Before we announce the winners of the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards I would like to present my favorite bridges in their respective categories. For as long as the Bridgehunter Awards has existed, which is ten years, the Author’s Choice Awards is given to the winners, handpicked by yours truly, because of their stories, discoveries and other interesting items which makes them truly a treat to discuss and warrants them some international recognition. The Author’s Choice Awards is presented to the winners ad runners-up in six categories, subdivided into American and International categories.
2021 has been an interesting year for bridges as it can be compared to one of the Lord of the Rings films. It features some fairy tales considered bizarre, gods playing games with nature, and amazing discoveries found in the depths of green forests, long since forgotten but with potential for reuse. And of course we have enough restored bridges that have a storied past that have been rehabbed and repurposed with the purpose of other people contributing to its never-ending story.
And with that, here are my picks that definitely deserve recognition. 🙂
Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge 👍
🌎🇺🇸 Waterloo Bridge in Fauquier and Culpepper Counties, Virginia-
Built in 1879 by the Pittsburgh Bridge Company, this iron through truss bridge was restored in-kind but through the process of disassembly and reassembly. While this was a toss-up, this bridge deserves recognition because restoring an iron bridge has become a rarity, but one where lessons can be taught to future restorers and engineers.
Runner-up: Bridge Street Bridge in Arroyo Grande, California-
Built in 1908 by the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Company, this half-pony-half deck truss bridge underwent a significant rehabilitation this past summer, replacing the decking with concrete for cars and wooden decking for the pedestrian path. The Bridge of Flowers also received a new paint job, though the changes done on the bridge were very little. Still, the truss bridge continues its function to this day.
🌍🧳 Münksbrücke in Dagebüll-
Located over the Schluttsiel Canal near Dagebüll in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, this bowstring arch bridge, the oldest of its kind in the state, was restored in 2018, using in-kind restoration that is rare in Germany, but common in the USA. This includes repairs and repainting the trusses plus a new wooden flooring which is typical for truss bridges built over 120 years ago. Seeing this bridge for the first time was like walking back into time where the bridge was first opened. What would help in the story is the reopening of a restaurant bearing the bridge’s name.
Runner-up: Berwick Arch Bridge
The multiple-span 400 year old arch bridge was restored to its original glory and reopened to traffic this past year. The arches look like new and new lighting makes the structure a popular attraction.
Worst Example of a Restored Historic Bridge👎
🌎🇺🇸 Merchants Bridge in St. Louis-
There seems to be a grave misunderstanding between rehabilitating a bridge and replacing a bridge. According to the Terminal Railroad of St. Louis, it’s a rehabilitation. But even a monkey would figure out that it’s a full-fledge replacement . Three of the most unique trusses swapped for something even a bridge company specializing in a mail-order pedestrian bridge would copy. Even Coke Zero has sugar in it. I bet the bridge builders responsible for this bridge are rolling around in their graves when hearing about this.
Spectacular Bridge Disaster 🌋🌊
🌍🧳: Ahrtal in Germany-
If there are any doubts about climate change, let me tell you a story that hit home this past summer in July, 2021. There, a small river that is normally between 20 and 50 centimeters deep became a monster within a matter of minutes, thanks to heavy rainfall. The River Ahr in the German states of Rhineland Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia became a tsunami that one could see in the second Narnia film, washing away every bridge, home and livelihood along the river. Compare as you see the videos below:
The Bridges in the Ahrtal before the Great Flood:
Highlights of the Ahrtal Floods:
And lastly, the destruction of the bridge in Narnia 2: King Caspian:
Any questions now???
A typhoon hit the Asian country of Taiwan on August 7th bringing with it, widespread destruction and flash floods that looks like something from a Hollywood film. This beam bridge, 20 years old, stood no chance as it was wiped out within seconds of the rushing water.
🌎🇺🇸 Pedestrian Bridge Over I-295 in Washington, DC-
If there is any doubt that our infrastructure is failing and Congress as well as the President need to act right away, one should look in the backyard. A 65-year old pedestrian bridge collapsed onto I-295 on June 23rd, 2021. It had been in poor condition but had neither been repaired nor closed to traffic. Luckily no one was killed and only five were injured. Still the bickering in Washington, combined with the inability to walk away from the Big Lie involving the US Elections is coming back to haunt all politicians and justices alike. As my former history teacher and football coach would say in this situation: GET IT DONE!
Best Find of a Historic Bridge💰🌟
🌎🇺🇸 Zavikon Island Bridge at the US/Canada Border-
Jeremy and Andreas, host of the show Bridge Boys, found a unique arch bridge sitting in the middle of a Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River, which was not only an international crossing, but it was once the shortest international crossing in the world, and one whose island the bridge connected belonged to a Hungarian. An interesting story about a bridge that we have never heard of until this past year. Click here to read the story: The World’s Shortest (and Cutest) International Bridge — Bridge Boys
Runner-up: Juniper Avenue Bridge in Washington County, Iowa-
Mitch Nicholson of Abandoned Iowa is going to have a hey day in writing about this bridge (See picture below). It was found by Luke Harden and its markings match that of a bridge built by (a) King- meaning George E. King, one of Zenas’ disciples. Up until just after Christmas, it had appeared nowhere, anywhere.
🌍🧳Münksbrücke near Dagebüll in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany-
This was a real toss up because many bridges deserved this recognition, especially this bridge, and its runners-up with the Twin Bridges at Tonder, Denmark and the Fairy Tale Bridge near Chomotov in Czechia. But this bridge is unique not only because it was the oldest historic bridge in the state, it’s the only bowstring arch bridge in the state and is one in the state where it has been restored in-kind. It’s a real gem in a sparsely populated area along the North Sea, where tourism is the lifeline of commerce.
The other two bridges. For the Twin Bridges at Tonder, Denmark, they are unique because they are not only 400 meters apart from each other, but also because they were exactly identical, from bridge type all the way down to the dimensions. The Fairy Tale Bridge at Chomotov in Czechia represents a stone arch bridge in the middle of the forest in the Ore Mountains, where it would have fit into any fairy tale movie produced either in Czechia or neighboring Germany.
Salvageable Mentioned 🗽
🌎🇺🇸 Relocated Pony Truss Bridge in Dickinson, North Dakota-
Officials in Stark County set an example of how to relocate and reuse a historic bridge for other counties to follow. Instead of scrapping one of the truss bridge spans, that structure was relocated to the fairgrounds for use as a pedestrian crossing. It was a dream of a retired county engineer that came true in November. But hopefully one of many more to come.
🌍🧳: Prince Albert Viaduct in Gundagai, Australia-
Built in 1866, the bridge was one of Gundagai’s two prizeds works of art and was the longest wooden trestle in the Southern Hemisphere. Still years of neglect and wear and tear resulted in its immediate removal. Good news is that portions of the bridge are being reused throughout the community, paying homage to the bridge and the Hume Road which once had connected Sydney and Melbourne. Plus the Murrumbigee River truss span will remain in place to be reused as a recreational crossing. Not all is lost with the bridge and this award serves as a consolation and a sense of hope for a community that is coping with a really big loss.
Biggest Bonehead Story 😂
Unicorn Fairytales 🦄🧚♀️
Bridges that last 100 years with no maintenance. Historic bridges, especially those listed on national registries costing 100% more to restore than to tear them down and build them new. Liability insurance that covered 100% of everything and doesn’t require partial payment. Everything that fellow pontist “Roamin” Rich Dinkela would call unicorn policy. Especially after the passage of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, county and state engineers are racing like the California gold rush to obtain as much money as possible to replace as many bridges as possible. Many of the structures are either a National Register property or are elgible for listing. While money is needed to improve the structure, the title is for repairing or replacing. Nevertheless, county engineers, Departments of Transportations and even the Federal Highway Administration have found creative ways to balloon up the costs for rehabilitating the bridge when in praxis it’s a quarter of the amount for demolition. Furthermore they have demanded liability insurance where there is no deductable and no one but the insurance forks over the cost for damage. This was the case with the Gasconade Bridge near Hazlegreen in Missouri for the unicorn insurance and the Frank J Wood Bridge in Brunswick and Topsham in Maine for the fictitious costs. Nevertheless, the federal government is starting to figure out the arbitrary and somewhat discriminatory costs and are looking into measures to make the cost for rehab vs replacement look more equal, fair and practical based on previous experience with bridge restoration, the lifespan of modern vs historic bridges and the actual cost for liability insurance where it is affordable but everyone has to chip in. As a friend of mine once said, there’s no such thing as a bridge that is 100 years maintenance free. Everyone is responsible for the bridge, regardless of type, age and function.
Wrongful Demolition of Victorian-era Railroad Bridges 🚧🏗️
This travesty is comparable to the Brexit. Highways England, a government agency similar to the Federal Highway Administration, announced a plan to remove or fill-in hundreds of railroad bridges, underpasses and overpasses deemed abandoned and a safety hazard. Over 130 bridges were targeted, most of them were stone arch bridges dating back to the Victorian Era, where industrialization was taking off and railroads were expanding in kilometers. All of them were without consent by locals who planned to reuse them for bike trail/ pedestrian crossings. While Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ordered a cease and desist on the plan to allow for re-evaluation, lawsuits and court orders to “un-fill” the arch bridges have been filed. This has received international attention and has led to the question which policy under Johnson is worse: the unlawful “slaughter of historic bridges deemed salvageable for reuse” or Britain leaving the EU- and as a consequence, Scotland planning to leave the United Kingdom? Both have resulted in billions of dollars lost. Both have come from Trump’s playbook, which Johnson studied quite thoroughly.
And now, the moment you have all been waiting for- the winners of the 2021 Bridgehunter Awards. And for that you must walk down the red carpet and into the theater 🎭🎥🎬