BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 132- A Tribute to James Baughn

This week’s tribute to James Baughn takes us to St. Louis. For pontists and bridge fans alike, when we think of St. Louis, we think of the Mississippi River spans, such as the Chain of Rocks, McKinley, Eads, and MacArthur. Yet there are smaller spans that are just as unique and historic in value but are little mentioned.

The Bellerive Bridge is one of these examples. This bridge spans South Broadway Avenue on Bellerive Blvd. In St. Louis and fearures a type of arch one seldomly sees in the United States but is popular in Europe. The 94 foot long span features a concrete arch, whose spandrels are molded inwards. The railings are also arched but with close spandrels. Even the abutments feature endposts that are arched. In other words, everything is arched.

The bridge was built in 1918 by Herkoltz and Herchert Construction, a local company in St. Louis which has very little history except it had constructed schools and buildings in and around the St. Louis area. This bridge is the only known example of the work done by the company, yet it’s one of the finest examples of concrete bridges that were being built, supplanting metal bridges, including the truss bridge in the process.

James‘ example of the bridge represents what would be coined as the oblique view. An oblique view features an angle view of something, like in this case a bridge, regardless of whether you photograph it from down on the ground or from up in the air. In his case, his shot came from the embankment looking down towards the highway. The term oblique was rarely used when he photographed the structure about 15 years ago, yet it is a very commonly used word for most photographers.

A lot has changed for the Bellerive Bridge since this pic was taken. When the photo was taken, there were four lanes of traffic and two different vertical clearances because of the height of the arch span (as you can see in the photos and bridge data here.) However, instead of replacing the bridge, which has been considered a historical landmark, the lanes for vehicle use has been reduced to one lane each direction, plus a middle left turn lane. On the outer edges, lanes for cyclists and pedestrians have been made available with the purpose of encouraging people to consider the bike or the shoes (or both) instead of going behind the wheel in a set of wheels that produces gas and other emmissions.

A plus for the environment and also for improving the quality of health among the city’s residents. Yet it is a big-time plus for the bridge, as this arrangement has reduced the risks of damage to the structure, caused by overheight or overweight trucks slamming into the arch span and causing an accident.  We have seen many trucks getting stuck or losing their trailer for trying to pass through a crossing with a clearance lower than the truck. Yet the Bellerive Bridge serves as an example for other planners to follow: why have four lanes for cars and trucks when we can have only two and leave the rest for other purposes? It saves money and it definitely prolongs the bridge’s life. 🙂

Something to think about if you have a bridge that is a truck-eater and would like to do something with it……. 😉

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