This week’s Pic of the Week wraps up a series on the Elbe River crossing by taking a look at the Highway Bridge that crosses the river, approximately one kilometer from the railroad bridge remains. This pic was taken from the spot where the last truss span exists before entering the river. As far away as it was, the Canon EOS 350 was needed to get as close to the bridge as possible.
As mentioned in the article on the Dömitz Railroad Bridge, the highway bridge was built to serve as a compliment to the railroad bridge for the demand for cars increased and train service was less than what was expected by the BHE, the owner of the railroad bridge. Construction started in 1934 and when it was finished two years, the highway bridge featured multiple spans of steel plate girder spans but a through arch span, crossing the River Elbe. That span, measured at 156 meters over the Elbe, was the first of its kind in Germany. The total length of the bridge was 960 meters and had 19 spans- 16 spans on the Lower Saxony side, plus the arch span and lastly, two more spans on the Dömitz side.
The bridge lasted only nine years, for on 20 April, 1945, the highway bridge met the same fate as the neighboring railroad bridge, as the fighter jets eliminated the arch span and severely damaged the steel girder spans. The division of Germany into two made rebuilding the bridge impossible and therefore, the Elbe span was removed, the Dömitz spans became guard posts for East German soldiers, while those on the Lower Saxony side were repaired and they eventually became an observatory post. For 47 years, there was no crossing of any sort between Wittenberge and Lauenburg near Hamburg- a span of over 100 kilometers.
1991, the original spans were considered unfeasible to rehabilitate and reuse again and therefore, were removed, together with the piers. One span can be found at the junction of highways B-191 and B-195 as a memorial. It was erected there in 2010. The span that now crosses it, was opened to traffic in 1992, thus restoring a key connection between Hannover and Berlin to the south and east and Hamburg and all points to the north and west. The bridge was built mimicking the original structure with its steel through arch, which was built offsite and then floated to the main span by pontoon. The approach spans, built of steel and concrete, resembled the original spans but built on piers that were modern. The bridge was built at the location where the original is located.
If one is a true bridge fan and passes through Germany, one should visit Dömitz and the two bridges. Both bridges lie in the Elbe River and in areas of flora and fauna, protected by laws. They originally made their marks as firsts- the railroad bridge as the longest when it opened and the highway bridge as the first through arch. They were symbols of borders to bridges as they had once served as borders for a time. But now they are key places of interest for the vacationer who takes the backroads to the Baltic Sea and wishes to take some time. Even a stay in Dömitz is worth the trip, given its Medieval architectural setting that accompanies the two bridges. It’s one that fits Satolli Glasmeyer’s famous comment: “Slow down and stop often.”