BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 167 Tribute to James Baughn

The 167th Pic of the Week has a perfect fall setting that was photographed by James Baughn in 2017. The bridge in the foreground however, as easy as you can access it, may be in danger of collapse.  This crossing is located across Blackwater River at McAllister Springs Access and features a Parker through truss span with Howe lattice portal bracings supported by curved heels. It’s near the village of Hustonia in Saline County, Missouri. The bridge has eight panels and has a length of between 160 and 190 feet. While there is no information on the date of construction, the pinned connections and the portals indicate a build date between 1890 and 1910.

At the time of the photo, the bridge was in a balancing act with the brick abutments cracking and spalling thanks to a tree that grew through it. Furthermore, the decking has rotted away to a point where the lower chords have been exposed. Some of lower beams have been shifted or are missing. Trees have landed on the bridge with branches found on the top chord and on the stringers. And lastly, the approach spans have disappeared with only V-laced columns dangling from the abutments. Another flood or two will seal the deal and put the bridge into the water. If that doesn’t happen, then most likely the bridge may collapse under its own weight. This happened with the Schell City Bridge in 2012 after years of abandonment, even though the decking was all but intact. Further photos taken this year shows a worsening state of the bridge. Click here to view.

The only way this bridge could be saved is if it is dismantled and restored in parts and built on new abutments as the old ones cannot be salvaged. Furthermore, it would have to be relocated to a better site where people can access the bridge. If and whether it is possible depends on the funding available but also the interest. Even if it was put into storage, it would be better than to just simply remove it.

The McAllister Truss Bridge is a bridge full of surprises, with history to be found on it and ways to preserve it. Yet it is a bridge in need of help and it hoped that someone will come to its rescue before Mother Nature finishes it with the next flood.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 166  Tribute to James Baughn

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This week’s Pic of the Week is also an Endangered TRUSS Award candidate and it focuses on a bridge that has been neglected for such long time, and if there is a possibility, it needs a new home. The Bolivia Road Bridge, known by locals as the Lanesville Truss Bridge, is a multiple-span truss bridge, spanning the Sangamon River at the border of Christian and Sangamon Counties. The 620-foot long bridge features a 180-foot pinned connected Parker through truss span, which has ornamental Lattice portal bracings with curved heels; the struts are also lattice. The remaining spans feature a half-hip pony truss span, 19-spans of trestle approaches on the north end and a stringer approach on the south end. The 120-year old bridge, built by J.T. Garrett of St. Louis, has been listed on the National Register since 2004.

Despite the listing on the NRHP, the Bolivia Road Bridge is considered one of the most neglected historic bridges in the country- a “step child” that neither county cares to have on their road system. The bridge has been closed for over a decade and plans had been in place at the same time for a new concrete span, whose expected lifespan is over a century- with no maintenance.  Furthermore, news stories on the bridge’s history has been distorted in newspapers, numerous times, resulting in criticism from the historic bridge community because the story is biased and written from someone who did no research and wrote for the money provided in the coffins of rich people wanting a new bridge at any cost.

Despite all the talk of demolition of the bridge, the structure is still standing. Even after James Baughn took this in 2016, most recent photos have indicated that the bridge is still standing strong- the decking covered in grass- but still standing in tact. The question though is for how long? While the window of opportunity is still open, we need a plan that will include saving and most likely relocating the Bolivia Bridge, getting our hands on the structure before the wrecking crew does. While the bridge is protected by the National Register, it is unknown for how long for pressure is mounting to have it delisted to allow for the demolition to take place. Therefore one needs to find it a new home and soon, be it in state or out of state, as long as the window of opportunity remains open.

If there is a way to find a new home for it or to restore it, feel free to comment, but also address the issue with the local officials and other agencies.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 165 Tribute to James Baughn

This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to Clay County, Illinois and to this bridge. When bridgehunting, one will find an abandoned structure out in the open and hard to reach. In the case of this bridge, it’s the exact opposite. The Parker through truss may be in tact, as one can see in this picture. But given the thick vegetation that has grown on the structure, it is almost inaccessible. One would have to brave cuts and abrasives as well as spiders and other insects just to get onto this structure. It has a scary resemblance of a bridge in Kansas that was covered in vines, but was sadly removed earlier this year.

Yet this bridge is one of three that can be found along US Highway 50 between Clay City and Noble. All three bridges were built in 1923, when the US Highway system had not been introduced just yet and the road was operated as FR 2114. It was one of the first in the state that was built using concrete. When the highway system was introduced in 1926, this stretch of road was designated as US Hwy. 50, which became a 3073-mile route from Ocean City, Maryland to Sacramento, California, but running through Cincinnati, St. Louis and Kansas City. Out west, it received the nickname “Loneliest Road in the Country” as it crossed through hundreds of miles of desert and mountains.

The bridge trio carried US 50 until the 1980s when the highway was realigned and widened and the structures were vacated. Now closed to all traffic, they can be seen while driving along this stretch. However, talks have been ongoing about making the stretch of US 50 an expressway, which means these three bridge may become history unless there is opposition to the project. Given their location in the wildlife area where the Little Wabash, and the branches of Muddy Creek are located, there is enough ammunition to put a stop to the plans with arguments involving the environmental impacts of such a project, let along the historical significance of the bridge trio. The bridges are not on the National Register but should be because of their association with the highway’s history, let alone their design and connection with the builder, whoever was responsible for the structures.

When traveling between Clay City and Noble, check out these structures, then find many ways to make preserving them happen.

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INFORMATION ON THE BRIDGE TRIO OF CLAY COUNTY:

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Big Muddy Creek Bridge:

Location: Bug Muddy Creek west of N. Clay Rd. and Hites Hardware

Description: This crossing is a multiple span bridge with a riveted Pratt through truss span and concrete beam approach spans. The approach spans have brick railings. The truss span has lattice portal bracings

Built: 1923 by unknown builder

Dimensions:

Length of largest span: 125.0 ft.
Total length: 558.9 ft.
Deck width: 21.0 ft.

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Little Muddy Creek Bridge

Location: Little Muddy Creek

Description: This crossing is a multiple span bridge with a riveted Pratt through truss span and concrete beam approach spans. The approach spans have brick railings. The truss span has lattice portal bracings

Built: 1923 by unknown builder

Dimensions:

Length of largest span: 125.0 ft.
Total length: 341.9 ft.
Deck width: 21.0 ft.

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Litte Wabash River Bridge

Location: Little Wabash River east of Mayflower Road.

Description: Single span Parker through truss bridge with concrete decking, riveted connections, and Howe lattice bracings on the struts and portals

Built: 1923 by unknown builder

Dimensions:

Length of largest span: 170.0 ft.
Total length: 172.9 ft.
Deck width: 21.0 ft.

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The photos were taken by James Baughn sometime between 2015 and 2016 but we don’t know the current status as of present. According to Google Maps and Street View, they appear to be extant. We can only hope they remain that way and they can be saved for generations to come.

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Bridge Documentary: 700 Feet Down

Galloping Gertie Collapsing on November 7, 1940. Source: bridgehunter.com

On November 7th, 1940, a suspension bridge spanning the Narrows in Tacoma, Washington, collapsed into the water. The first Tacoma Narrows Bridge had opened to traffic four months earlier and right away, it was nicknamed Galloping Gertie because of the roadway easily swaying by the high winds. It would not be until 1950 when the second Tacoma Narrows crossing was built connecting the island with the city. While the first crossing was later dismantled, much of the bridge remains were left in the water, only to be left alone……

….until now.

A crew of divers took a trip to the Tacoma Narrows to see what was left of Galloping Gertie, now part of the natural habitat, and producers at Vester Media and Our World Films have released a documentary, looking at the suspension bridge then and right now.

700 Feet Down was released on July 27th, 2021 and can be available via online TV channels such as Amazon Prime or AppleTV. Its primary focus goes beyond the mistakes made by building a bridge laden with structural flaws; it looks at the bridge remains that have become part of a larger natural habitat and addresses environmental themes that surround the area. The 45-minute documentary looks at the bridge in the past, the tragedy, and why much of the bridge remained in the water. It features some of the forms of flora and fauna that have made the remains of Gertie home for many years. While Gertie is talked about a lot in physics and engineering classes, this documentary features another side of Gertie that should be discussed in environmental studies class, as some of the effects of global warming and overfishing/ hunting have already left its effects in the area. The documentary brings together all the elements that will have viewers talking about it, and hopefully take action.

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There are links to the film for you to look at. They include the following:

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General website: http://carlyvester.com/700-feet-down

Interview with the Divers: https://www.pbs.org/video/700-feet-down-knhghr/

BHC article on Galloping Gertie, can be found by clicking here.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 164  Tribute to James Baughn

After a couple weeks away from the computer, we return to our weekly Pic of the Week, paying tribute to the late James Baughn. Our next pic, where he visited and photographed is one that is very dear because it is the only one of its kind along the longest river in the state.

We know that the Des Moines River, with a total length of 526 miles (845 kilometers), slices through the state of Iowa, including the state capital of Iowa that bears the same name. Even if the river forks into the east and west branches and starts in southern Minnesota, the river is loaded with unique bridges- both past and present, that bridge builders from as many as ten states have left their marks, six of which come from Iowa, including Iowa Bridge Company, A.H. Austin, Clinton Bridge and Iron Company, George E. King, Marsh Engineering, just to name a few.  The most notable bridges one can find along the river include the Murray and Berkheimer Bridges in Humboldt County, Ellsworth Ranch Bridge in Emmet County, the Kate Shelley Viaduct in Boone County, the arch bridges in Des Moines,…..

…..and this bridge in St. Francisville, in Missouri!

The St. Francisville Bridge spans the river at the Iowa/Missouri border. It’s a Warren-style cantilever through truss bridge with MA-portal bracings. The connections are riveted. It was built in 1937 by Sverdrup and Parcel of St. Louis, with FW Whitehead overseeing the constructon of the bridge. The bridge was formerly a toll bridge until they were eliminated in 2003. It used to serve the Avenue of the Saints and Jefferson Highway (Highway 27) until it was bypassed by an expressway bridge in 2004. It later served as a frontage road crossing until 2016, when the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic. Since then, the bridge has been sitting usused, awaiting its future. 

The photo was taken by Mr. Baughn in 2013, when the bridge was still open to traffic. Given the bridge’s proximity to the nearby park and boat ramp on the Missouri side, combined with the nearby communities, the structure is a great asset and with some repairs and renovations done with the superstructure, the bridge could continue as a local street crossing, sharing the road with a bike route. What is needed is money to strengthen and renovate the structure to a point where it can be reused again. The bridge is eligible for the National Register, which if listed, could open the door for grants and other amenities that will help with the cause. The bridge would be a perfect rest stop for commuters traveling in both directions and St. Francesville would benefit from a newly restored bridge.

The St. Francisville Bridge is unique because of its design as a cantilever truss bridge, something that has become a rarity these days. It is the only crossing along the Des Moines of this kind and one of a few examples of a bridge built by Sverdrup and Parcel, the same company that contributed to numerous major bridge projects in five states between 1920 and 1960. It is time that the bridge is given the tender loving care it deserves.

The question is are you willing to help with the cause?

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Stone Arch Road Bridge near Nineveh, Indiana

Photo taken by Tony Dillon in 2012

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There are thousands of metal truss bridges in Indiana that were discovered and documented in the 50 years James Cooper was in the field of historic bridge preservation and one could make a list of bridges that would not have existed as long as they did, had it not been for his contribution to his work. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that only a handful of truss bridges were used primarily for building purposes between 1880 and 1920, such as the Pratt, Whipple, Warren, Warren, Pennsylvania, Baltimore and Parker designs. Then we have the question of bridge builders who not only competed with each other for bridge-building contracts, but they also merged with each other and consolidated the businesses. Classic example was the creation of the American Bridge Company in 1900, which featured 28 bridge builders including Wrought Iron Bridge, Lassig Bridge and Iron Works and even Masillon Bridge Company.

Little do we pay attention to are the details of the truss bridge, such as connections, portal and strut bracings, types of beams used for the trusses, railings and most importantly, plaques and other ornaments. Most of these “decorations” indicated that the bridge builder wanted to leave their mark and make it fancier for the passers-by. In short, the more “decorations” the more likely it will be appreciated by the locals, and in terms of historic bridge preservation, the more likely it will be documented and preserved in the present for future generations to see.

In this film documentary, courtesy of Mike Daffron and Satolli Glassmeyer, we have one truss bridge that represented a classic example of a typical Pratt through truss bridge, yet its unique portal bracings and the stone abutments used for construction made it a unique structure that needed to be saved. The Stone Arch Road Bridge is located on a road where a stone arch bridge does exist nearby (will write more later), but is the more beautiful of the two bridges. The bridge spans Nineveh Creek near the community but in the Attebury Fish and Wildlife Preserves and was open to traffic in 1886. The bridge was fully restored in 2011 and has been serving vehicular traffic ever since. How the bridge was built and all the other details about it, you will find in the videos below.

Enjoy! 🙂

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History in Your Own Backyard:

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Mike Daffron:

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Best Kept Secret: A School Bus Bridge in Kentucky

PRESTONSBURG, KENTUCKY- When traveling through the state of Kentucky, one will be awed by the state’s hilly landscapes, several memorial sites and in some cases, perhaps some historic bridges that are worth a visit. One place a tourist should plan to visit is Floyd County- specifically in the area of Prestonsburg, where history and landscapes come into one. Most recently, a 8.6 mile trail running along Middle Creek Levisa Fork opened to cyclists and pedestrians, connecting Prestonsburg with a small, former mining village of David. All of the trail runs along KY Hwy. 404 and along the way, one will have a chance to see some historic sites, most notably the Middle Creek National Battlefield. Six historic bridges along the route have been restored for reuse.

Yet there is a unique bridge, located near Archer Park, that has gathered a lot of attention since the trail’s opening in August of last year. It’s a school bus that was converted into a steel through bridge. The motive behind this idea was reusing a school bus that was no longer in service, which was the case for a 40+ year old school bus that operated under the Nr. 404 by using the top half and integrating it into the wooden deck beam bridge. 

End result is instead of sitting down on the school bus, because we were told to do so by our school bus drivers when we were growing up, we are basically running through the school bus with both sides open. Some of us had tried to run up and down the school bus until the driver stopped the bus and put an end to the nonsense. From a personal point of view, we even played Simon Says and harassed the bus driver one time, only to get a call from the principal and some of us being punished for it.  For this bridge, it’s perfect to reenact that and then some. But horseplay is not the only thing you can do on the school bus bridge; one can enjoy getting photos of this unique structure, especially as it is tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains, laden with luscious trees.

But there is an underlying meaning behind the school bus bridge and it dates back to over 65 years ago. On February 28, 1958, a school bus numbered 27 carrying 48 children collided with a truck along US Hwy. 23. The bus then fell off an embankment into the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River, where it was swept downstream by the violent waters before it was submerged. 22 children managed to escape, yet 26 others plus the bus driver drowned. The bus and the bodies were discovered two days later, and to this day, it is the third worst disaster involving a school bus in US history. Two songs and two movies were later released, paying tribute to the victims of Bus 27.  The school bus bridge not only pays tribute to these victims, but it sends a direct message to the public, which is to pay attention to the school bus, the signals and crossing guards, and the children who board the bus but also ride it to and from school. If there is a statement, it would be this: Be aware and respect the bus- red means stop.

There have been many ways to recycle materials and use them for bridges. Some have used roofs made of metal. Others use rail boxcars. But the use of the school bus is the latest example of creative ways to build a bridge and make it not only inexpensive but also fancy for people to see. The School Bus Bridge along the Prestonsburg-David/ Levisa Fork Trail is one of the most attractive sites along the trail, let alone in the region. It reuses a bus but pays tribute to not only the tragedy of 1958, but also to all the school bus drivers who devote their time and effort to escort children to and from school safely.  I’m not sure if my bus drivers of my childhood will have a chance to see this unique artwork, but if you don’t have it on your bucket list, add it and go there. You will not regret it. 😉

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Special thanks to David Kravetz for allowing me to use his photos and for point this out in the fb page The American Two-Lane.

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Three Historic Bridges in Wisconsin Available for Reuse: Any Takers?

LONE ROCK, WISCONSIN- Three historic truss bridges in and around the Lone Rock area are being marketed off to those who are interested in purchasing a piece of history and repurposing it for recreational use.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is replacing three truss bridges in 2024, yet they would like to give the structures away with hopes their historical integrity are maintained under the care of the new owner(s). They are all located along Wisconsin State Highways 130 and 133, two of them span the Wisconsin River and feature multiple-span through truss spans, one of them is a pony truss span. They date back to the 1930s. All are within two miles (4km) of each other. The details are below:

Long Island/ Border Crossing:

Location: Wisconsin River at the junction WI Hwy. 130 & 133

Year of Construction: 1942

Bridge Type: Three-span polygonal Warren through truss with subdivided vertical beams, riveted connections and W-frame portal bracing

Dimensions: 682.4 feet long (212 feet per truss span); 24 feet wide

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Lone Rock Bridge:

Location: Small Branch Wisconsin River on WI Hwys. 130 & 133

Bridge type: Four-span Warren through truss with riveted connections, W-frame portal bracing and X-frame strut bracings.

Construction Date/ Builder: 1933 by the Clinton Bridge Company of Clinton, Iowa

Dimensions: 553.5 feet long (truss span 138 feet each); 20 feet wide

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Long Lake Bridge:

Location: Long Lake on WI Hwys. 130 & 133 at the entrance to Lone Rock

Bridge Type: Single-span Warren pony truss with riveted connections

Year Built: 1932 (possibly also by Clinton Bridge Company)

Dimensions: 83.7 feet (truss span: 80.1 feet) long, 20 feet wide

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According to a press release provided by WIDOT, recipients must agree to relocate the structure (or structures) to a suitable spot and assume all obligations and responsibilities for maintaining it. Funding is available for relocating the structure, yet the transfer of ownership will be made once the structures are dismantled and loaded onto the truck beds for transport to their new homes, at no additional cost. Further information on the bridges on the market can be found in the link by clicking here.

The company Michael Baker International is overseeing the project of replacing the three crossings and giving the historic structures away to the new owners. If you are interested in obtaining a package and providing proposals for relocating one or all of the crossings mentioned here, please contact Sue Barker via e-mail at: Susan.Barker@mbakerintl.com or via phone at 608-821-8712. She is your contact for additional questions and other items you may have about the bridge project. Deadline for obtaining the informational packages is October 31, 2021. Further information on the procedures to nominate parties willing to take the bridge(s) will be made available after the deadline.

Wisconsin has already had an attempt to relocate the historic Cobban Bridge in Chipewa County, only to be met with failure and the two-span Pennsylvania through truss spans being doomed to demolition. It’s scheduled to come down next year. It is hoped that something can be done with the Lone Rock crossings between now and 2024 in terms of preserving them for future use. All it takes is the will of the public and all parties involved to make it happen.

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All photos courtesy of the late JR Manning. He took the pics in 2012.

Endangered TRUSS: W Avenue Bridge in Tama County, Iowa

This bridge is part of a series dedicated to the works of the late James Cooper and J.R. Manning. All photos here are courtesy of the latter, who visited the bridge in 2013.

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Eagle Center, Iowa- All it takes is a quick turn onto a gravel road and it all goes down hill from there. All the way to the end and you will find this hidden gem. You cannot drive your car over it because it is too fragil. Hence the barriers and signs saying road closed. Yet you can walk or even bike across if you are careful. The bridge is a through truss, with typical truss design and portals- Pratt and Lattice with heels. You don’t know about this bridge except for its metalic beauty, yet the construction of the bridge corresponds to the history of bridge building during the Gilded Ages- 1870 to 1910. You wonder what can be done to keep the bridge in tact because the structure appears stable and look into ideas on how to keep it in place, even though the road is less traveled and it is hidden in areas often ignored by motorists passing by.

And this is the story behind the W-Avenue Bridge in Tama County, Iowa. Tama County has a diverse collection of truss bridges like this one, most of which can be found along Wolf Creek. Yet this one sticks out as a bridge that has a potential for reuse, even in its current location. There is not much to talk about the structure. The bridge is a typical Pratt through truss with pinned connections built after the turn of the century. It was built in 1903 by George E. King, son of Zenas King who operated his business in Cleveland, Ohio, yet the younger King had established his business in Des Moines and populated the state with bridges with his own signature portal bracings (Howe lattice with subdivided heels). The bridge had a simple life, serving local residents and farmers………

…….until its closure in 2011.

We don’t know the underlying reason behind the bridge suddenly being closed to traffic except for some inspection reports from bridge firms specialized in modern bridges, like Schuck and Britson with its lopsided report on the Cascade Bridge in Burlington, which led to its closure in 2008. Such biased reports and scare tactics are common but following them like lambs to the slaughter house makes structures like this one be dangerous, when in all reality, the bridge is simply fine. Just a few minor repairs and extra special care and the structure would have remained open today.

Or is it closed?

During his visit in 2013, J.R. Manning took a chance to visit the bridge and saw that even though the bridge was out, according to the sign, it was anything but that with missing boulders, signs knocked over and the like. Some of his observations showed that the bridge was in relatively good shape and one could just have simply put a weight limit on the bridge to keep the trucks off of it. The decking was covered in asphalt and there was no real structural issues that would have justified its closure. In other words, the bridge could have taken a few more years of traffic, assuming that cars cross this location which were rare on this stretch of quiet road

Three years later, new barriers were put into place, but one can walk across it, take some pictures and enjoy the scenery that surrounds the bridge, given the fact that it’s tucked away in the valley. Today, the road to the bridge is all covered in grass but the bridge is safe and sound, hidden away and unused except by the local farm nearby. It makes a person wonder whether the bridge will remain as is given its condition or if it will be reused elsewhere. In any case if it remains where it is, it will make for a good bike trail crossing or park. It’s a matter of sprucing it up and making it safe for use. But given its location, it should not be a problem to spend a few thousand for that.

Whether the people will use it or not depends on the will to spend some time down there. The bridge may be out but it’s still in use for those who want to spend time in the nature, along a quiet creek like Wolf Creek…

…. and think about things in peace. ❤

Endangered TRUSS: New Bridge in Salem County, New Jersey

Photo taken by Jodi Christman

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Our next Endangered Truss article takes us to Salem County, New Jersey and to the New Bridge. Spanning Alloway Creek between Elsinboro and Quinton on the former County Road 623, this unique through truss bridge used to function as a swing bridge until the 1960s before it became a fixed crossing. The bridge is one of only three structures left that were built by the New Jersey Bridge Company and is considered elgible for the National Register. Yet the bridge has been closed to all traffic for three decades. Even though it is still accessible by foot, the bridge is being taken over by the remnants of time, for vegetation is covering the trusses and the bridge has become a focus for graffiti. Still, it has a potential for being a recreational crossing, if repairs are made to prolong its life.

Journalists from New Jersey.com, the state’s largest newspaper, have done a documentary on the state of the bridge, providing both video coverage of the bridge (inside and out) as well as an essay. While one could reinvent the wheel with their quotes, it’s simply appropriate to simply provide you with the video below as well as the link to the article, which you can click here to read.  Structural facts about the bridge can be found here, which includes a link to the HABS/HAER structural report on the bridge.

So sit back and enjoy the video on The Old and Abandoned: The Story of the New Bridge.  

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