Mystery Bridge Nr. 84: An Ancient Bridge over a Small Waterfall

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ERFURT, GERMANY- This Mystery Bridge article takes us back to my old battleground for bridges and teaching English: the city of Erfurt in the German state of Thuringia. As mentioned in the tour guide series five years ago, the capital has a population of 240,000 inhabitants and has over 240 bridges spanning the River Gera, the Diversion Canal Flutgraben, as well as several creeks and highways. This includes over two dozen arch bridges in the city center as well as along the Flutgraben.

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Pförtchenbrücke spanning the Flutgraben at Pförtchenstrasse southwest of Erfurt Central Station Photo taken in July 2017

And while the authors have done research on the bridges in Erfurt for two books, the latest was released in 2012, they probably have seen this bridge many times, but have crossed this bridge without noticing it just as many times as well……

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Beautiful waterfall on the southeast end of Pförtchen Bridge as the creek empties into the Flutgraben. However, when climbing up the rocks and going underneath the bridge that serves a bike path, I found another bridge, or something looking like a bridge…….

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Judging by the features of the arch strutcure, this may be the oldest infrastructure that existed in the city of Erfurt, as the bridge is made of stone, but the keystone features resemble a monster spewing out water as it flows into the mouth of the canal:

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Judging by the length of the bridge, it is no longer than 10 meters and is no more than 1.5 meters above the water.  No plaLittle is know about this bridge except for the fact that the area used to be part of the Steigerwald Forest before it was occupied with houses in the 1860s. In fact, the Pförtchen Bridge itself was once a wooden bridge built in 1875 and having served horse and buggy as a gateway to the walled city. The bridge was then replaced by the current structure in 1897 when the canal was built and the older structure was removed. It is possible that this bridge was a key crossing going to the forest, but when the first bridge was constructed, it was filled in, converting it to a pipeline which still serves the waterway. This is most likely the case as there is no known data that can prove that the pipeline was made with stone arches, unless there was a canal serving residents in the southern part of Erfurt. But even then, it would have to have been made with brick or concrete, or even lead.

But never say never, when it comes to civil engineering. When engineers have a creative idea and/or will, they will carry it out, for the purpose of experiment, aesthetics and especially, functionality. 🙂

And so, it’s your turn. What do you think and/or know about this bridge? Is this an original crossing or a pipeline? How old do you think this bridge is?  Your help with comments and information would be of great help. You can provide your thoughts and comments here or via e-mail.

 

While you are at it, check out the updated version of Erfurt’s Bridge Tour Part 1, which features bridges in the outskirts. This includes maps and additional information as well as additional information via Instagram. Click here to view. Part 2 of the city center’s bridges will follow in the fall.

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Locals Fight to Preserve the Frank J. Wood Bridge in Maine

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Photo courtesy of the Friends of the Frank J Wood Bridge

A couple weeks ago, the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) declared the historic Frank J. Wood Bridge, a three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge with riveted connections and one-rhombus Howe lattice portal bracings to be a liability, deciding for the modernity with replacing the structure with a concrete one, to be built alongside the 1932 structure, with the old structure to be removed shortly afterwards. This was confirmed through multiple news outlets as well as the agency’s website.

In the eyes of locals, the news story is considered fake news and have an alternative news story to share, one that sheds light on MDOT’s neglect of historic structures. As the environmental surveys are going to be carried out, much of which in connection with Section 106- 4f of the Historic Preservation Laws of 1966, locals, like John Graham, a realtor in Topsham and one of the members of the committee to save and restore the bridge, are stepping up to the plate and planning to turn the heat on MDOT, to force the agency to rescind the decision and look at constructive ways to keep the bridge in service, using more than enough notable examples to go around.

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In an interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, Mr. Graham provides us with a glimpse of the historic significance of the Frank Wood Bridge, why MDOT has not taken historic bridge preservation seriously- following the path of neighboring New Hampshire- and measures that are planned to fight for the preservation of their prized historic landmark.

 

  1. First and foremost, how significant is the Frank J Wood Bridge in terms of its history and ties with the communities of Brunswick and Topsham?  

The bridge was built in 1932.  It crosses what was three natural falls, one being so high it stopped the sturgeon from going any high to spawn and was one of the best fishing areas for the Native Americans and there is recorded history as early as 1620 of settlers using it as a fishing spot.  The bridge is flanked on each side by mill building which still stand and were both in operation one into the sixties and the other into the eighties.  The mills have both been redeveloped but retain their historical nature and the three structures- the two mills and the bridge create a recognized Industrial district.  If the bridge is removed the district will no longer exist.  The bridge has been the meeting place of both towns and held Memorial day parade celebrations every year.  President Johnson crossed it in his motorcade once. Pictures of the bridge appear on numerous websites, on last year’s phonebook cover, it is the one instantly recognizable icon of both communities (Topsham and Brunswick).

  1. The bridge was named after Frank J. Wood. Who was he and how important was he to the communities/ area?

Frank J. Wood was a local farmer and paper maker- worked in the Topsham Mill.  He is credited with suggesting the current location of the bridge and died childless shortly after the bridge was completed.

A write-up on the bridge and its history can be viewed by clicking here.

  1. How long has MaineDOT been trying to replace this bridge? What are their arguments for replacing it?  

MDOT has been systematically not maintaining older thru truss bridges for decades.  The last time the bridge was painted was 1980.  They proposed removing in 2004 (?) and then again in 2015.  They have very weak arguments- mainly cost.

Note: There are some examples of historic bridges in Maine that have been taken down, solely for that reason. Click on the following bridges below:

Waldo-Hancock Bridge

Steep Falls Bridge

Bar Mills Bridge

Lisbon Falls Bridge

Sara Mildred Long Bridge

Memorial Bridge

Richmond-Dresden Bridge

Wadsworth Bridge

Stevens Bridge

Littlefield Bridge

  1. Your arguments against replacing the bridge- why should the bridge be preserved?  

Why not?  The bridge is exceptionally wide for its time (30 feet) and tall (14.8 feet).  It was built to have two lanes of traffic and a coal car trolly line down the center.  The bridge if properly maintained could be around for many more generations.  The State is rapidly losing what was once a fairly common bridge type and the location and setting of this one is exceptional.  It is also not functionally obsolete like so many are.  MDOT had a plan in the mid eighties to put three lanes of traffic across it.  It can easily handle two ten foot travel lanes and two five foot bike lanes.  Just up stream is a restored suspension walking bridge.  Maine has few economic things driving it currently and our historical downtowns and historical structures create a unique sense of place.  This drives our tourism industry and attracts both business and residence to the area.  The new “low cost” alternative does not fit the location.

  1. Maine DOT had presented four proposals for the bridge, two of which had to do with rehabilitation. Can you describe how the bridges would be rehabilitated?  Which of the two plans do most of the people favor?  

The rehabilitated bridges would both have completely new decks installed and minor repair to one bottom cord and a complete paint job.  The other alternative adds a second side walk.  It is unclear if a second sidewalk is favored or not.  MDOT has really created dialogue of only new or old and rusty. I personally do not see the need for a second side walk and look at the New Hope- Lambertville Bridge between PA and NJ as a great example of a bridge between two historical downtowns that has only one side walk and handles as many as 14,000 pedestrians in a single weekend.  That bridge is actually longer and also has a newer bypass bridge, although the bypass here is closer.

Please click here to view the page of the New Hope- Lambertville Bridge

A couple other bridge examples from Minnesota also follow the same pattern, such as the Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter as well as the Washington Avenue and Merriam Street Bridges in Minneapolis, for example.

  1. After the DOT’s decision to replace the bridge, you presented a counter-statement, claiming that the agency had not done enough to conduct feasible studies on the bridge, specifically looking at the options carefully and selecting the rehabilitation option. Can you explain further what they didn’t do that they should have done, let alone what they did which would be considered illegal in your terms?

They never have seriously considered rehabilitation and have hired a consulting firm that does not have experience in rehabilitation.  The quotes that they have made public are wildly high according to the experts we have ran the numbers by.  They have used this method to sway public opinion.  MDOT came out with a preferred alternative- the new upstream bridge before the 106 process even begin.  This is not how the process is meant to take place.  They need to hire a qualified firm to give realistic rehab and long term maintenance costs for the bridge.  The main thing they initially failed to do was to say they were going to conduct a full Environment assessment EA. They have since (this week) notified us that they now plan to do so.  If it is necessary to sue it will be after the EA is complete and the 4f process is done.  We are gearing up for the 4f process because this is the law that actually has some teeth and where we can win.  MDOT has publicly stated that it is feasible to rehab the bridge.  We had several small victories during the 106 process where we were able to get them to agree the  rehab with one side walk fit the purpose and need and that the removal of the bridge would be both a adverse affect to the bridge itself and also to the industrial district mentioned above.

  1. In light of the decision by the DOT, what steps are you considering taking at this point?

We were all fully expecting this decision as they had made it a over a year ago and we forced them to follow the law and actually do a real 106 process.  We are gearing up for the 4f and a possible legal battle there.  We are in the process of securing an engineering firm to do an independent analysis of the bridge rehabilitation costs.  This has proven very difficult because no firm in the East will go up against MDOT for they are a big client.  Many have spoken to us off record but none will actually put a report together.  We have found several from across the country that are willing.  The battle now is all in the term “prudent”.  We have forced MDOT to only rely on  life cycle costs to make this argument. Cost we believe are overstated for this sole purpose.

  1. Who else has been helping you with supporting the bridge in terms of consultancy, legal action, fundraising, meetings, etc.?

There is a core group of about 10 of us with two very generous financial backers.  We have an excellent local attorney and engineers and professors from around the country that we have been meeting with.

  1. Should the DOT be forced to rescind their decision and favor restoring the bridge, are there going to be any fundraising options, etc. for the bridge?

When MDOT is forced to maintain the historical structures they are charged with maintaining; the State and Federal government will pay for it.  The fundraising option in this case is called taxes.  That said there is talk of creating a yearly festival centered around the bridge which we would raise money for.

  1. With regard to restoring the bridge, what would the newly restored bridge look like in comparison to the proposed replacement? Would there a park area, etc.?

The restored bridge would look identical to the bridge we have but painted with a new coat of green paint.  The only difference would be the deck would no longer have metal grates down each side and would have slightly narrower travel lanes and actual bike lanes painted on.  The new bridge is a flat highway overpass bridge.  You can see pictures of both on the Facebook page.

 

  1. What is the general mood at the moment in response to the DOT’s wanting to replace the bridge?

The groups mood is one of continued optimism.  We have been expecting this day.  It is just another step closer till we can save the bridge.  The community is torn between in favor and not in favor although the not in favor have been fed really misleading information from MDOT.

While some communities and regions have stepped aside to let the DOTs and other local agencies tear down their structures, many of which had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, there are enough pocket of examples of people, like the communities of Brunswick and Topsham are working to impede the progress of MDOT, using experts from across the country to prove that just because one bridge part is bad, does not mean the whole bridge needs to come down. Instead they want to set an example for other DOTs in the US, proving that the age of wasting materials and destroying heritages is not in the best interest, no matter how the arguments are packaged and presented. It is hoped that this successful trend will force others to think about their own infrastructure and use rational thinking instead of the mentality which means, haste makes waste.

The Chroicles will keep you informed on the latest with the Frank Wood Bridge. You can also follow the Friends of the Frank Wood Bridge by clicking onto its facebook page here.

Special Thanks to John Graham for his help in the interview and best of luck in efforts to stop the replacement process, slated to begin next year.

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What’s in a Name? A Guide to Naming Bridges (and other Things)

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What’s in a name? Somewhere in New York City, a new set of twin bridges will be named after New York Governor Mario Cuomo for his years of service in the Big Apple, the state and in the Republican Party. It would be the 12th bridge in the metropolitan area to have been named after a famous person, including the two well-known American politicians. Despite leaving their marks on their legacies, what in a name?

 

What’s in a name?  In states, like Oklahoma, bridges have been named for politicians who wanted to be famous during their time in office, but whose political careers were marred by scandal. They include the likes of Henry Simpson Johnston, Frank Lynch and Raymond Gary- the first was impeached and thrown out after two years as governor; the second took kickbacks while representative and the other “bought organs for the churches and pianos for the bawds,” as the secretary used in her title of the biography, bashing the male half of the husband-wife team. What’s in a name?

 

What’s in a name? Somewhere in the United States, bridges are being conceived and names are being brought up after current members of Congress and the White House. Whether it is a suspension bridge spanning the Minnesota River east of Granite Falls- making it the longest in the world- named after Paul Ryan, a piece of slab bridge over the Ohio River in Cincinnati named after Mitch McConnell, A concrete deck cantilever bridge with a marble statue named after Donald Trump in Washington, and even a series of cable-stayed bridges with a mermaid statue resembling Ms. Conway. These people are famous for undoing the legacy of President Obama that had benefitted much of the American population, almost all of whom think these people deserve to get the boot earliest after the Congressional Elections next year, which if Democrats retake Congress by the widest of margins, impeachment, and call for new presidential elections will definitely be on the table.  What’s in a name?

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What’s in a name? In Pittsburgh, three sister bridges, each built in the late 1920s, each having a similar design, are named after three local but national favorites: Rachel Carson, Andy Warhol and Roberto Clemente, each setting their marks in the areas of environment, arts and sports respectively; each one has posters, statues and other decorations served in honor and memory. Each one we remember in our history books. What’s in a name?

 

What’s in a name? Many bridges are named after famous people, yet 75% really were not that famous, unless you are thinking of “dollar and sense.” If we look at each sign on the structure, we sometimes have to ask the following questions: 1. Who were these people? 2. How did they leave their mark in history? 3. Was their legacy beneficial or a hindrance? If we look at the bridges that were named after unknown politicians, many of us don’t even know who they really were, let alone don’t want to even know about them because of corruption, scandals and other policies that harmed the American public and our allies. Is our history becoming based on how politicians perform “on stage” on Capitol Hill? Let alone in our state legislature?  If so, then may the most attractive jobs in America be a politician, for like lawyers (many, not all of them), they love to lie, deceive, gaslight and even rob the common person, regardless of social, ethical, religious and psychological backgrounds. If we want that, then we might as well have bridges named after Hollywood film stars who have done the stuff politicians have done, for it would have the exact same effect.

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When I think of America, I think of the people who really did make a difference in terms of transforming the country to what it is today. I think of Giovanni de Verrazano who discovered New York, and whose bridge, Othmar H. Ammann’s last prized landmark before his death in 1965, was named after him. That bridge is still connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn. I think of Daniel Boone, who opened the new frontier for settlers. There had been a bridge named for him before it was imploded in place of a new bland concrete slab bridge in 2016. I think of George Washington, who led the colonies to victory, presided over the Constitution and was our first president. While there were several bridges named after him, many are being wiped off the map. The same applies to other structures named after the founding fathers.  And while we have several structures named in honor and memory of the veterans who fought in the wars, the aesthetic value is really bland in taste and the artistic value has really gotten lost in the pile of steel and concrete.

 

Have we lost our true value of our culture, our history and even our identity?  Have we given up too much of our freedom and creative talents to make the best for others, while giving the narccists who have done nothing good the honors they don’t deserve?  Have we forgotten the concept of being honored for our own merits?  When I look at the bridges named after Rachel Carson, Roberto Clemente and Andy Warhol in Pittsburgh, I see the reason behind them getting their honors, for they contributed to shaping American society to what is still is today. Even having bridges named in honor of Stan (the Man) Musial and James Eads in St. Louis are justified, for the former left his mark in baseball and the latter for creating the first steel bridge in America. Have we seen politicians contribute as these people have done? The answer to that question is, in my humble opinion is no, with only a few exceptions.  It’s really time to take a look at how we honor our people. Do we honor them because of money and power or because they carry a certain title? Or do we honor them for their merits and contributions to American society?

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Each of us has our set of guidelines. Mine would be on the basis of creating and innovating things that have contributed to America in terms of science and technology, history, culture and society. I hope you all have the same ideas as I do, if we really want to move forward as an entity that should be setting examples for other countries.

 

And while my ( not yet honored) candidates would make up a quarter of the country’s population, I have my top five who deserve to have their bridges named after them, and I hope the designs will be more appealing than just having green road signs at each entrance. My top five would be:  Barack Obama, Red Cloud, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and Othmar H. Ammann. Honorably mentioned would include Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig, Sally Ride, Vince Lombardi, Carrie Fisher, Sinclair Lewis, Garrison Keillor, Charlie Wilson, George HW Bush, Harper Lee and Massasoit, just to name a few. We need a few crossings but not necessarily new bridges. We just need to be sensible as to naming the next bridges after famous people.

 

And so, for the Fourth of July, I must ask you: Who would deserve to be honored on a bridge and/or other places? Think very carefully before deciding…..

 

The  Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and sister column The Flensburg Files would like to wish all Americans at home and abroad a Happy Fourth of July. Think of the people who made a difference for this country and how it set an example for others.

 

God bless you!

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Cable-stayed Bridge in Leverkusen to be Replaced

By A.Savin (Wikimedia Commons · WikiPhotoSpace) (Own work) [FAL or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
52-year old bridge to be replaced due to structural wear and tear. Documentary following events.

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LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY-  There is a growing theory regarding bridge building which states: build one that lasts 100 years and requires no maintenance. This demand is especially high in the United States and therefore, the focus of bridge construction has come down to cable-stayed suspension bridges, suspension bridges, girders and slabs. Sadly though, this theory always gets rebuked when one needs to look at the increasing number and size of vehicules crossing them, plus the need to maintain them on a yearly basis to ensure that this utopian goal is realized.

With the Motorway Crossing in Leverkusen (known as the A1 Rheinbrücke), the bridge is overtaxed with vehicles and despite extensive maintenance, the state of North-Rhine Westphania, together with the cities of Leverkusen and Cologne are now working on a replacement bridge. Built in 1965, the bridge features a cable-stayed suspension design, using one set of towers and cables in the middle of the roadway with cables anchored in two different lines supporting the median, which supports a steel deck girder roadway that supports the Motorway A1. The bridge was built by Hellmut Homberg, who was the Othmar H. Ammann of bridge building, having built several crossings in the Rhine-Ruhr River regions, including structures in Duisburg, Bonn, Cologne and Emmerich. The longest suspension bridge in Germany was built in Emmerich and is credited to Homberg. The A1 Rheinbrücke provides direct service between Saarbrücken to the south and places to the north, which includes Münster, Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck and two-lane to Fehmarn.  The crossing is one of the oldest of its modern type, even though records showed that a tunnel and a basket-weaved tied arch bridge were also on the table (note: The latter can be seen in the Fehmarn Bridge, as reference). The bridge has a total length of 1061 meters; the main span has a length of 280 meters. The width of 31.7 meters includes the expansion of its original four lanes to six in the mid 1990s.

Originally slated for replacement in 2025, construction of the bridge is currently in the preliminary stages with plans to have a new structure in place by 2020. The reason: Because of the increase of traffic, both on the bridge as well as underneath with ships travelling along the Rhine,  combined with weather extremities, structural weaknesses, especially in the steel, has become so great that rehabilitating the bridge has no longer become an option.  Patchwork and weight limits have been conducted on several occasions, but only for the purpose of prolonging the bridge’s life until its new structure is open to traffic and the old one is removed.

Already a new bridge is designed and crews are doing soil samples to determine where to place the bridge. German public TV channel WDR (based in Cologne) is doing a documentary on this bridge project in the form of Sendung mit der Maus, a TV program for children and families with a lot of interesting facts and experiments. Televising the document in irregular intervals since January 2016, one can see how bridges are inspected, planning is undertaken for constructing the bridge, and the actual project itself. One can have a look at the progress below, but ask yourself this question:

Do you agree with this design preference? If not, how would you go about with this project if you are the planner, engineer and city official?

 

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The Autobahn 1 is one of the oldest motorways in Europe, and the third longest motorway in Germany behind A3 and A7. The Weimar Republic proposed building a highway without intersections and traffic lights during the 1920s, yet was realized through massive construction efforts during the time of the Third Reich. The A1 was presented in 1939 but serving the Rhine-Ruhr region, as well as in segments to the north. The rest of the autobahn was completed in the 1960s and later expanded in the 1990s and 2000s. The last segment at Fehmarn is being fought by locals because of the negative environmental impact on the island through a new crossing between the island and Schleswig-Holstein as well as between the island and Denmark. The battle is ongoing and one can read more here.…..

 

The Rheinbrücke in Leverkusen is one of several bridges of its kind that have been targeted for deficiencies. Two other cable-stayed bridges in Duisburg and Cologne (Severin Bridge), plus the Köhlbrand Bridge in Hamburg are having the same structural issues because of too much traffic and are facing the same fate as the crossing in Leverkusen.

 

A bridge tour of the region along the Rhine can be found here.

 

Like the Mouse, the Chronicles will keep you posted on this project………

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