Hulton Bridge Brought Down by Explosives

Hulton Bridge Brought Down by Explosives

Oakmont loses historic icon via implosion amid protests.

PITTSBURGH/ OAKMONT- There are demolitions of historic buildings and bridges that are justified because of their derilect state and safety concerns. While options of rebuilding are viable, the removal of safety hazards with no options left are logical.  Then there are demolitions of these historic structures that defy logic and break barriers of resistance of locals and agencies wanting to save them because of their potential reuse.

For the Hulton Bridge, named after Jonathan Hulton, one of the first settlers of Oakmont, the demolition of the 1909 historic bridge not only defied logic, but also challenged Chuck Yeager’s sound barrier record in terms of opposition by locals, historians and preservationists.

The bridge was imploded today, dropping all but one of the five pinned connected through truss spans into the Allegheny River. This happened just three months after the opening of its replacement span to the north. Workers wasted no time removing the decking and setting the bridge up for the planned implosion, ignoring last minute pleas to save the bridge.

The plan to replace and then remove the historic bridge was a quick and systematic process, where despite its unique design and construction history, both the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the State Historic Preservation Office agreed to declare this bridge non-historic.

This led to outcries of foul play from locals and preservationists alike, claiming, as Nathan Holth stated in his bridge profile in, the rejection of its national historic status was part of the plan to streamline the process of replacing the bridge.

Photo taken in 2014 by Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Had the Hulton Bridge been declared eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Laws would have been enforced, forcing the state to look at options to keep the bridge intact once the new bridge opened. The 1544 foot (471 meter) long bridge featured four 260 foot long Parker trusses and one 508 foot long Pennsylvania petit through truss span with bedstead portal bracings resembling the letter X.

A similar design was found in the Donora-Webster Bridge, before the bridge was brought down in July of last year.  Despite protests, PennDOT proceeded to initiate the project, even ignoring the proposals to save the bridge- and this despite its rehabilitation done in 2000, where bridge parts were fixed and the entire structure was painted lilac.

With the Hulton Bridge gone, only the C.L. Schmitt Bridge at New Kensington and the West Mifflin-Riverton Bridge are the two remaining multiple-span through truss bridges left spanning the Allegheny River outside Pittsburgh. Yet given PennDOT’s track record of systematically destroying historic bridges despite opposition to the plan, these two bridges may be gone soon as questionable reasons will be found to justify the decision to take the structures down.

There are two ways to stop them: Have local governments or a private party take over the structures and work to maintain them, or protest the draconian policies to tear down the bridges in front of the State Capitol Building in Harrisburg. But that can be done if more people are actively involved in the efforts-

and have a will to learn more about the historic bridges and their role in the development of the transportation system in Pennsylvania and the US. Right now, the interest is more for football and Facebook. When they will take interest remains open.

Here are the clips of the demolition of the Hulton Bridge:



The Oakmont Historical Society, whose members are currently mourning the loss of their historical icon, produced a documentary of the Hulton Bridge, which includes tours across the bridge. Enjoy this 30+ minute documentary below:

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Niagara Falls to be Shut Down for Bridge Replacement

Niagara Falls to be Shut Down for Bridge Replacement

In 1969, Niagara Falls was shut down to look at the effects of erosion on the falls as well as the development of rocks at the bottom of the falls, which were impeding the flow of the Niagra River.  Yet if things go the way of the state parks department and the permits are granted, the American Falls portion of Niagra Falls could be shut down in three years for….

…..a bridge replacement!

Goat Island Bridge over Niagra River near American Falls on the US side of Niagra Falls. Photo taken in 2008. Source:

Permits are being sought and contracts are being let to replace two bridges on Goat Island Road that span the Niagara River at American Falls. Each were built in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration project initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and consisted of stone arch bridges.

The mainland to Goat Island span is the longest and is 460 feet long, whereas the Goat to Green Island span is 180 feet.

Both bridges have been deteriorating rapidly and according to Buffalo News, the cost for rehabilitating the two spans would total $37 million, which was considered not viable given the current structural state and the materials used for bridge construction. It is unknown what type of bridge will be used as a replacement to the two structures.

The plan is to divert all water flow from the American Falls end to the Horseshoe Falls end in Canada. Horseshoe Falls accounts for 85% of all water flow from the Niagara River as it connects Lake Ontario with Lake Erie.

According to the same news source, a cofferdam will be installed where the river divides itself into two branches encircling the island towards the falls. This will shut off the water flow completely. This even will be historic and most likely a twice in a lifetime event as construction of the two bridges may take at least two years to complete. The question is when to shut off the water flow without affecting tourism.

While the option of allowing for bridge work while the water is flowing is open, it was rejected for unknown reasons. In either case, the event, if and when it happens will be historic  and a must-see in this generation….

…or should it be? What would happen if the water was diverted away and how it would affect the environmental surroundings? Is is necessary to have it shut down just for a couple bridges? What is your take on this?

The Chronicles will keep you informed on this update on the project. Stay tuned….

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REMINDER: You have one more week to vote on your favorite bridges and pontists for the 2015 Ammann Awards. Click here to look at the candidates. Remember! There are two parts with the first part being the photos and second having the ballots. Deadline is 2 February and the results will be presented the same day. So hurry if you want to vote!

Rendsburg High Bridge’s Transport Ferry to be Dismantled

Rendsburg High Bridge’s Transport Ferry to be Dismantled

Unknown if and how the ferry can be repaired- damage substantial. UNESCO application threatened.

A few years ago, I pulled an April Fools joke on the members of the historic bridge community by writing about the Rendsburg High Bridge coming down because it was unsafe for all traffic and the need of the German Railways to build a new, modern and larger crossing.

The Rendsburg High Bridge is still coming down- just the transport ferry portion though.

Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany Photo taken by the author in April 2011
Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany Photo taken by the author in April 2011

After sustaining substantial damage to the ferry because of a collision with a ship this past Friday, the Office of Waterways and Shipping (German: Wasser- & Schiffahrtsamt- WSA) on Monday decided to dismantle the entire ferry at the earliest possible convenience.

Reason for that is because of the danger that the ferry could fall into the Baltic-North Sea Canal, hindering shipping traffic again.

It is unclear whether the ferry will be rebuilt in a similar manner as the 103-year old structure before the ship smashed into it, turning it into a pendulum and injuring two people. According to information from German public radio station NDR, the entire steel structure of the ferry was bent inwards from the impact, whereas the operating house sustained large amounts of damage, and two of the twelve cables snapped.

Repairs or even replacement could take a full year, which in the meantime, pedestrians and cyclists have to take a detour to a tunnel under the canal, which is 1.5 km east of the bridge. Drivers have to take a ferry, which is 2 km away or even the tunnel, which is heavily travelled.

The danger of this action is that the planned induction into the UNESCO World Heritage list will be threatened if no ferry is put back into place or altered to a point of no recognition. It was originally to be listed as an international site in 2017, but as of present, the future of the transport ferry is unknown.

The Rendsburg High Bridge is one of eight transporter bridges left in operation and is the only bridge in the world that features a transporter main span and a loop approach span.  But one thing is certain, the mayor of Rendburg and the villages south of the canal have agreed that a crossing at the bridge is a necessity and not having the ferry in place for good will be a massive inconvenience to the area, and this goes beyond that UNESCO World Heritage factor.

The Chronicles and sister column The Flensburg Files will keep you updated on the latest.

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The Flensburg Files and the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles are currently having their voting with the Flensburg’s Top Five and the Othmar H. Ammann Awards. Click onto the names and you may proceed to vote. Deadline is 2 February, while at the same time, the winners will be announced. Good luck! 🙂

2015 Ammann Award Nominations Part 2

Neutor Bridge located northeast of Ulm Central Station (Ulm Hauptbahnhof). Photos taken in May 2015
Neutor Bridge located northeast of Ulm Central Station (Ulm Hauptbahnhof). Photos taken in May 2015

Here are the rest of the ballots for this year’s awards. The Best Photo section can be found here.







MYSTERY BRIDGE (4 Votes: 2 International and 2 USA): 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61 & 62(Click on the numbers to read more about the bridges)

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR  (Voting unlimited):

Savanna-Sabula Bridge in Iowa/ Illinois

Hayden Bridge in Oregon

Calhoun Street Bridge in New Jersey

Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama

Traffic Bridge in Canada

Fehmarn Bridge in Germany

Chemnitz Viaduct in Germany

Firth of Forth Bridge in Scotland

Fort Calgary Bridge in Canada

Calgary Zoo Bridge in Canada

(Click on the links to learn more about the bridges)


LIFETIME LEGACY (2 Vote limit)

Amy Squitieri- In the 20+ years at Mead and Hunt in Madison, Wisconsin, Ms. Squitieri has consulted with people on and contributed a great deal towards preserving historic bridges in the US. Her biography is here.

Nathan Holth- Since launching in 2004, Mr. Holth has expanded his coverage to focus on historic bridges in North America, advocating the need to preserve historic bridges and presenting examples of bridges that have been preserved. His website is available here.

James Barker- Mr. Barker is founder of his engineering company in Indiana, which since its inception in 1998, has restored 18 covered bridges, six metal truss bridges and five vintage concrete bridges, with many more projects to come. The website is here.

Todd Wilson and Lauren Winkler- Pittsburgh has their set of celebrities, the two should belong to the list, thanks to their mapping and profiling of bridges in the city and elsewhere. They just recently published a book on Pittsburgh’s bridges and have a website, which you can click here to view.

Julie Bowers- Five years of restoring and relocating historic bridges with lots of success, one can view the homepage of Workin Bridges to see her profile, here.

The Foursome from Iowa DOT: Consisting of Judy McDonald, Randy Faber, Hank Zalatel and Matt Donovan, the historians have worked tirelessly to profile and make files available hundreds of historic bridges, while working on preserving hundreds of historic bridges throughout the state, providing support to historians and preservationists. The late James Hippen always commended them for their work, and with my encounter with them three occasions, including the Historic Bridge Weekend in 2013, I can see why they should be in the running for this award.



Historic Bridge Park in Kalmazoo, Michigan

High Bridge in New York City

Thomson Bridge in Carlton County, Minnesota

Easton Philippsburg Bridge over the Delaware River

Moreland Bridge near Muncy, Pennsylvania

Bridge of Flowers

McConnelsville Bridge in Morgan Co., Ohio

Sandy River Bridge near Portland, Oregon

Swing Bridge Park in Inver Grove Heights, MN

Ariel Foundation Park Bridge in Lucerne County, Ohio

(Click on the links to learn more about the bridges)


BEST KEPT SECRET (6-vote limit: 3 for US and 3 for international (INT)):

Bridges along the Delaware River

Bridges of Hunterdon County, New Jersey

The Bridges of Galatin County, Montana

The Bridges of Los Angeles

The Bridges along the South Branch of the Raritan River in New Jersey

Apache Trail Historic Auto Tour, Arizona

The Bridges of New Ulm, Minnesota

Model Bridges at the US Botanical Garden Model Train Show

The Bridges of Zeitz, Germany (INT)

The Bridges of Ulm, Germany (INT)

The Bridges of Cambridge, UK (INT)

The Bridges of Newcastle, UK (INT)

The Bridges of York (INT)

The Bridges of Australia (INT)

The Bridges of Paris (INT)

(Click on the links to learn more about the bridges)

REMEMBER: February 2nd is the final day for voting. The tallying will proceed that day with results being posted the same day! Good luck! 🙂

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2015 Amman Awards Voting Part 1

Finally, after a pair of significant delays due to events that have interrupted our lifestyles on both sides of the Big Atlantic, the time has come for the voting process for the 2015 Othmar H. Ammann Awards, powered by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and Poll Unlike in previous voting, all the voting will be done directly through the Chronicles, which means more independence from external sources. 🙂 Also differently from last year is that the voting process will commence in two separate articles. This article will feature the category of Best Photo, where all photos will be presented and you will choose your top two votes.  Article 2 will feature the rest of the categories in the form of ballots with descriptions being presented. Please follow all instructions given when voting. In case of questions, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles

You have until 2 February to vote. The votes will be tallied and the result presented the same day. The five-year anniversary version of the Ammann Awards, where the top two from each category in the years 2011-2016 will be selected and voted on next year. More details will come in November.

Here we go with the voting! 😀

BEST PHOTO (2 Votes limit)

Photo taken by the author in December, 2014
Photo taken by the author in December, 2014

Bentonsport Bridge in Iowa- Jason D. Smith


MN-210 Bridge

Thomson Bridge in Minnesota- John Weeks III


hayden bridge

Hayden Bridge in Oregon- Julie Bowers


TROY CARTER/CHRONICLE A car drives over the Nixon Bridge above the East Gallatin River near Manhattan on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Gallatin County Commissioners approved Tuesday an engineering study for its replacement.
A car drives over the Nixon Bridge above the East Gallatin River near Manhattan on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Gallatin County Commissioners approved Tuesday an engineering study for its replacement.

Nixon Bridge in Montana- Troy Carter- Bozeman Chronicle


TROY CARTER/CHRONICLE Anglers row on the Jefferson River just before the Williams Bridge near Willow Creek on Saturday, Oct. 24. Six one-lane truss bridges, including the Williams Bridge, have been designated structurally obsolete according to the Gallatin County Road and Bridge Department.
Anglers row on the Jefferson River just before the Williams Bridge near Willow Creek on Saturday, Oct. 24. Six one-lane truss bridges, including the Williams Bridge, have been designated structurally obsolete according to the Gallatin County Road and Bridge Department.

Williams Bridge in Montana- Troy Carter  Bozeman Chronicle


hwy.5 bridge alabama

Hwy. 5 Bridge in Alabama- J. Carson Barrett


firescald bridge tn

Firescald Bridge in Tennessee- J. Carson Barrett

curry chapel bridge

Chapel Curry Bridge in Alabama- J. Carson Barrett


Savana-Sabula Bridge in Iowa-Illinois- Roger Deschner



Rig Downs Historic Highway Bridge in Arkansas

Photo taken by Wayne Kizziar in 2011

Semi-truck with skidder brings down 1920s through truss bridge that used to serve three major highways, no one injured.

POTTER, ARKANSAS- Careless and ignorance seems to be the major theme involving historic bridges in the United States and elsewhere, as drivers of large heavy trucks have been illusive in ignoring the restrictions involving crossing a light weight bridge and have taken the chance, even if it meant paying the price for their ignorance.

After the Christmas Day disaster in Paoli, another bridge of similar type has fallen victim to an overwiszed and overweight truck in near Potter in western Arkansas. Police officials are investigating the reasons why the driver of a semi truck with a trailer loaded with a skidder, ignored the weight limit of the Two Mile Creek Bridge and tried crossing the bridge only to drop the 1920 structure into the water. The incident happened on Friday. According to officials, the Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings, Howe lattice strut bracings and riveted connections, had a weight limit of 6 tons, while the truck’s weight limit was four times the weight limit. The bridge used to carry three different state highways before the county took ownership. The crossing carried US Highways 71 and 59 as well as State Highway 375 before they were relocated on a new (and straighter) alignment. Prior to its collapse, it carried county highway 37.  Its truss design, a riveted Pratt through truss was constructed using standardized truss designs to accomodate the load. Unfortunately, it is unknown who the bridge builder of the 100-foot long crossing was.

It was just unfortunate that the bridge could not accomodate a truckload that was four times its weight limit, as it was seen in the picture below. Considered a total loss, the crossing was the last of the through truss bridges in Polk County. Compounding it with the most recent flooding, the bridge is the second one in a month that became victim. A two-span pony truss bridge was severely damaged by flooding on Christmas Day and its fate is uncertain. As for the driver, charges are pending for wreckless driving and disobeying the weight limit sign. More information will follow.

Side view of the bridge collapse with the rig on there. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Lance
Side view of the bridge collapse with the rig on there. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Lance

REMINDER: Today is the last day to enter your photos, bridges, etc. for the 2015 Ammann Awards. Entries will be taken until 12:00am Central Standard Time. The Voting process will start the following day, which will be posted in the Chrinicles. Get your entries in before it’s too late!!!

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Ship rams transport ferry at Rendsburg High Bridge

Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany Photo taken by the author in April 2011
Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany Photo taken by the author in April 2011

Substantial Damage to the Ferry; Two people injured

RENDSBURG, GERMANY-  A key crossing in Schleswig-Holstein spanning a key waterway between the Baltic and North Seas came to a standstill this morning, as a ship heading westward along the Baltic-North Sea Canal slammed into the transporter ferry of the Rendsburg High Bridge. The incident occurred at 6:39am Berlin time, where a large ship did not stop for the ferry in time, causing a collision. A video shown below sees how the ferry swung like a pendulum after the ship hit it and moved on.

Two people- the operator and a passenger were injured in the collision, the former was transported to a nearby hospital with serious injuries, according to SHZ News. The bridge and canal were both closed down to traffic and will remain closed until further notice. According to the Deutsche Bahn, the railroad line connecting Flensburg and Hamburg, which crosses the cantilever truss part of the bridge has been closed down until bridge inspectors can determine how the collision affected the bridge decking, how much damage was caused, and when the bridge can reopen. The line carries regional and international train services going through Flensburg to Denmark.  The passengers heading north are asked to go through Kiel from Neumünster enroute to Flensburg, as well as in the opposite direction. Because the ferry was misaligned, construction crews, according to reports by Radio Schleswig-Holstein (RSH),  will need to realign it before moving it to the north shore of the canal. The ferry has substantial damage to the housing and truss structure, as seen by the photos. It is unknown when the canal will be reopened and when the ferry will be operational again. The ferry was the key link between Rendsburg and the southern suburb of Alsdorf. A detour is being planned until the ferry can be fixed.

The Rendsburg High Bridge is the only bridge in the world that has a bridge span serving traffic that also carries a transporter ferry. The transporter is one of only eight left in the world that is functional.  It is the second bridge behind the Hastings Spiral Bridge in Minnesota that has a loop approach span, which encircles much of Rendsburg’s neighborhood. Built by Friedrich Voss in 1913, the bridge is a national landmark and has received various awards on the national and international levels. A detailed article about the bridge can be found here along with videos of the bridge filmed by the author during his visit in 2011. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, along with sister column the Flensburg Files will keep you informed on the latest with the bridge.

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