Saving the Bockau Arch Bridge Day 7: Don Quixote’s Windmills

April 24th, 2018. A beautiful day in the village of Bockau. A wonderful chance to photograph the Bockau Arch Bridge. But sadly this may be the last time doing it. While a total of 25 people gathered at the site of the Bockau Arch Bridge, the consensus is pointing towards the digger and wrecking ball to this almost 150-year old structure. Neither the mayor of Bockau, nor the one in Zschorlau want it left standing. A member of the Saxony Ministry of Construction and Transportation claims that the construction of the new bridge on new alignment and with that the demolition of the old bridge is a done deal. This is especially given because the new bridge was being constructed in a natural habitat and according to agreement, both bridges must not exist.  And given the aggression presented by members of the representatives from Dresden, it appears that they favor the transformation of Bockau into a modern village is more important than simply saving relicts of the past.  So this day may be the last I get a shot of this structure and a gorgeous view from on top, like these ones:

So with all the skepticism that I just posted, the question is why are we still fighting for the bridge if the State of Saxony wants it their way with the bridge?  As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: Nicht leicher als das:

Despite claims that the construction of the new bridge is a done deal and that the old structure would need to be removed, there are a few silver linings that were mentioned during today’s meeting. First of all, attempts to compromise were presented, some of which were to the disliking of one party or another, others were worth considering. The first compromise was presented by the mayors of Albernau and Bockau, where the bridge would be partially removed with the remaining two spans to be converted to an observation pier. That was completely rejected as it would be the same as demolishing the bridge plus the consensus is to keep the entire crossing over the river. As the bridge is protected by the Preservation Laws, it would be taken off the list if the bridge was altered in any way. To especially the mayor of Bockau who strove to see the bridge disappear, the suggestion to cut the bridge into bits is as bitter as eating pickled gizzards.

Onto option 2, which is redo the contract which would include keeping the bridge in its place. The reason behind it was the lack of communication behind what to do with the old bridge. When the contract was let for the new bridge, there was no information as to whether the contractor has the right to remove the old structure, nor was there any public input or even a referendum. Good idea but with one catch: The contract would need up to five years, and no further construction would be done on the new bridge. Furthermore, it needs approvement by both Dresden as well as the federal government, both of whom had originally given the green light for the current project. An attempt to partially redo the contract to omit the removal of the old sturcture is currently being considered.

And henceforth we look at option three, which is looking for new ownership. It is concluded that once the new bridge is open, the old bridge no longer will be the care of the federal government as it carries a federal highway (B 283). As neither Zschorlau nor Bockau want to take it, we must look at some interested third parties or partake on a joint public-private venture to own and maintain the bridge. Despite jumping the gun with claims that no one wants the bridge, there are enough parties in terms of persons and organizations who might take over. This include bike organizations as the bridge crosses the Mulde Bike Trail, a rails-to-trails route that connects Adorf with Aue. The person who takes over will need to ensure that the bridge is properly maintained and inspected and take over responsibility for any incidents and accidents that may happen. The advantage is the fact that if the bridge was handed over, it will be in the state as it was before it was closed, like this:

Originally, 1.2 million Euros would have been needed to refurbish the bridge which given its current condition it was not necessary. One needs to fill in the cracks and ensure the arches are ok, which they are:

The lone catch is that the clock is ticking. Since the meeting, we have not even a full year to find a new owner or come up with a reasonable concept that will be to the liking of the parties involved. Despite the claims of lack of feasiblity and the lack of want with regards to the bridge, we did conclude that if we could come up with a plan to keep the bridge in tact, the historic structure is ours for the keeping. The condition is that the north approach would need to be rebuilt to provide access for pedestrians and cyclists. Because of the Mulde Bike Trail and its potential to become a “bike-autobahn”, the bridge would be a perfect, easiest and safest crossing connecting two communities. However, all it needs is support from both the public and private sectors. No support, no plan, and that means no bridge.

And with that, no more photos of such a beautiful old stone lady……

…..holding a dandelion in its stone cracks……

waiting to give it to her supporters, including Ms. Ulrike Kahl, who was interviewed after the meeting.

And why Saxony needs a bike-autobahn along the Mulde, let alone how the German Preservation Laws work in comparison to the American one can be found in the coming articles. Stay tuned.

Help needed: What success stories have you had with public-private partnerships with bridges? What concepts would you present to convince all parties to keep the bridge in place? What practices have worked in the past. Any ideas, contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact form below:

Will accept all ideas in German, Spanish and French as well. All ideas are welcome.


A news story by German public TV station MDR was carried out on the same day and can be seen here.  Follow-ups will come. 🙂