functionally Obsolete, 53,937 now fit into the Fair category, and 21,750 qualify for the Good category. Among both of these groups, 1,972 are truss bridges.
The upshot -- and we can always dream -- is that a significant number of historic bridges, particularly truss bridges, won't be quite as juicy a target for replacement. It's been frustrating to watch perfectly sound bridges being demolished simply because they were too narrow and therefore "obsolete."
Of course, we have no idea how this will actually play out, but perhaps this will help some historic bridges avoid the wrecking ball. State DOTs will now be "on the clock" to prevent bridges from slipping from Good to Fair to Poor, and this will hopefully spur an emphasis on preventative maintenance and rehabilitation.
The latest NBI dataset from 2017 does not incorporate the new Good/Fair/Poor scale. However, it's easy enough to apply the new scale, so I've updated the data shown on Uglybridges.com and here on Bridgehunter.com to reflect the new system. I've retroactively applied the new scale to the archived data to make it easier to look at trends.
If this year could be summed up in a phrase, it would be: Gravity is a harsh mistress. Idiot truck drivers, arsonists, record-setting flash floods, and plain old neglect led several historic bridges to fall victim to gravity's relentless pull.
On the brighter side, 2017 saw the restoration of four bowstring truss bridges, all relocated to public parks where they can be enjoyed. It also brought the long-awaited completion of several bridge projects that we've been following for years, including Dodd Ford Bridge in Minnesota, War Eagle Bridge in Arkansas, and the venerable Burnside's Bridge at Antietam Battlefield in Maryland.
Here is a look at some of the more important developments of the year. (I apologize in advance if I've overlooked your favorite bridge project.)
Year of bowstrings
Four bowstring bridges from the late 1800s are now open to pedestrian traffic in their new homes in Arkansas, Kentucky, and Ohio.
Springfield Bridge - The oldest known bridge in Arkansas, this 1874 King Iron Bridge Co. span has long been a high-priority for historic preservationists. This award-winning project relocated the bridge from Cadron Creek to an easily accessible location in a city park at Conway, Arkansas.
McCool's Creek Bridge - This bowstring pony truss, a ca. 1869 King Iron Bridge Co. creation, had been relocated a few years ago to Carrollton, Kentuky, but it took until this summer before it was re-decked and made available for public use.
Lisbon Bridge - This 1872 Massillon Bridge Co. span has been restored, providing pedestrian access to the fairgrounds in Lisbon, Ohio.
Bayonne Bridge progress
With a price tag of nearly $1.7 billion, the project to raise the deck of the Bayonne Bridge to accommodate taller cargo ships is likely one of the most expensive bridge rehabilitation projects ever undertaken in the United States. After a new, higher roadway deck was opened to traffic, the original lower deck was removed. This phase was completed in June, providing 215 feet of vertical clearance instead of the 155 feet of the original design by Othmar Ammann and Cass Gilbert.
With so many other major bridges in the New York City metro area in the process of being demolished (Goethals, Tappan Zee, Kosciuszko), at least the Port Authority decided to keep this bridge. They had considered replacing it from scratch with a new bridge or tunnel, or even demolishing the old bridge and not replacing it.
Other successful projects
War Eagle Bridge (Benton County, Arkansas) - This 1907 Parker through truss (with makeshift Kingpost-ish approach spans) was rehabbed and reopened to traffic in October following a two-month closure. Sitting next to a picturesque mill, the War Eagle Bridge is part of an important Arkansas tourist attraction.
Burnside's Bridge (Washington County, Maryland) - Built in 1836, this stone arch bridge played a key role in the 1862 Battle of Antietam. In April, the bridge was reopened to pedestrian traffic following a $2.2 million restoration project.
Dodd Ford Bridge (Blue Earth County, Minnesota) - This 1901 Camelback through truss was re-dedicated in June. The addition of a small roadside park, including observation deck and interpretive signage, is the cherry on top of this project.
Broadway Avenue Minnesota River Bridge (St. Peter, Nicollet County, Minnesota) - A peculiar two-span skewed Pennsylvania truss built in 1931, this state highway bridge has been restored and reopened to traffic.
Although the bridge project led to major traffic headaches, the end product is a beauty, and should handle modern traffic demands for decades to come.
Stony Brook Bridge (Princeton, Mercer County, New Jersey) - Built in 1792, this is New Jersey's oldest bridge open to road traffic. Following a partial collapse in 2016 from flooding, the bridge was successfully reconstructed in 2017, and now it is back to carrying traffic on US 206.
Gospel Street Bridge (Paoli, Orange County, Indiana) - It didn't take long for a lost truck driver to turn this 1880 wrought-iron through truss into a pile of twisted metal. Two years later, however, the span has been completely restored. It is expected to be officially reopened on Jan. 3, 2018, following a small delay while "headache bars" are installed -- a prudent idea for sure.
As mentioned before, natural and man-made disasters conspired with gravity to destroy several bridges this year:
Flash flooding during the spring across southern Missouri sent the Meramec River to new heights, completely wiping out Bruns Bridge in Franklin County, a wrought-iron Pratt truss built 1888 by the King Iron Bridge Co.
The same rainstorm also wiped out James Bridge, a two-span pony truss in Ozark County. The force of the water flipped one of the trusses upside down.
This was an appalling year for hurricane strikes as Harvey, Irma, and Maria ganged up on Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. The Houston area saw unbelievable rainfall amounts from Harvey, but that was just a warm-up for the catastrophe that Maria brought to Puerto Rico. In addition to the many homes destroyed, the lives lost, and the never-ending power outages, the island also saw many villages cut off from the world as a large number of critical bridges were wiped out. Puerto Rico has an interesting collection of historic bridges, especially unusual truss bridges following European rather than American-style designs, but details at this point are rather sketchy about how they fared.
In Missouri, a completely forgotten Parker through truss near Mill Spring in Wayne County collapsed in March. Somehow this bridge had escaped my notice despite being clearly visible in aerial imagery. This kind of thing makes you wonder how many other historic bridges -- forgotten, surrounded by private property -- are on the verge of succumbing to gravity's icy grip.
As for man-made disasters, one of the "Bridges of Madison County" was destroyed by arson in April. The Cedar Bridge, itself a reconstruction of a bridge destroyed by arson in 2002, was set fire again. Three teenagers have been charged with arson in this year's burning. In December, a grant was awarded to construct version 3 of the bridge.
Truck drivers lacking common sense were out in full force again this year. The Gilliece Bridge (1874 bowstring) in Winneshiek County, Iowa, collapsed after a driver attempted to cross it with a grain truck far excess of the posted 3 ton weight limit.
In December, a farmer attempted to drive a tractor with a disc ripper attachment across the O'Neal Bridge in Boone County, Indiana. The attached farm implement was wider than the bridge, and that's not a good thing for a through truss. At last report, the wreckage of the bridge is being salvaged with the long-term intention of reconstructing it.
As with any other year, a large number of significant bridges were replaced and demolished. In no particular order:
With construction season winding down and a lot of success stories involving restoring historic bridges, now is the time to nominate our favorite historic bridge(s) and preservationists both here and abroad. Between now and the 3rd of December, entries are being taken for the 2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards. As mentioned many times, there are six categories for both American as well as international bridges which you can nominate. Information on the categories and how you can enter are in the link below.
Voting will take place during the holiday season from December 4th until 6th January, 2018 with the winners to be announced on the 12th. The ballot will be available through The Bridgehunter's Chronicles. If you have bridges that deserve to be nominated and deserve an Award, or if you have any questions, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at:
Happy Bridgehunting and may the nomination for the Ammann Awards begin! :-)
I took advantage of the long weekend to make a few improvements to the website:
Documents: I've added a new tool to upload documents to bridge pages. The documents can be in PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, GIF, PNG, TIFF, JPEG, or BMP formats (limit is 100 megabytes per file). This is primarily intended for reports and technical drawings, but could be used for lots of things. See an example here.
Builders: To help manage the ever-growing list of builders, people are now sorted alphabetically by last name instead of first name. When editing a builder's information, the new "Sort by" box provides a way to specify how the name should be alphabetized.
I haven't figured out how best to handle companies that include the name of a person (like "A. Guthrie & Co."). These kinds of names are surprisingly common, but for now I haven't touched any of them.
Photo numbers: Each photo now includes an ID number that can be used for identifying that particular photo in forum comments or elsewhere.
Garmin POI files: I've uploaded Points of Interest files that can be loaded on Garmin GPS devices. First download garmin.zip (6.8 MB). Included are bridges.gpi (for standing bridges) and lostbridges.gpi (for bridges that are gone). One or both of these files can be transferred to most Germin GPS devices (either by SD card or USB cable connection). More recent devices should have enough internal memory to permanently install the POIs (for older devices it may be necessary to keep an SD card around). Once loaded, going to "Extras" and then "Custom POIs" will show the bridges that are nearest to your current location (the exact menus may vary by model).
For non-Garmin devices, the ZIP file includes alternate bridges.gpx and lostbridges.gpx files that can be converted to other formats using gpsbabel or other software.
Have you procrastinated in choosing a place to enjoy the total solar eclipse? Are you nervously watching the cloud forecast and waiting until the last minute to decide?
If so, you may consider choosing a spot with a historic bridge in view. Here are some of the more interesting and photogenic bridges that are located within the path of Monday's celestial concealment. With the eclipse following a length of 2.36 megasmoot across the United States, there are plenty of places to choose for watching this rare stellar shrouding.
I apologize in advance if I overlooked your favorite span. From west to east:
April showers bring... May insurance claims. That's been the case in Missouri and surrounding states as a massive rainstorm produced record flooding across a wide area. The impact on historic bridges was substantial. Here is a roundup of bridges that suffered from the flooding.
The truck driver who caused a historic Indiana bridge to collapse because she wasn’t sure how much six tons weighed has been sentenced to jail.
Indiana Judge R. Michael Cloud sentenced 24 year old truck driver Mary Lambright to the maximum sentence of 180 days behind bars. She was also ordered to pay $2000 to cover part of the costs of the bridge inspection once construction on the new structure is completed.
An important component of Milwaukee's historic Lake Park was closed without notice on December 9, 2016. The bridge, designed by Alfred C. Clas and George Bowman Ferry, connects the northern and southern halves of the park by spanning a deep ravine. Lake Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. It was posted to the NRHP in 1993.
The historic bridge's fate is uncertain. Photo by author.
The concrete arch bridge has been a source of concern for several years. Cracks and spalling raised concerns, leading to a structural analysis in 2015. Potential failure of the bridge prompted its closure on December 9 along with the closing of Ravine Drive, a roadway spanned by the bridge. According to County Executive Chris Abele, the bridge will be demolished if people ignore the chain link gates that block access.
The Tama News Herald Toledo Chronicle is reporting this morning that an early morning accident on October 11 dislodged the letter "Y" in the north railing of the Mud Creek Bridge in Tama. The letter is one of the balustrades that spell "LINCOLN HIGHWAY" on the railings of the iconic bridge. They further report that the damage may have been caused by a chrome bumper or chrome wheels because there are no paint scrapes on the letter or the railing itself.
Authorities say the bridge recently underwent structural analysis and they believe insurance should cover the cost of repairs.
The bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Photo courtesy of the News-Herald
Photo by John Speer.
Link to original article:
It's Fall time and in connection with its fifth anniversary of its existence, the 2016 Ammann Awards are underway. Between now and 1 December 2016, all entries are being taken for the categories of Best Kept Secret/ Tour Guide, Best Photo, Lifetime Achievement, Mystery Bridge and Best Example of a preserved historic bridge. All entries are welcome, even from abroad. Click here for details.
Voting will commence in December but in two parts:
Part 1 will focus on the 2016 Awards candidates themselves, while Part 2 will feature the voting of all of the winners and runners-up in each category dating back to 2011, where the top six in each will be inducted into the Chronicles' Hall of Fame, a special section where every five years, six candidates will be inducted for the US as well as international. This does not apply for Lifetime Achievement as the winners are automatically inducted annually. More to come when the voting process starts. Get your cameras out, take your kids on tours and let's see some gorgeous bridges! :-)
Carelessness can come at a price, most of the time when you at least expect it. We've seen a number of stories of truckers losing their goods and their vehicles by disregarding warning signs and proceeding as planned. But why is that? Why don't truckers pay more attention to the rules of the road and bridges than on convenience? In an interview I did with Jeremy Johnson, who owns a trucking business in Marshall, MN, I had a chance to get an insight on the world of trucking from his point of view, which all boils down to two key words: experience and common sense. Using the latest story on the Gospel Street Bridge collapse as leverage, have a look at what can be done as a truck driver to avoid senseless accidents like we've seen lately. For those in the trucking industry or are wishing to enter the profession, this guide is for you to follow so you can prepare accordingly. Remember: common sense and experience are key; Comvenience and Efficiency are not! But safety trumps all profits earned on any trucking trips. Link: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2016/08/17/experience-...
I've just received word that the governor of Michigan intends to sign a bill that will effectively outlaw taking photos of public property in the state without paying a large fee and obtaining a license.
Under the bill, the likeness of every government structure within Michigan -- including bridges on public roads -- will be protected by copyright, making it illegal to take photos without obtaining express written consent of a newly created state office, the Copyright Revenue Adjustment Panel.
According to the bill's preamble, the legislation has several goals, including:
Protecting the children by raising extra money to shore up Michigan's terrible financial condition
Protecting the children by tightly controlling photos of the state's resources, enhancing the "Pure Michigan" brand and increasing tourism and jobs
Protecting the children by making it harder for pedophiles to capture photos of innocent children who happen to walk across public streets or bridges
Protecting the children by making it harder for would-be terrorists to take photos of critical infrastructure
Protecting the children by preventing photographers from obstructing traffic and causing accidents
In a press release, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Leonard "Lirpa" Sloof, explained that he got the idea after seeing a barrage of newspaper articles and TV segments using stock footage of deteriorating lead pipes in Flint. "This whole Flint water incident has been a convenient way for out-of-state media to pursue their anti-Michigan propaganda," he explained. "But then it dawned on me: we can just claim those lead pipes are government property and we should be able to control who takes photos of them."
He added: "It's all about the children. I don't want any anybody to whine that this violates the First Amendment. The Constitution specifically allows for enforcing copyright, and that's exactly what we're doing here."
Bridgehunter.com is currently discussing options with legal counsel. If the law goes into effect, it will be necessary to blur all Michigan bridge photos, or remove them outright. Our legal team is also researching the possibility of relabeling all Michigan bridges as actually being located in a neighboring state, like Ohio.
November is National Historic Bridge month, and for the fifth time since its launch in 2011, The Bridgehunter's Chronicles is presenting the Othmar H. Ammann Awards in categories ranging from Best Photo, to Lifetime Achievement, to Best Example of a Preserve Historic Bridge to even a region with a very high number of HBs that exist. Again as in the past, the awards will be given to US bridges as well as those on the international scale. To learn more on how to submit your entries, please click on the link below:
Entries will be taken between now and 1 December with voting to commence afterwards.
In addition, to commemorate the Chronicles' five-year anniversary, a special category will be added in the voting mix: The Top Five Historic Bridges one should see and The Top Five Places with a large number of historic bridges. These will be based on the top three bridge candidates that had been entered in the Ammann Awards per year since its launch in 2011. They will be added to the voting ballot.
For further questions or to submit your entry for the Ammann Awards, please contact Jason Smith either by using the contact form below:
STURGIS- The state fire marshal is investigating a fire that destroyed the Full Throttle Saloon, located east of Sturgis, South Dakota, which happened early this morning. The fire department was called in at 12:30am to battle the blaze that started inside the world's largest biker bar, only to retreat because of heat and smoke. Three hours later, the building was engulfed in flames. Unfortunately the fire severely damaged two historic bridges located on either side of the building complex. More information on the fire, the history of the HBs relocated to the site in 2008, and pictures of the saloon after the fire can be found here: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2015/09/08/full-thrott... More will be revealed in the coming weeks as to whether the building complex and the historic bridges will be rebuilt.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that on January 19, 2015, a bridge over I-75 collapsed about 10:30 PM in Camp Washington near Cincinnati, Ohio. According to the report, 1 construction worker is confirmed dead, a semi-truck driver was injured. The catastrophic pancake collapse happened on the old northbound exit ramp to Hopple Street, which was being prepared for demolition at the time of the collapse. The replacement bridge is already open.
Photo: Cincinnati Fire Department
The semi-driver was injured when his rig collided with the rubble. Had he been a few seconds earlier, the results might have been quite different.
"What appears to have happened is, in essence, an industrial incident – a workplace incident with respect to a construction crew that's doing work out here," city manager Harry Black said. "Something went wrong, and a tragedy has occurred as a result. ... We don't believe that there is any additional loss of life."
City officials expect the highway to be closed for at least 48 hours while the investigation and cleanup takes place.
(Sources: Cincinnati Enquirer, WHIO News, various wire services)
Yes sir, it's that time of year again. In connection with National Historic Bridge Month in November, the Bridgehunter's Chronicles is once again hosting the fifth annual Othmar H. Ammann Awards. Between now and December 1st, entries are being taken for the Ammann Awards in the categories of Best Photo, Best Kept Secret in the fields of individual bridges found and tour guides- cities/regions with a high number of historic bridges, Lifetime Achievement, Mystery Bridge and Bridge of the Year. More information on the Ammann Awards and where you can send your entries can be found here: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2014/10/26/now-taking-... Voting will take place beginning December 3rd, with the winners to be announced in January. More information on the voting scheme to come in the Chronicles very soon. If you have a bridge or a pontist that deserves accolades for all that has been done, then let's give them the recognition needed. Happy hunting and submitting.
As we recover from the Independence Day weekend, I've added these website features:
Draft mode while adding bridges: When creating a new bridge, you have the option of leaving the page as a draft so that it won't
be visible to the public or appear on the Updates list. You can continue to make edits to the page, and then publish it when you are ready.
"My Stuff" page: Since draft bridges won't appear on the site, I've added an admin page that shows the bridges that you've
created, even if they are still in draft mode. If you lose track of a bridge, you can find it here and publish it. Click the "My Stuff" link in the black bar at the top of every page (this was formerly labeled "My Photos") and then click "My Bridges".
Improvements to the Updates list: When adding or editing a bridge, you have the option of specifying what note should appear on
the main Updates page. You can also skip adding an update by leaving the "Update log" box blank.
Quadrangle maps: Both bridgehunter.com and landmarkhunter.com now provide easier access to USGS quadrangle maps, which can be quite
helpful for finding obscure locations. Most bridge and landmark pages now link to a page showing information about the relevant quadrangle map. From there, you can download the PDFs from the USGS website, jump to quadrangles at different scales, or browse adjoining quads. On landmarkhunter.com, you can also see the quads that cover a particular county: first go to the county's main page and then click "Quadrangles."
As always, these changes may have introduced weird bugs. Please let me know if something is out of whack.
Choosing the Top-Ranked Unique Savable Structures for this year has been harder than ever. In addition to those bridges facing demolition and replacement with UCEBs -- some things never change -- this year's nominations also focused on abandoned bridges that are intact but could soon collapse or deteriorate beyond the point of repair.
In no particular order, here are the 2014 TRUSS Award winners:
The bridge: Despite having the appearance of a cantilever, this unique bridge has been classified as a "Reverse Parker", or a Parker truss where the top chord swoops downward instead of up. Built in 1905 by the Kansas City Bridge Co., it's unclear why this peculiar design was chosen, especially with a relatively short main span (120 feet) which could have easily accommodated a simple Pratt truss.
The significance: This is the only known bridge of its type in the U.S., making this a no-brainer for listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.
The situation: The Asylum Bridge has remained abandoned for some years. Photos suggest that the stone piers are deteriorating, which could jeopardize the bridge.
The plan: Miami County has an excellent collection of historic bridges, especially around Osawatomie. Last year, the nearby Creamery Bridge was rehabilitated, and comments in the newspaper suggest that the county commissioners understand the value of historic bridges. If the Asylum Bridge were to be repaired and reopened to pedestrians, Miami County will be sitting pretty.
The bridge: Built for the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad in 1894, this bridge features three pin-connected Pratt through trusses. Despite its location near the more famous Republican River Pegram Truss, this bridge has remained overlooked.
The significance: This is one of a tiny population of truss bridges attributed to the Lassig Bridge & Iron Works of Chicago.
The situation: Although the bridge appears structurally sound, it is abandoned and overgrown. Similar bridges have been dismantled in the past for scrap value with little or no warning.
The plan: Designed to support locomotives, the superstructure on this bridge is likely sound enough to handle pedestrians. With a new deck and railings, this bridge could be reopened for pedestrian use, making it a perfect companion for the nearby Pegram Truss bridge.
The bridge: Nicknamed the "Blue Bridge", this was built as a four-span Warren pony truss, but one of the spans has collapsed and the other three are in appalling condition due to deterioration and visits from metal thieves.
The significance: This is a rare example of a multi-span pony truss bridge of any kind in the Chicago area.
The situation: It seems likely that the remaining spans will eventually collapse under their own weight without repairs.
The plan: A report from 2012, the Blue Island Active Transportation Plan, advocates the possibility (p. 33) of restoring the bridge for bicycle/pedestrian access to Jackson Street on the south side. It notes, "Jackson Street is closed westbound at Ashland Avenue, yet Calumet Township continues to collect tax for its maintenance. The township can return value to Blue Island residents by paying for reopening of Jackson Street as a nonmotorized route and participating in the reconstruction of the Blue Bridge as a bicycle and pedestrian crossing."
The bridge: Located at a scenic stretch of the South Fork American River, this one-lane suspension bridge was built in 1939.
The significance: Featuring timber floor beams, stringers, and deck, this bridge more closely resembles a rustic 1800s-era bridge than something from the 1930s.
The situation: Sitting in the middle of a sharp S-curve and having a deck width of only 9 feet, local officials have wanted to replace the bridge for many years. According to the official project website, however, no decision has been made.
The plan: Mosquito Road near the bridge features sharp switchbacks, so it seems likely that a replacement bridge would be built at a high level over the canyon to eliminate these curves. If indeed the new bridge is built on a different alignment, it should be feasible to keep the old bridge in place for pedestrian use (or even light traffic) to enjoy this scenic location.
The bridge: This is a large cantilever through truss over the Mississippi River featuring a partial K-truss design. It was opened to traffic on the last day of 1932.
The significance: Cantilevered trusses as well as K-trusses are both rapidly disappearing.
The situation: Construction on a replacement bridge is slated to begin 2015. The Illinois Department of Transportation offered the old bridge for adaptive reuse, but with ridiculous strings attached -- it must be completely removed within 30 days and then reassembled and maintained forever. Such a short time frame to carefully dismantle this massive bridge is virtually impossible, and would represent a truly remarkable feat in the history of civil engineering.
The plan: This bridge received the most nominations of any other bridge, but it's going to require a very well-organized campaign to have any hope of saving this one.
The bridge: Built in 1892 by D.H. Young of Manchester, Iowa, this Pratt through truss features elaborate decorations above the portals.
The significance: The Iowa Historic Bridge Inventory reports that this NRHP-listed bridge is distinguished "for its relatively early erection date, well-preserved condition and the decorative iron cresting on its portals." This is a rare remaining work of D.H. Young, a civil engineer and bridge builder who later became a state representative and senator.
The situation: The bridge was closed to traffic in March 2013 after failing an inspection due to "corrosion of bridge materials." Plans are underway to replace the bridge.
The plan: Sitting next to a city park, it makes sense to build a replacement bridge on a new alignment and leave the historic bridge in place for pedestrian use.
The bridge: This is an authentic 90-ft Bailey truss relocated from an unknown location, perhaps in 1982, and set on existing stone piers.
The significance: Although the exact history of this span remains a mystery, the bridge is marked with the names of two British companies: Thos. Storey Engineers Ltd of Manchester (shown by patent plaque) and Appleby-Frodingham Steel Co. of Lincolnshire (steel brand). This strongly implies that the structure was imported from England as World War II era surplus. The British plaques make this an exceptionally rare bridge.
The situation: The bridge is closed to all traffic with a barricade at one end and a chain-link fence at the other.
The plan: Bailey bridges were intended to be portable, and that feature would come in handy if a new home can be found for this structure.
The bridge: This bridge spans Lock 12 of the Champlain Canal at Whitehall, New York. It is a double-intersection Warren through truss built in 1911.
The significance: Although historic in its own right, this bridge is also notable for how it was used in modern times: as a performing arts center. When the bridge was closed to traffic in 1999, civic leaders spearheaded the ingenious idea of converting it into a theater. An enclosure was built inside the trusses, providing seating capacity for 60 people. This unique venue operated until 2009, when the bridge failed inspection and was completely shut down.
The situation: The theater enclosure has been removed and the bridge is in danger of demolition.
The plan: It may take another ingenious idea, but hopefully this bridge can be preserved in place. It would be a shame to lose it now after all that was done to save it the first time.
The bridge: Built in 1905 to span a rail line along the Hudson River, this double-intersection Warren pony truss features three truss webs and a double-barreled roadway.
The significance: Although several double-barreled through trusses remain in use across the country, this is one of the only -- if not the only -- extant pony truss with this configuration.
The situation: The weight limit was recently reduced to 3 tons, putting it on the verge of being closed entirely. Ferry Street provides one of only two entrances to the waterfront (the other is an at-grade rail crossing), so this is an important bridge. Ownership of the bridge is in the process of being transferred from CSX to Amtrak, but local officials want the city to take over the bridge and replace it, calling the project a top priority.
The plan: The city has had trouble obtaining funding to replace the bridge, so they may not have any choice but to repair, instead of demolish, the bridge.
The bridge: This is a five-span Camelback Pratt through truss built in the early 1950s in conjunction with the construction of Bull Shoals Lake.
The significance: For reasons that are unclear, the Camelback truss design -- seemingly obsolete at the time -- was chosen for this and three other bridges built around Bull Shoals Lake. Very few other Camelback trusses were built in the country after World War II.
The situation: The bridge is slated for replacement in 2017.
The plan: According to a news story from February, the idea was floated at a public meeting to preserve the bridge for use as a pedestrian walkway. This could potentially be more cost effective than building a walkway on the new bridge.
April has been declared Covered Bridge Heritage Month, and we're ready at Bridgehunter.com to shine the spotlight on this category of oft-neglected and frequently overlooked historic bridges.
To celebrate, you'll notice a few improvements to the website:
1. The masthead photos are now 100% covered bridges.
2. Only covered bridge related updates now appear on the front page.
3. By popular demand, covered bridges will be automatically highlighted on the county listing pages to distinguish them from boring old iron bridges. The ability to hide covered bridges -- a feature only used by one regular user -- has been deprecated in order to simplify the user interface and improve efficiency.
The federal government has finally posted the latest version of the National Bridge Inventory database.
I've updated the inspection reports for the bridges on this website where possible. The "Add Bridge from NBI" tool has been updated with the 2013 data, and I've also added other years from the past to make it easier to find lost bridges.
In addition, I've posted a new version of the OVERPASS software program for processing the raw NBI data. This new version updates the fields for the 2013 edition and attempts to handle some of the broken latitude/longitude coordinates for certain bridges (although some of them are hopeless). You can download it here (note: it requires the Perl programming language).
With the new year arriving, it's time again for the annual TRUSS Awards to recognize Top-Rated Unique Savable Structures. The purpose is to draw attention to special bridges that are threatened with demolition, but could be saved.
Nominations will be accepted through Jan. 31, with the awards announced sometime in February.
To nominate a bridge, go to the page for that bridge and click the "Nominate" button near the top. Or, for bridges that aren't listed, follow this link.
If you have an editor's account, you can now upload photos or forum comments by email.
First, login to the website and go to the Settings page. Make a note of the email address given under "Personalized email address for submissions." When you send messages to that address, the system will automatically process them and link them to your account so that you get proper credit.
Use the email's subject line to specify where you want the attached photos to appear. See the Help page for full details.
The main advantage is being able to upload photos or post comments from your smartphone in the field. If, for example, you discover a "bonus" bridge, you can quickly post a forum comment with a snapshot, even while you're standing on it (assuming you can get a signal).
Note that this is an experimental feature, so let me know how it works (or doesn't work).
Well, 2013 is almost over. With November looming, we also have our last award to be given out honoring historic bridges and pontists both on the national as well as the international scale. The third annual Othmar H. Ammann Awards, presented by the Bridgehunter's Chronicles, is now open, and nominations are being taken for Best Photo, Best Kept Secret, Best Mystery Bridge, Lifetime Legacy and a new category, Best Example of a Well-Preserved Historic Bridge. Between now and December 1st at 12:00am Central Standard Time, the Chronicles will be taking nominations with voting to commence in December. The winners will be announced before Christmas. More information on the Ammann Awards can be found via link below. Please submit your nominations to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at email@example.com. Happy Bridgehunting and looking forward to your submissions of your photos for the Awards.
According to the Detroit Free Press, it appears the car ferry SS Badger will continue to ply Lake Michigan between Manitowoc and Ludington. The Badger is the last operational car ferry of the once enormous fleet of railroad ferries, and the last coal-fired cargo vessel on the lakes.
And therein lies her problem. The SS Badger has been on the endangered species list since 2008, when the Environmental Protection Agency leveled the ship into its crosshairs. Coal-fired vessels disposed of coal ash by mixing it with water and pouring it overboard. The Badger is no different, and has been disposing of coal ash into the lake since it was built in 1953. The EPA claims the coal ash is a pollutant and ordered the dumping stopped in 2008. The operators were given until 2012 to stop dumping or cease operations. The legal battle has continued ever since.
On October 10, 2013, U.S. District Judge Janet Neff approved a revised deal between the EPA and Lake Michigan Carferry, parent company of the S.S. Badger.
The agreement allows the Badger to continue operations while modifications are made to the ship. The deal calls for a reduction in the amount of ash discharged during the 2014 sailing season and by the start of the 2015 season, the Badger will have to store coal ash on board for later disposal on shore.
With this ruling, it appears the Queen of the Great Lakes Car Ferries (and the last of her breed still sailing) will continue to be an operational historical landmark.
Each year since 2009, the Historic Bridge Weekend has taken place in August or September, and each year, it has drawn in more people who are experts in historic bridges, preservation or history, as well as those who are either bridge enthusiasts or have a keen interest in how these vintage structures were built and how they played a role in American History.
This year's Historic Bridge Weekend will focus on Iowa, where various types of historic bridges dating as far back as the 1870s can still be seen today, each having its own history in terms of bridge builder and in terms of its association with the communities that cherish them.
The 5th annual event will take place August 9th through the 12th and will focus on eastern Iowa and the Des Moines area. A formal dedication dinner honoring James Hippen will take place August 9th at the Stone City General Store near Anamosa, with dinner and presentations taking place August 10th at Baxa's Restaurant and Tavern next to Sutliff Bridge and August 11th at Horn's Ferry Bridge at 2:30pm as well as at Bos Landen Golf Course near the Horn's Ferry Bridge in Pella at 5:30pm.
The trip to the Kate Shelley Viaduct on the morning of August 12 will round off the four-day event.
Please RSPV Jason Smith before July 15th if you are interested in participating in the HB Weekend and attending the dinner and presentations, so that the venues know how many will attend and you can plan accordingly. Hope to see you at this year's HB Weekend in Iowa.
You may have noticed some new features rolled out over the last few weeks:
County pages now have filters for hiding or showing different classes of bridges (lost, modern and covered). The system remembers your settings from page to page.
Likewise, the Updates page has filters to hide/show different kinds of changes. This way you can filter out minor updates,
but highlight major status changes (such as a bridge being demolished).
On bridge pages, the major tools (Photo gallery, Google Map and Google Street View) are customizable. Just look for the "Preference" pulldown menu to see the options. All of these settings are remembered via cookies, so they apply to each computer or device separately, and no login is required. So, you could allow Street View on your desktop computer, but hide it on your smartphone.
The new "Reports" tab in the main navigation bar includes various kinds of statistics about bridges listed on the site.
By popular demand, photos are now automatically enhanced with a special color-balance tool. The idea is to match the style popularized by one of our regular contributors. He claims that the unique colors in his photos are the result of busted camera settings, but we all know that he was ahead of his time in using an Instagram-like style long before Instagram was a thing. For now, this feature only applies to thumbnails, but I plan to roll it out to all photos.
Here are the winners of this year's TRUSS Awards (Top Rated Unique Savable Structures), representing the "best" projects from those that were nominated. Of course, "best" is a subjective measure, and it wasn't easy to pick the winners from the large pool of nominees. But these bridges are all special and deserve every ounce of attention and support we can muster. (And let's not forget about the winners from previous years.)
Congratulations to the nominators and all of the people involved in the campaigns to save these bridges!
Before announcing the winners for this year's TRUSS Awards, I thought it would be helpful to check on the status of winners from the first two years. For most bridges, nothing much has happened -- good or bad -- although the day of reckoning is quickly approaching for many of them:
Washington Bridge (Franklin County, Missouri) - Still scheduled for replacement in the next few years
Neosho River K-47 Bridge (Neosho County, Kansas) - Construction on a replacement bridge is underway. When the old bridge is demolished, only two other bridges of this kind will remain (one in Kansas and one in Nebraska).
Cedar Grove Bridge (Franklin County, Indiana) - Local organizations are trying to raise money to acquire the bridge and restore it for a pedestrian/bicycle trail.
Meridian Street Bridge (Pierce County, Washington) - This bridge is still scheduled for replacement, although interest has been shown in relocating it for use on a recreational trail.
Hulton Bridge (Allegheny County, Pennsylvania) - Construction of the replacement
bridge on a new alignment is slated to begin Fall 2013 and be completed by 2016, with demolition of the old bridge soon after
Tappan Zee Bridge (Rockland and Westchester counties, New York) - While state officials briefly discussed keeping the old bridge for pedestrian/bicycle use, that idea is now off the table. Construction on the replacement bridge is expected to begin this year.
I've been busy over the last few days making behind-the-scenes changes to this website (as well as landmarkhunter.com and uglybridges.com) that will hopefully make the site load faster.
With any major programming overhaul, however, it's almost certain that ugly bugs will appear. If you see any errors -- especially the dreaded "Something went wrong" message -- then please let me know.
One last reminder: The deadline for submitting TRUSS Award nominations is this Friday, Jan. 18.
While you are pondering which bridges to submit, you may also want to consider going out on a limb and nominating a threatened bridge to the America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places program run by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The deadline for 2013 nominations is March 1st. It would be ideal to see at least one bridge listed every year. Many states and some cities also have historic preservation organizations that run similar programs, so be sure to check them out as well.
As the new year arrives, we can try to be optimistic that 2013 won't bring as many demolitions and UCEBs as the last year. But I'm not holding my breath.
This is a good time to pause and reflect. What features or improvements would you like to see on this site? You can use this story to post your thoughts.
Reminder: I'm collecting nominations for the TRUSS Awards until Jan. 18, but please don't procrastinate. Right now 26 nominations have been submitted, but that's much less than in previous years.
One final plug: The hosting bills for this website have been steadily increasing thanks to the recent growth in traffic and uploaded photos. It's a good problem to have, I suppose, but it's still a problem. You can help by making a donation toward hosting costs.
If you have some free time during the holidays, or you're looking for an excuse to take a break from your relatives, then I have the perfect mission for you: nominating a worthy bridge for the 2013 TRUSS Awards. This award is intended for historic bridges that are threatened with demolition or neglect, but are worthy of saving.
To nominate a bridge, navigation to that bridge's page and then click the yellow "Nominate" button. If a bridge isn't listed, then follow this link.
If you have an editor's account, you may have noticed the "What's Here?" button next to the map when adding or editing a bridge. This feature generates a list of geographic entities located near the bridge. Click on the "Show" link next an item to see it superimposed on the map.
Right now, the tool shows these items:
County subdivisions (townships, New England towns, precincts, etc.)
Quadrangle maps from the USGS, with link to download
Railroad lines, with the yard or subdivision if available
Listings from uglybridges.com
This tool should help settle arguments over the ownership of railroad lines, as well as whether a bridge is located in a certain town or township. It should also help cut down on duplicate listings, since it will show other nearby bridges that are already listed.
Right now this is a highly experimental feature. I plan to expand it to cover other things (rivers, lakes, highways, streets, public land). If this is successful, and it doesn't overload the webserver, then I hope to make this tool more widely available.
Calhoun County, Michigan, has received much deserved praise for the Historic Bridge Park that has provided a home for truss bridges relocated from elsewhere.
But Clay County, Illinois, has something equally special. Sadly, it has gone unnoticed.
When US 50 was constructed in the early 1920s, the concrete highway included three through truss bridges and one long concrete girder bridge. Three of the four bridges were built with unusual brick parapets.
The highway was bypassed decades ago by a new alignment, but everything from the vintage highway remains intact: the bridges, the concrete pavement, and the brickwork. Of course, the lack of maintenance has caused the structures to deteriorate, especially the intricate brickwork.
While the bridges are barricaded, the connecting stretches of concrete highway are still open to traffic (for landowner access), but see virtually no use, except perhaps from ATV riders. The pavement is rough, but this 2.5 mile stretch of vintage highway has potential as a pedestrian/bicycle
trail. With some repairs, brush clearing, and signage, this could be a wonderful park that would cost relatively little.
Unfortunately, the replacement bridges on US 50 are also deteriorating, and IDOT intends to replace them in the coming years. This means
that the historic bridges, which sit side-by-side to the replacement bridges, are likely in jeopardy because of their proximity to the construction area.
Local and state officials probably consider these orphaned bridges to be a liability, but with the right marketing, they could be transformed into an asset instead. The concrete girder bridge has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, but I feel the entire collection of bridges and pavement should be evaluated as a potential historic district.
This could become a recognized historic site and a recreation area, all with a budget that would be far lower than what other counties and towns are spending to build brand-new walking and bicycle trails.
This month is National Historic Bridge Month, and with that comes the second annual Othmar H. Ammann Awards, given out by the Bridgehunter's Chronicles. Between now and the 30 November at 12:00am Central Standard Time (USA) and 1 December at 12:00pm Central European Time (Europe), the Bridgehunter's Chronicles is taking nominations for the Lifetime Legacy, Best Snapshot and Best Kept Secret Awards, as well as Awards for the Best Mystery Bridge and the Bridge of the Year- two new categories introduced for this year. More information on how to nominate your photo, bridge and person can be seen via link here:
The Bridgehunter's Chronicles has also started a new page with the best bridge preservation examples, providing people with some live examples of historic bridges that were preserved to use as a reference for their bridge that is a target of preservation versus progress. If you have a success story that you would like to share on the Chronicles, please contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles at: firstname.lastname@example.org or JDSmith77@gmx.net.
Other historic bridge campaigns and mystery bridges are still being gathered for posting as well. If you have one that needs attention of the general public, out with it! You'll be amazed at the support you will receive on a larger more global scale. Thank you.
The 4th annual historic bridge conference will be held Sept. 21-23, 2012. This year's destination is the Hoosier state, featuring a tour of bridges around Indianapolis
and southern Indiana, with special attention on the doomed Madison Bridge as well as the always-photogenic Laughery "Triple Whipple" Creek Bridge.
While the author has been busy profiling some of the historic bridges, providing readers with tours of areas with high numbers of historic bridges, following up on preservation attempts on many, writing about ways to preserve them and digging out some interesting facts on them, or should I say how to find them, there are many historic bridges out there that are threatened with demolition but preservation groups are working to save them and need your help. This includes the Orange Road Bridge in Ohio, the Ft. Atkinson Bridge in Iowa and the Amelia Earhart Bridge in Kansas, just to name a few.
The Bridgehunter's Chronicles would like to help you bring these historic bridges to the attention of the readers, with the goal of providing support and addressing the issues involved with these precious vintage structures.
If you are part of an organization that is working to save a historic bridge or know a historic bridge that is threatened with demolition but would like to save it, please provide a short summary of the structure (history, status, etc.) as well as plans for preserving the structure and a couple photos and send them to Jason D. Smith using the following e-mail address: email@example.com. The information will then be posted on the Bridgehunter's Chronicles, where you will receive some feedback and support for your historic bridge with hopes that you will garner enough support and interest to save the structure. These articles will be posted starting in September.
In addition to that, the Bridgehunter's Chronicles is also looking for any mystery bridges that deserve to be posted. If you have a bridge, whose information is missing and would like to know more about its origins, please send the author a photo with some information (including what questions you want solved on this structure) to the above-mentioned address. The mystery bridges will be posted in the Chronicles beginning in September and listed under the heading "Mystery Bridges." Please be aware that these mystery bridges you present must be those that were built in 1945 and earlier.
The Bridgehunter's Chronicles is a column that brings the past of historic bridges to light, and provides support for preserving historic bridges for future generations to come. After all, historic bridges are relics that deserve our attention.
There have been a lot of stories related to the five-year anniversary of the I-35W Bridge Disaster in Minneapolis, MN. On this day five years ago, the steel cantilever deck truss bridge collapsed during rush hour as many people were either returning home from work or attending a baseball game. 13 people were killed and more than 150 people were injured in that crash. The bridge collapsed severed the most important north-south link through Minneapolis and it would take over a year and a half until the new bridge was completed and opened to traffic.
The tragedy created an outcry that the US was not doing enough to maintain its bridges and other infrastructure. It even started a crusade to eradicate structurally deficient bridges, in particular, the truss and cantilever bridges. Yet by the same token, it created awareness about the importance of preserving our past artifacts and has opened new opportunities for engineers, historians, technicians and bridge-lovers alike.
While there is a lot to say about how things have changed in the five years since the tragedy, but I compiled an article which will describe the successes and shortcomings we have had since that time. While we haven't had a tragedy as severe as this one since 2007, we want to make sure that not only our bridges are safe, but our historic bridges receive just as much care as all the others. So read this narrative and think about what we have accomplished, what we should accomplish and what is yet to come in the next five years and beyond. Enjoy.
"Near miraculous." That's how one official from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet described how everything came together to allow the Eggner's Ferry Bridge to be reopened to traffic in time for the summer boating season. When an off-course cargo ship obliterated one of the bridge's through truss spans on Jan. 26, the situation looked dire. The Kentucky Lake region depends on tourism, and those tourists were likely to go someplace else during the summer to avoid the lengthy detours caused by the loss of the bridge.
Despite the total destruction of a 322-ft span, the rest of the bridge, including the piers, remained intact. That's when KYTC decided to try to reopen the bridge with a temporary span. Hall Contracting, the same company that performed emergency repairs on the Sherman Minton Bridge at Louisville, was hired to fabricate and install a temporary span at Eggner's Ferry -- with a very strict deadline of Memorial Day. They delivered two-and-a-half days ahead of the deadline.
Thanks to the early completion, KYTC decided to open the bridge to pedestrians during the morning of May 25 before allowing vehicular traffic. This was a repeat of the wildly successful "Bridge Day" at Owensboro, Kentucky, where a massive crowd came to see the newly refurbished Blue Bridge across the Ohio River. The Bridge Day at Eggner's Ferry, coming on a weekday with only several hours notice, wasn't able to attract the same overflowing crowd. But that didn't matter: a sizable crowd did arrive, and everybody who walked, bicycled, scooted, or golf-carted across the bridge had reason to be absolutely jubilant.
The new truss span, a simple Warren design, isn't nearly as intricate as the historic Parker and Pratt trusses, and it tends to stick out like a sore thumb. But it's better than 322 feet of thin air. Or a UCEB.
Now that the Eggner's Ferry Bridge has reached a happy ending (at least until it's replaced in a few years), we should consider some important lessons from this episode:
1. When disaster strikes, don't just scrap everything and start over
Immediately after the cargo ship struck the bridge, it seemed that the most likely outcome would be for the old bridge to be scrapped while construction would be expedited on a replacement bridge. That's the typical response in modern American society, after all: scrap first and ask questions later. If this option had been chosen, however, people around Kentucky Lake would expect to be making lengthy detours for two, three, or four more summer tourist seasons. Thankfully, circumstances made it feasible to repair instead of scrap; based on past experience, however, it's safe to say that not every highway department would have even entertained the idea of trying to repair the damaged bridge.
2. Trusses are still a viable technology
In the aftermath of the I-35W Bridge collapse, truss bridges took a bum rap, with "experts" appearing out of the woodwork to claim that truss designs are inherently unsafe because they are "fracture critical." We've seen campaigns in many states and counties to eliminate all truss bridges from public roads, conveniently ignoring that other bridge designs have their own Achilles' heels.
Nevertheless, it was a truss design that was chosen for the replacement span at Eggner's Ferry. The span was assembled off-site and then floated up Kentucky Lake by barge to the bridge site, where two cranes hoisted the superstructure into place. It was an economical design that could be rapidly put together and installed. The more things change, the more they stay the same: these are the same benefits that bridge companies have touted for truss designs for the last century-and-a-half.
3. Truss spans can be moved
In a recent forum comment, a letter from an Ohio legislative aide was posted arguing that relocating truss bridges was an "unheard practice in today's technological age." What a load of expletive. Even with all of these technological advances at their disposal, the contractor for rebuilding Eggner's Ferry Bridge still relied on the tried-and-true practice of moving a prefabricated truss into place. Meanwhile, just downstream at Kentucky Dam, a new railroad truss bridge was built in 2009 using the same method: floating the truss by boat and then lifting it into place. And let's not forget about the amazing development in Illinois last year where a UCEB was replaced by a historic through truss relocated from another location.
Trusses were meant to be moved, either for initial construction or for later reuse elsewhere. This was a selling point historically, and is still true today... except perhaps in Ohio.
4. Bridge events bring crowds
It was fun to see all of the camera-toting people studying every square inch of the bridge while it was open to pedestrians. Letting visitors get a sneak preview of the bridge repairs was a nice touch, something that other highway departments should embrace. With last year's Bridge Day at Owensboro and now the Bridge Party at Eggners Ferry, it seems Kentucky has stumbled across an offbeat, but successful, kind of tourist attraction.
5. Throw enough money at a engineering problem, and anything is possible.
Well, I think we all knew this. It's just too bad there aren't a whole lot of opportunities for politicians to throw money at repairing historic bridges.
Missouri already has two bridges named after former senator Christopher "Kit" Bond, but that's not enough to satisfy the Missouri General Assembly, which now wants all future bridges to be named for him.
"We're not satisfied with just the new bridges at
Hermann and Kansas City named for Kit Bond, we want everything," explained a spokesperson for the Missouri Republican Party.
Next week, the Missouri Department of Transportation will cut the ribbon on a new 23 foot culvert in Audrain County, to be dubbed the Kit Bond Commemorative Culvert. That will soon be followed by a new UCEB built in St. Louis County, to be officially called the Christopher S. Bond Viaduct Sponsored by Anheuser-Busch.
The plan has drawn fire, however, especially from Missouri Democrats. "First they want to name everything after Ronald Reagan, and now this. Sheesh," wrote a left-leaning blogger from St. Louis.
Lirpa Sloof, a popular Missouri radio host, said on the air yesterday, "Has anybody seen the new bridge at Hermann? It's butt ugly! Instead of being an honor for Kit Bond, the name of the bridge is the ultimate insult toward him. What a joke."
When we last saw the Eggner's Ferry Bridge, a large cargo ship was stuck next to the bridge with the wreckage of an annihiliated truss span draped across the bow.
Since then, the wreckage was cleared away, the ship was repaired and sent underway, and now the state has let an ambitious $7 million contract to replace the missing span by Memorial Day.
Naturally, local residents are thrilled about the repair contract. This is much better than the alternative, a ferry crossing, which probably wouldn't be in operation before Memorial Day anyway -- and would be a bottleneck on a good day.
Details about the replacement span are sketchy, but it appears that it will be some kind of truss span (a Bailey-like design perhaps?). The local newspaper reports:
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet outlined the structure that will replace the bridge span in its bid request. The section will be a railing system at least as strong as the existing bridge, with comporting dimensions. The deck will be 20 feet wide, made of asphalt or concrete. The trusses will be painted to match the color of the adjacent spans.
This will certainly be an interesting sight, at least until the entire structure is replaced by a new four-lane bridge in a few years.
Just down the road from Eggner's Ferry, a similar truss bridge over Lake Barkley was briefly closed following a barge strike. The bridge is fine, but I can only imagine the sickening "Oh crap not again!" feeling experienced by locals.
The doomed Ledbetter Bridge near Paducah, Kentucky, now has a 35-mph speed limit to go with the 3-ton weight limit. Weigh-in-motion sensors have been installed to enforce the weight limit.
The Mississippi River Bridge at Cairo, Illinois, has finally reopened to traffic following a more than year long closure. Unlike Kentucky, Illinois decided to shut down the bridge to all traffic in response to truckers ignoring the 15-ton weight limit -- even though funding for the repair work wouldn't be available for most of a year. Thankfully Kentucky is slightly more clueful in how to handle these situations.