What to do with a HB: The Newcastle Bridge

View inside the bridge. Photo taken by Steve Conro, released into public domain through http://www.bridgehunter.com










After taking a few day hiatus from the Chronicles to do coverage on the Great Flood of 2013 in Germany and Europe, which you can see through the sister column The Flensburg Files, the Chronicles is back with some news coverage to show you. This article takes us back to Oklahoma and the Newcastle Bridge, spanning the Canadian River running parallel to Interstate 44 west of Moore. As mentioned in the Newsflyer article, the 10-span Parker through truss bridge was built by the Missouri Valley Bridge Company in Kansas City in 1923, only to serve traffic for 40 years before it was made obsolete by the Interstate highway and was subsequentially closed to traffic in 1963. For 50 years, this bridge was sitting abandoned, only to be accessed by foot and with three different pipelines going across the bridge before the infamous category EF5 tornado, measuring 2.5 km wide- the largest ever recorded in US history- anihilated Moore, Newcastle, and two spans of this bridge!

Despite the remaining spans being in good condition, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation has started the task of tearing down the entire structure. The official reason behind it is because the bridge was too unsafe and is a liability to the state. Yet, given the track record of OKDOT, this scheme is part of the plan to repair or replace every structurally deficient bridge in the state within, as laid out by Governor Mary Fallin at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, the majority of the bridges are like the Newcastle Bridge, even though the majority of the truss bridges in the state feature Parker and K-Trusses, the latter of which still represent the highest density in the region in the world. The demolition of the Newcastle Bridge has created an outcry among thousands of people, who are associated with the bridge and has been working on ways to keep what’s left of the bridge. Many have cited Oklahoma as the wrecking-ball-toting hater of steel bridges and have considered this act a crime against history. The decision to demolish the bridge is already in the visier for one of the Smith Awards to be given out in December of this year. Other awards, including the Wall of Shame by historicbridges.org are being considered, as well.

The good news is the southernmost span of the bridge will be spared demolition, even though many have claimed that more spans should have been saved. The City of Newcastle will assume full responsibility for the bridge.  While this may be a consolation for some, the question is what to do with that remaining span, once the whole process is completed. There are some talks according to the facebook website of converting the remaining span to an observation pier. Yet access to the bridge is difficult and the way the tornado flattened the area, there may not be much to see from the bridge. Another option is to relocate the bridge, either to be reused as a vehicular bridge on a minimum service road or as a memorial at a local park. The problem here would be location and cost factors. Granted the bridge would have to be taken apart and rehabilitated, like it happened with the Piano Bridge in Texas, but the biggest factor is where to relocate the structure, for much of the area in and around Oklahoma City is in ruins because of not only the tornado that destroyed all of Moore, but another one that occurred nine days later. Damage from the two is expected to top three billion dollars and it will take at least five years to rebuild the city.

There has been some consideration to list the bridge on the National Register of Historic Places, but apart from the fact that it would not hinder the demolition process, but also the chances of putting only one span onto the Register is very slim, for there are tough requirements which include having all 10 spans instead of only one to retain its historic form. Any type of alteration may compromise the historical integrity of the bridge.

But despite all of this, locals and pontists are taking the one span seriously and are with reservations thankful for keeping that particular span. Yet this is only half the battle, and the question that we have for the forum is the following:

What would you do with the lone span of the Newcastle Bridge?

a. Leave it in place and convert it into an observation deck

b. Relocate it and reuse it on a local road

c. Relocate it and reuse it on a bike trail

d. Relocate it to a park to be used as a memorial, etc.

e. Other options

You can leave your comments here, on the facebook pages entitled the Chronicles or send them via e-mail. You can also provide some suggestions and support to the Save the Canadian River Bridge group, which you can also find on facebook, when clicking here.