Finally, the winners for 2012
Monday, February 13, 2012
Washington Bridge (Franklin County, Missouri)
This photogenic bridge over the Missouri River is featured prominently on the city's tourism website and billboards. If this large cantilever bridge is replaced by a UCEB, as the Missouri Department of Transportation proposes, then I doubt that the new bridge will be featured at all. If the replacement is anything like the uninspired concrete slabs built upstream at Hermann or Lexington, then it's likely to be ignored altogether.
Under the proposed agreement for funding the bridge, local governments will chip in $800,000 for their share, which will be dedicated for "enhancements" to the new bridge, including "decorative or architectural railings, lighting and concrete enhancements, and similar aesthetic improvements." It's hard to say how much demolition of the historic bridge will cost, but it probably won't be cheap. Wouldn't it make more sense to take that $800,000 plus the demolition costs and spend it on restoring the old bridge for pedestrian and bicycle use? That would be a far greater "enhancement" to the city of Washington than any fake-historic-ish lamp posts or railings that would be tacked-on to the replacement UCEB.
With the suburban sprawl of St. Louis spreading in this direction, it's clear that the current bridge is a vital transportation link (it carries over 12,000 vehicles per day) that would benefit from a new four-lane replacement. But there's no reason to ditch the old bridge.
Unfortunately, the members of the editorial board at the local newspaper don't seem to care. They appear to be jealous that other Missouri cities have shiny new bridges. "If the funding conditions don't improve," a recent editorial says, "Washington may have the distinction of having the only 100-year-old bridge over a major river in the country!"
Maybe they need to take a close look at the Eads Bridge in St. Louis, a major bridge that's 138 years old and still carrying considerable car and commuter rail traffic. There's nothing inherently wrong with a bridge being "old", especially the Washington Bridge, which is not structurally deficient!
Meadows Road Bridge (Northampton County, Pennsylvania)
"People love it." That's how the Meadows Road Bridge was described last year.
This four-span stone arch bridge, built in 1858, has long been threatened with replacement. The bridge has seen better days: the sufficiency rating was a respectable 48.6 in 2008 but then dropped to 23.9 in 2010. Repairs made by Northampton County, the owner, have allowed the bridge continue carrying traffic, but the repairs made over the years have detracted from the bridge. Damaged portions of the stonework were patched with ugly concrete, and tie roads (with manhole covers at the ends) were installed to stabilize the arch walls.
As a result of the repairs, the Pennsylvania historic bridge inventory concluded that the bridge "is not a good example of period workmanship. Its setting does not maintain its historic character. Neither the bridge nor its setting are historically or technologically significant."
Nathan Holth makes a strong case for why this assessment is ridculous, arguing that the "majority of original bridge materials remain on the bridge, and the stone arches themselves appear to be original and they appear to retain their original design." He also points out that the same kind of criteria is never applied to covered bridges, which are often significantly altered over the years.
The bridge is a rarity, even in a state with an abundance of stone arches. It's not exactly like we can find four-span antebellum stone arch bridges around every corner. Thankfully, local officials do consider the bridge to be an historic landmark, agreeing to install a historic marker next to the bridge in 2008 and listing the bridge as a historic site on the township website.
Stephanie Brown, who nominated the bridge, has been pushing to see it saved. She writes, "With the cooperation of all interested parties, including Northampton County, Lower Saucon Township and the Saucon Valley Conservancy, this structure can be around for many more generations to enjoy, and serve a useful purpose both in the modern world as a usable structure and a connection to the past."
Danville-Mickles Bowstring Bridge (Yell County, Arkansas)
In 2006, I received a curious email from Charles Bowden. He said he had heard through the grapevine about a "derelict iron bowstring truss bridge that has long been forgotten." He then emphasized, "IT IS NOT THE SPRINGFIELD BRIDGE," referring to the only other known Arkansas bowstring.
I forwarded his photos to Robert Scoggin at the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department. He immediately responded in excitement: "Another bowstring in Arkansas is probably the biggest thing to hit the historic bridge community in a long time." By the following year, the bridge was listed on the National Register and documented by the Historic American Engineering Record.
Meanwhile, J. Randall Houp of Yell County had also stumbled across the bridge early in 2006. He found that the bridge had been originally built at Danville in 1880 by the King Iron Bridge Co. and later moved to its current location. He is now working hard to find a way to move the bridge back to its former location in Danville and restore it to the glory befitting the second-oldest remaining bridge in Arkansas.
Neosho River K-47 Bridge (Neosho County, Kansas)
Kansas and Nebraska have a small collection of small-scale cantilever truss bridges, which I've temporarily dubbed "Kansas cantilevers" until somebody can find a better name. Three remain in Kansas and one remains in Nebraska.
The Kansas Department of Transportation has been pushing hard in recent years to replace truss bridges on state highways. One of the next victims appears to be this 1937 cantilever in Neosho County, which could be demolished as early as this year. The bridge is not considered structurally deficient, and could easily be bypassed and allowed the remain standing.
A nearby cantilever bridge has been (for now) allowed to remain standing after a replacement span was built, but it's not clear if that bridge's stay of execution is permanent. Even if the other bridge is preserved, the K-47 bridge is older and has more ornate overhead bracing, making it a worthwhile candidate for preservation as well.
Cedar Grove Bridge (Franklin County, Indiana)
"It is a spooky beautiful bridge; to see it blown up and carted off brings tears to my eyes..."
Those are the words of Gary A. Schlueter about this abandoned two-span Camelback through truss.
The bridge, formerly carrying Indiana Highway 1, is caught in the middle of a tug-of-war between the Indiana Department of Transportation and Franklin County. At issue isn't just maintenance of the bridge, but also maintenance of a landslide-prone road on the opposite side of the river that currently provides the only access to the neighborhood.
INDOT wants to demolish the bridge, but there is local support for preserving it, either by rehabilitating and reopening it to traffic or by converting it to pedestrian use. (Relocating the two 180-ft. spans for adaptive reuse isn't very practical.)
A decision on the future of this bridge could be decided as early as this Wednesday (Feb. 15), when the Indiana Historic Preservation Review Board will consider an application by INDOT to demolish this National Register eligible bridge.
We know that they are capable of making the right call here.
Meridian Street Bridge (Pierce County, Washington)
The demolition of the Liberty Memorial Bridge at Bismarck, North Dakota, was a tremendous loss, the only known bridge built using C.A.P. Turner's patented truss design.
Or maybe not. The Meridian Street Bridge at Puyallup, Washington, features a design matching Turner's patent. When K.A. Erickson posted photos of this bridge in 2010, it was clear that this was something special, providing a second chance to preserve a Turner truss.
Unfortunately, the Washington State Department of Transportation wants to quickly replace and demolish this bridge. The bridge currently carries two lanes of northbound traffic on a busy highway and is considered structurally deficient.
The nearby McMillin Bridge, a one-of-a-kind concrete through truss (and a TRUSS Award winner last year), has received the most attention. And rightfully so. But the Meridian Street Bridge is also a one-of-a-kind bridge that is just as important to preserve.
Bolivia Road Bridge (Sangamon and Christian counties, Illinois)
I remember seeing the Illinois state highway map in 2001 with the photo of a classic truss bridge on the cover. Wanting to know the bridge's identity, I flipped over to find the caption and was disappointed to find that it referred to the bridge in past tense: "This historic bridge crossed the Sangamon River near Bolivia in eastern Sangamon County."
The bridge is still standing -- but could slip into past tense any time. Sangamon County has been trying to replace this Parker through truss since 2001 but has been stymied by funding problems. Eventually, however, they will find the money to replace this landmark with a UCEB.
Landmarks Illinois selected the bridge as one of Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois for 2011. Their announcement warns of the risk of closure or replacement, but ends on a positive note: "The Sangamon County Historic Preservation Commission has recently worked with the Sangamon County Highway Department to find a recreational use for the bridge. The two entities are gaining assistance from IDOT and the state Department of Natural Resources toward this effort."
Cascade Bridge (Des Moines County, Iowa)
I was surprised when I saw a nomination for this bridge. I had figured that this bridge in Burlington, Iowa, which has been closed to traffic since 2008, would have been replaced by now.
As it turns out, the State Historic Preservation Office has thrown cold water on the city's plan to convert this National Register-listed bridge into a UCEB. They want the city to re-consider the feasibility of repairing, instead of replacing, the bridge.
Built in 1896, this pin-connected Baltimore deck truss is a rare jewel. The state historic bridge inventory called it "one of Iowa's most significant and unusual urban bridges."
It's good to see that state officials are looking at the historic significance of this bridge instead of just rubber-stamping yet another demolition project. Let's hope there's still a chance for this bridge to be saved.
Newport Bridge (Jackson County, Arkansas)
As shown by this list of award winners, large cantilever truss bridges are an endangered species. The good news is that Arkansas has a decent shot at saving one of them.
During the early 1930s, Arkansas built three massive toll bridges over the White River at Augusta, Clarendon, and Newport. The Augusta Bridge was replaced in 2001. Construction on a new bridge at Clarendon is underway. And now the Newport Bridge is scheduled for replacement.
In December, the Arkansas Highway & Transportation Department offered to transfer ownership of the bridge to Newport, allowing the city to preserve it as a walking/bicycling trail once the new bridge is open. The estimated cost of demolishing the bridge would instead be reimbursed to the city to help pay for preserving it.
Many cities would scoff at the idea, paranoid of the extra liability or unwilling to commit to maintaining such a large structure. As I frequently argue, these fears are usually overblown. Thankfully, the mayor and city council of Newport are on board with saving the bridge.
This is by no means a sure thing, but the future for the Newport Bridge looks promising.
CStPM&O Bridge (Eau Claire County, Wisconsin)
I did a double-take when I first saw photos of this bridge on the former Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway. It's obviously a lattice deck truss -- not exactly a common design -- but this isn't a typical lattice. It's a quintuple-intersection Warren (I re-counted a couple of times to be sure). This website only has one other such design listed (in Pennsylvania) and that's a single-span through truss instead of four-span deck truss.
No longer serving any purpose for its former owner, the Union Pacific Railroad, the bridge sat abandoned and was threatened with demolition. Thankfully, a utility company still mantains an active gas line across the bridge, providing a justification to allow the massive structure to remain standing. Details are sketchy, but the city apparently intends to renovate the bridge for pedestrian use this summer.
Let's hope the city is able to successfully preserve this unique and nationally significant bridge.
Black Bridge (Albany County, New York)
I wasn't aware this bridge existed until it was nominated. It's a multiple-span lattice truss, quite a glaring omission.
The nominator presented good news and bad news about the bridge in Cohoes, New York. Work was just getting started to rehabilitate this long-abandoned railroad bridge into a pedestrian/bicycle trail. Sadly, Cohoes resident Warren Belcher tried crossing the bridge on New Year's Eve, slipping and falling to his death.
As a result, a lengthy petition has been circulating demanding that the bridge be demolished. The mayor has stood firm, arguing that "We're not going to get federal and state grants to demolish an old bridge."
That's the right call. Once the bridge is repaired, with new railings and deck, the risk of injury will be no worse than any other bridge. Mr. Warren was reportedly an explorer by nature, and it wouldn't be much of a tribute to him to demolish the bridge and leave behind an empty hole.
Murray Bridge (Humboldt County, Iowa)
I always get nervous when I see an inspection report that rates the supersturcture of a truss bridge as "serious." That's the case at the Murray Bridge in rural Iowa. It remains open -- barely -- following a car collision in 2004. This means, of course, that it could be turned into bulldozer bait at any time.
The Murray Bridge is a classic Pratt through truss built in 1905 by A.H. Austin, a regionally significant builder. The most notable feature is the ornate "star" pattern cut out of the heel bracing.
Carrying only an estimated 40 vehicles per day, it doesn't make sense to replace this bridge with a multi-million dollar UCEB, a situation that has become all too common. No matter what happens, this beauty would make for a nice adaptive-reuse project.
Hulton Bridge (Allegheny County, Pennsylvania)
The Hulton Bridge on the outskirts of Pittsburgh is an object lesson in frustration. Not just because PennDOT wants to replace it -- what else is new? -- but because of the geography. Upriver from this congested two-lane bridge is a new six-lane crossing on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Unfortunately, the turnpike doesn't have an interchange on the Hulton side of the river, forcing a huge volume of traffic to squeeze on the Hulton Bridge to get anywhere. Moreover, the Hulton Bridge is the only surface-street crossing along a 12 mile stretch of the Allegheny River in a densely populated area.
With these frustrating constraints, it makes sense to build a new bridge at Hulton. But why does the old bridge need to be demolished? Todd Wilson at Bridgemapper.com has been posing that question to anybody who will listen. He worked with students at Carnegie Mellon University to put together a comprehensive proposal to convert the bridge to pedestrian/bicycle use once the new bridge is built.
The odds don't look good, but the Hulton Bridge -- with its magnificent 500-ft Pennsylvania truss -- is well worth fighting for.
Sixth Street Bridge (Los Angeles County, California)
The Golden Gate Bridge is California's most famous bridge, but I would argue that the Sixth Street Bridge is almost as recognizable, even if people don't know the name. This bridge near downtown Los Angeles is a staple of TV commercials, TV shows, music videos, and movies. If you watch a car commercial with a car cruising across an arch bridge with a big city skyline in the background, there's a good chance it's the Sixth Street Bridge.
One company located next to the bridge provides a "base camp" for TV and movie productions that want to film on location at the bridge. Their website lists some of the productions that have included the bridge over the years. They don't mention one of the more dramatic scenes: the 2007 season finale of "Numb3rs" in which the antagonist tries to blow up the bridge, and in which the bridge's arch design becomes an important plot point.
I seriously doubt that the directors of car commercials and TV shows are going to be happy filming on a modern replacement bridge, but that's what the future currently holds. It's hard to imagine a crime drama where the bad guys want to blow up a UCEB. Nobody will care!
The historic bridge, sadly, is suffering from serious concrete deterioration. While it's not considered structurally deficient yet, the bridge is in poor health and likely wouldn't withstand a major earthquake. As a result, the city fathers are hell-bent on replacing it with a modern cable-stayed bridge that is utterly different -- and uninspired.
I'm surprised that there hasn't been more outrage from the TV and movie industry about destroying this bridge, or a movement to force the city to build a replacement that is closer in spirit to the original. As things stand, if TV and movie directors want to film on location at a photogenic Sixth Street Bridge, they will soon have to go to Pittsburgh instead.
Tappan Zee Bridge (Rockland and Westchester counties, New York)
With great risk comes great reward, according to the old saying. The proposal to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge presents a monumental challenge, but also a spectacular payoff.
Featuring the ninth-longest cantilever span in the world (1,212 ft.) and a total length of three miles (with approaches), this is quite a landmark. As a critical crossing on the New York Thruway, the bridge carries a tremendous volume of traffic: over 130,000 vehicles per day. To alleviate this bottleneck, the state wants to replace the Tappan Zee with two new parallel structures and then demolish the old bridge.
When the old bridge was consturcted during the 1950s, it cost $81 million to build. Estimates for the replacement bridge put the cost at over $5 billion -- and that's the low-budget option without any mass transit options.
The exact design for the new bridge hasn't been determined, but the preliminary concepts are not encouraging, suggesting this could be the Mother Of All UCEBs. A recent op/ed column takes the state to task, arguing that this "is not a bridge at all, but a 10-lane highway that happens to go over water." The columnists add, "Bridges should inspire visitors and enhance their surroundings. But this crossing will only detract from the stunning towns and landscapes it blasts through.
While the proposed new spans will be built north of the current bridge, the approaches will overlap, providing a convenient excuse to require demolishing the old bridge.
Nevertheless, some in the region have called for the old bridge to be preserved as a pedestrian/bicycle walkway, modeled after the highly successful Walkway Over the Hudson at Poughkeepsie and the High Line in New York City. An organization called the Tappan Zee Bridge Alliance is pushing to save the bridge, championing the idea of "Reinventing with vision, not demolition."
To make this happen, the replacement will need to be redesigned to spare the approaches to the bridge. In addition, funding will need to be found to continue maintaining the bridge in the future, a difficult prospect.
We can all dream, however, and if this thing can be successful, it will be a world-class success.