If you walk along the Thames Path, or perhaps cross the River Thames via foot or train on the two Blackfriars Bridges, you may have noticed these pieces of unusual river furniture. Running from north to south are pairs of red pillars, which used to support the original railway bridge before it was dismantled in […]
CHIPPEWA FALLS, WISCONSIN- Imagine this situation for a second: You have an old but very unique historic bridge with a history that binds two communities together. After being built 120 years ago, it was relocated to its present site during its 20th year and remains in use until structural problems force the county to close the bridge and plan its replacement. The bridge is located near a bike trail that used to be a railroad line connecting the two communities. While the public is really attached to the bridge, the county insists on building a new bridge at its current site because the cost for even restoring the bridge is far more than just tearing it down and replacing it. Because of its history and unique design, the bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which makes funding for restoring the structure easier to achieve than it is when removing it using federal funds. Yet funding for restoring the bridge is hard to find. What do you do?
- Proceed to tear the bridge down and replace it?
- Get a second opinion about the cost of evaluating the bridge and find ways to fix the bridge for continued use?
- Build a bridge alongside the sturcture and convert the old bridge into a pedestrian crossing?
- Build a new bridge at its original site but find constructive ways to relocate the bridge or use part of the structure- especially along the bike trail?
In the case of the Cobban Bridge, a two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge spanning the Chippewa River southwest of Cornell in western Wisconsin, the situation is very precarious, for the historic bridge, considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Places because of its history and unique design, has met the end of its useful life as a vehicular crossing. Yet costs for restoring vs. replacing the bridge have forced county officials to look at other options apart from rehabilitating the bridge in place or building a new structure alongside the old one. In other words, the bridge cannot remain in its current place and must go.
Since August 2, the bridge has been shut down to all traffic including pedestrians, and talks are underway for securing funding for the bridge’s removal in place of a new strucure. This also includes looking at options for reusing the bridge, which when looking at the drone video, it’s a real beauty:
Yet inspite of its beauty, the Cobban Bridge will most likely have to make its third move in its lifetime, unless financial support for reconstructing the bridge at its current location combined with constructing a new bridge alongside the structure is realized, not just on the government level but also from the private sector.
When the bridge was first built in 1908 by the Modern Steel Structures Company, based Waukesha, the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge was over the Chippewa River between the townships of Anson and Eagle Point. The bridge was christened the Yellow River Bridge even though it was located one mile north of the Yellow River itself. Replacing the iron bridge built years before, the structure had the same features as the one at its present location: it was made of steel, had pinned connections, overhead V-laced strut bracings and a three-rhombus Howe lattice portal bracings with 45° heel bracings. Ten years later, as part of the plan to construct a dam along the river near Chippewa Falls (and subsequentially inundate the crossing upstream), the bridge was relocated 15 miles downstream to cross the same river between Cornell and Jim Falls near the village of Cobban. The bridge has been in service since then- all 486.5 feet in length; each span, being identical and having a length of 241 feet.
Despite this, planning has been in the works to replace the Cobban Bridge, even though the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge is not only the last one of its truss type left in the state, but it is the only multiple-span bridge of its kind in the country! Inspections and estimates have revealed that restoring the bridge to be reused even for pedestrian purposes would be $13-14 million. A report presented by a well-known bridge builder, AECOM (whose regional office is based in Stevens Point in northern Wisconsin) revealed that replacing the bridge on a new alignment would cost $11 million, up from an estimated $7.2 million that was figured in March 2016. If delayed until 2025, the price would be lowered from $12.9 million to $8.6 million at the site where the bridge is located. Tearing the bridge down would cost $1.6 million. Established as a conglomerate in 1990, AECOM has its headquarters in New York but dozens of offices throughout the country as well as Europe. While its specialty is designing and building state-of-the-art buildings and modern bridges, for restoring historic bridges, its only focus has been on stone arch bridges, which included Grobler’s Bridges in South Africa and the Railroad Viaduct over the Neisse in Görlitz, at the German-Polish border. County officials and supporters of the Cobban Bridge are dissatisfied with the results provided by AECOM. Yet all parties have agreed to one thing, if the bridge is unsafe, then something has to be done about it.
Because of its design and historical integrity, the bridge is elgible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, which means environmental and cultural impact surveys (especially those in connection with Section 106 of the Preservation Laws) are to be undertaken before any work on replacing the bridge was to commence. According to Marilyn Murphy, who has started a facebook page on Saving the Cobban Bridge and has over 2000 followers, the surveys are already underway. As the project will require federal money, state and local authorities are mandated to allow the surveys be undertaken to determine the impact of replacing the Cobban Bridge, while looking at alternatives for reusing the bridge. Several other agencies have been involved in looking for options for the bridge, including the Texas-based Historic Bridge Foundation, as well as the Chippewa County Historical Society. The key variable that is known, according to Murphy, is that the county would like to relieve themselves of legal responsibilities for the bridge and would gladly like to give the bridge to any third party member wishing to take responsibility for maintaining the structure, including its relocation.
So with the bridge available for the taking, what options are available for the Cobban Bridge?
In the interview with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, Murphy presented a long list of possibilities for reuse. This includes using portions of the bridge along the Old Abe Bike Trail, which runs along the Chippewa between Lake Wissota and Brunet Island State Parks, relocating one or both spans back to the original Yellow River site, using one span for a state park, or even purchasing parts of the dismantled span (boards or beams) as remembrances. However, as mentioned earlier, there is interest in keeping the two spans in its original spot- a practical and most logical choice, yet two variables are lacking: funding and expertise. Funding because it is likely that regardless of ownership- be it through the state with the Department of Natural Resources (which owns the Old Abe Bike Trail), private-public partnership or simply pure ownership- funding will need to be found mostly through private sources, including donations from companies and citizens. This would be needed to renovate the bridge to make it a viable crossing for pedestrians and cyclists and incorporate it into the bike trail. Expertise would mean looking at companies that have restored bridges like this for recreational use, and there are enough both in-state as well as out-of-state to go around. Even if the bridge is to be relocated again, these two variables are going to be key in order for the bridge to live on.
What needs to be done in order to prevent the demise of the Cobban Bridge?
We know that the bridge has been declared off limits for all traffic, including pedestrians and cyclists- at least until the environmental impact and cultural surveys are completed, which can take 6-12 months or more to complete (including alternatives for reusing the bridge both in place and elsewhere). Without that there is no federal funding that can cover 80% of the costs for the bridge. There has been a lot of public support and sentiment towards the Cobban Bridge and ways to save and reuse the structure, yet the approach of doing-nothing is not an option. This was already seen with the Wagon Wheel Bridge in Iowa, and its neglect, combined with vandalism and the lack of maintenance resulted in the “Triple GAU” consisting of arson, collapse and in the end, the removal of the remaining structure in 2016. There are a lot of ideas for reusing the bridge- be it in place or at a different location (even in segments), and the county is ready to hand over the keys that will unlock the gates that have closed off the structure since August, forcing travelers to detour to crossings at Jim Falls and Cornell. Yet, like with the Green Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa, which has been reopened since the end of last year, a group or alliance will be needed that will take over ownership and assume full responsibilities of the bridge and assure that it is safe for use. And speaking from experiences of others, the going may be tough at the beginning, but after a series of fundraisers and other events to help restore and reuse the bridge, the Cobban Bridge may have another life beyond that of horse and buggy, the Model T and lastly, the Audi.
If you would like to help restore and/or reuse the Cobban Bridge, you can visit its facebook page (here) and contact Marilyn Murphy at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s the main contact for the bridge and can also provide you with some other contact information of others involved with the project. She and her husband Jim were nice enough to provide some pics of the bridge for this article. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the Cobban Bridge and the steps that will be needed on the structure’s future, regardless of which direction it is taken.
52-year old bridge to be replaced due to structural wear and tear. Documentary following events.
LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY- There is a growing theory regarding bridge building which states: build one that lasts 100 years and requires no maintenance. This demand is especially high in the United States and therefore, the focus of bridge construction has come down to cable-stayed suspension bridges, suspension bridges, girders and slabs. Sadly though, this theory always gets rebuked when one needs to look at the increasing number and size of vehicules crossing them, plus the need to maintain them on a yearly basis to ensure that this utopian goal is realized.
With the Motorway Crossing in Leverkusen (known as the A1 Rheinbrücke), the bridge is overtaxed with vehicles and despite extensive maintenance, the state of North-Rhine Westphania, together with the cities of Leverkusen and Cologne are now working on a replacement bridge. Built in 1965, the bridge features a cable-stayed suspension design, using one set of towers and cables in the middle of the roadway with cables anchored in two different lines supporting the median, which supports a steel deck girder roadway that supports the Motorway A1. The bridge was built by Hellmut Homberg, who was the Othmar H. Ammann of bridge building, having built several crossings in the Rhine-Ruhr River regions, including structures in Duisburg, Bonn, Cologne and Emmerich. The longest suspension bridge in Germany was built in Emmerich and is credited to Homberg. The A1 Rheinbrücke provides direct service between Saarbrücken to the south and places to the north, which includes Münster, Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck and two-lane to Fehmarn. The crossing is one of the oldest of its modern type, even though records showed that a tunnel and a basket-weaved tied arch bridge were also on the table (note: The latter can be seen in the Fehmarn Bridge, as reference). The bridge has a total length of 1061 meters; the main span has a length of 280 meters. The width of 31.7 meters includes the expansion of its original four lanes to six in the mid 1990s.
Originally slated for replacement in 2025, construction of the bridge is currently in the preliminary stages with plans to have a new structure in place by 2020. The reason: Because of the increase of traffic, both on the bridge as well as underneath with ships travelling along the Rhine, combined with weather extremities, structural weaknesses, especially in the steel, has become so great that rehabilitating the bridge has no longer become an option. Patchwork and weight limits have been conducted on several occasions, but only for the purpose of prolonging the bridge’s life until its new structure is open to traffic and the old one is removed.
Already a new bridge is designed and crews are doing soil samples to determine where to place the bridge. German public TV channel WDR (based in Cologne) is doing a documentary on this bridge project in the form of Sendung mit der Maus, a TV program for children and families with a lot of interesting facts and experiments. Televising the document in irregular intervals since January 2016, one can see how bridges are inspected, planning is undertaken for constructing the bridge, and the actual project itself. One can have a look at the progress below, but ask yourself this question:
Do you agree with this design preference? If not, how would you go about with this project if you are the planner, engineer and city official?
The Autobahn 1 is one of the oldest motorways in Europe, and the third longest motorway in Germany behind A3 and A7. The Weimar Republic proposed building a highway without intersections and traffic lights during the 1920s, yet was realized through massive construction efforts during the time of the Third Reich. The A1 was presented in 1939 but serving the Rhine-Ruhr region, as well as in segments to the north. The rest of the autobahn was completed in the 1960s and later expanded in the 1990s and 2000s. The last segment at Fehmarn is being fought by locals because of the negative environmental impact on the island through a new crossing between the island and Schleswig-Holstein as well as between the island and Denmark. The battle is ongoing and one can read more here.…..
The Rheinbrücke in Leverkusen is one of several bridges of its kind that have been targeted for deficiencies. Two other cable-stayed bridges in Duisburg and Cologne (Severin Bridge), plus the Köhlbrand Bridge in Hamburg are having the same structural issues because of too much traffic and are facing the same fate as the crossing in Leverkusen.
A bridge tour of the region along the Rhine can be found here.
Like the Mouse, the Chronicles will keep you posted on this project………
Record voter turnout for the Awards. Saxony, Route 66, and Elvis Bridges in Kansas dominating the categories. Eric Delony and John Marvig honored for Lifetime Achievement.
Since 2011 the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles has been hosting the Othmar H. Ammann Awards for historic bridges, focusing on successful efforts in preserving them as well as places with a wide array of historic bridges to see as a pontist, tourist, photographer, historian/teacher or a simple passer-by. In its sixth year of the awards, we saw records getting smashed for the most number of votes, let alone the lead changes that came about in some categories, complete blow-outs in others, thus making this race the most exciting and nail-biting in history. No matter which category you were watching, you probably saw your favorite going from worst to first in as many votes as in the category Best Photo, which saw votes in the thousands, plus a voting arms race among three candidates. We also saw some deadlocks for Tour Guide International, Lifetime Achievement (for second place) and Mystery Bridge, which got people wondering what characteristics led to the votes, because they must have been this good. For some that lucked out, the Author’s Choice Awards were given as consolation, which will be mentioned here as well.
So without further ado, let’s have a look at the results, each of whom has a brief summary:
This category was the most exciting and nerve-racking as we saw a battle for first place take place among three candidates:
The MacArthur Bridge in St. Louis (Taken by Roamin Rich), Bull Creek Bridge in Kansas (Taken by Nick Schmiedeler) and the Paradiesbrücke in Zwickau, Germany (Taken by Michael Droste).
Despite Zwickau’s early lead in the polls and regaining the lead for a couple days a week ago, MacArthur Bridge won the voting arms race with 38.5% of the votes, outlasting Bull Creek, which received 28.2%. Paradiesbrücke got only 16%. Devil’s Elbow Bridge in Missouri received 4.2% with fifth place going to the same person who photographed the Paradiesbrücke but in the daytime (2.2%). The remaining results can be seen here. For the next three months, the winner of the Best Photo Award will have his photos displayed on the Chronicle’s areavoices website (here) and the Chronicles’ facebook page (here), second place winner will have his photo on the Chronicles’ facebook group page (here), and the third place winner on the Chronicles’ twitter page (here). All three will also be in the Chronicles’ wordpress page (here), rotating in gallery format in the header.
TOUR GUIDE INTERNATIONAL:
This category was perhaps the most watched by readers and pontists on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, as four cities were vying for first and third place, respectively before another city decided to crash the party within a matter of only 24 hours before the polls closed, effectively deciding the winner and third place winners. Coincidence or a plot, that remains to be seen. It is known that these five bridge cities will receive further honorable mentions in the near future. The winner of this tight race was Zwickau (Saxony), Germany, which after battling with Calgary during the competition, edged the largest city in Alberta and fifth largest in Canada by a margin of 25.1% to 24%. The reason behind that was the city’s selection of the most unique bridges, one of which, the Röhrensteg, had received the Author’s Choice Award for Best Historic Bridge Finding. There is also the aforementioned Paradiesbrücke, the Zellstoff Truss Bridge and the Schedewitz Bridge, all along the Mulde River and a stone arch viaduct near the train station. The city is worth a treat.
Third place winner goes to Canal Bridges in Brugges, Belgium, which went from seventh place to its final spot in less than 24 hours, knocking the River Tyne Bridges in Great Britain and the Bridges in Glauchau (Saxony) to fourth and fifth places. Brugges had 13.5% of the votes, followed by The River Tyne with 12.6% and Glauchau with 10.5%. Glauchau also received the Author’s Choice Award for its historic bridge find because of its many arch bridges that don’t span the Mulde, like in neighboring Zwickau, but along the railroad line and along the high road leading to the two castles located on the hill overlooking the river valley.
TOUR GUIDE USA:
Unlike in the international competition, this category proved to be no competition at all, for the Bridges of Tompkins County, New York, laden with various types of bridges dating back 150 years, including two iron truss bridges, a covered bridge and some arch bridges, left the competition in the dust. Even at the beginning of the race, it garnered an average of 92% of the votes. In the end, the county won an astounding 89.3%. The closest second place winner was the Bridges in Washington County, Maryland, which had 3.2% of the votes, edging the third place winner, The Bridges of Boone County, Iowa with 2.9%. Having lost the Wagon Wheel Bridge in December to demolition and removal after years of neglect, the Marsh rainbow arch bridges and Kate Shelley’s Viaduct could not compensate of the loss and therefore, people looked to its winner as their bridges are still in used, most of them after having been restored.
BEST KEPT SECRET FOR A US BRIDGE:
Some bridges deserved to immersed in water and covered in coral, used for habitat for underwater life. Others deserved to be immersed and later exposed when the weather extremities are at their worst. The Colebrook Lake Bridge in Connecticut is one that definitely is in the second category. When Colebrook Lake was made in 1969, this Warren pony truss span with riveted connections became part of the lake bottom and a distant memory among local residents and historians. Its existence came as a surprise, thanks to a severe drought that lowered the lake to its pre-made stage and exposed this structure. Now residents and historians are finding more information on this structure while looking at ways to either reuse it or leave it for nature. Colebrook won the award in this category with 57.4% of the votes. Second place went to the Marais de Cygnes Bridge in Kansas, one of the rarest Parker through truss bridges in the state, with 22.8% of the votes. Clark’s Creek Bridge, one of many Elvis bridges discovered by Nick Schmiedeler this past year, finished third with 15.4%, yet it was the winner in another category! More on that later. The remaining finishers had an average of 1.5% of the votes, which were a lot given the number of voters having gone to the polls.
BEST KEPT SECRET FOR AN INTERNATIONAL BRIDGE:
Australia’s historic bridges are ones that are worth traveling to visit, for many of them were built by European immigrants with ties to the bridge building and steel industries in their homeland. Only a handful were built locally. The winner and second place winners in this category come not only from the Land Down Under, but also in the state of New South Wales, which is the most populated of the states. The Prince Alfred Bridge, a nearly 150-year old wooden trestle bridge, won the race with 31.4% of the votes. This was followed by another bridge in the state, the Bowenfels Railroad Viaduct, which received 15.9% and the Ribblehead Railroad Viaduct at Yorkshire Dales in Great Britain, which got 8.7%. Tied for fourth place with 7.7% were the Isabella Bridge in Puerto Rico and the Sinking Bridge in Corinth, Greece. And sixth place finisher was the Abteibrücke in Berlin, Germany, with 6.5%, edging its inner-state competitor Röhrensteg in Zwickau and the world’s smallest drawbridge in Sanford, Nova Scotia (Canada) with 6.2% of the votes.
BEST EXAMPLE OF A RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE:
In this category, we looked at historic bridges that were preserved for reuse after being considered redundant for the highways due to age, functional and structural deficiencies and cost of maintenance. Like in Tour Guide USA, this competition was very lopsided for a covered bridge far outgained the metal truss bridges and arch bridges in the competition. The Beaverkill Covered Bridge, built in 1865 and located in the Catskills in New York, received a full makeover, using state-of-the art technology to strengthen existing bridge parts and replacing some with those of the exact shape and size. This bridge received 62.4% of the votes. Second place finisher was the Green Bridge (a.k.a. Jackson Street and Fifth Avenue Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa. The three-span Pratt through truss bridge, built in 1898 by George E. King, received its second makeover in 20+ years in order for it to continue serving a bike trail network serving Iowa’s state capital. It received 7.1% of the votes and would have soundly won the competition had one subtracted Beaverkill’s success. Third place finisher was the former Bird Creek Bridges along Route 66 in Oklahoma. The multiple-span K-truss bridges were relocated to Molly’s Landing on one side of the highway, Roger’s Landing on the opposite end, each serving as exhibits and entrances for light traffic. Bird Creek received 6.5% of the votes. Bottoming out the top six are Wolf Road Bridge near Cleveland, Ohio with 4.2%, the County Park Bridge in Hamilton County, Indiana with 3% and Houck Iron Bridge in Putnam County, Indiana with 2.4%.
MYSTERY BRIDGE- USA:
For this category, we’re looking at bridges that are unique but missing information that would potentially make them historically significant and therefore, ripe for many accolades. Although the votes were made into one category, the winners have been divided up into those in the US and the structures outside the country. For the US, the top six finishers originated from Iowa, with the top two finishers originating from Lyon County. The Bonnie Doon Bridge, located along a former railroad bearing her name between Doon and Rock Rapids, won the division with 19.8% of the total votes. Not far behind is the Beloit Bridge near Canton, South Dakota, which received 13.2%. Third Place goes to a now extant Thacher through truss bridge in Everly in Clay County, which received 7.7%, 0.6% more than its fourth place finisher, the Kiwanis Railroad Bridge in Rock Valley in Sioux County. Fifth place goes to the Pontiac Lane Bridge in Harrison County, with 6.1% of the votes. Yet latest developments in the form of photos is almost bringing the Whipple through truss bridge to a close. More later. In sixth place, we have a concrete arch viaduct built by H.E. Dudley near Richmond in Washington County, with 5.5% of the votes. According to John Marvig, that case was recently brought to a close as the now extant bridge was replaced with a steel girder viaduct in 1947.
MYSTERY BRIDGE- INTERNATIONAL:
All of our entries for the international aspect of mystery bridges were from Germany, specifically, the states of Thuringia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg. Our first place finisher goes to the concrete camelback pony arch bridge near Altenburg. That structure was built between 1900 and 1920 and still retains its original form. Second place goes to the railroad viaduct in Grosskorbetha, located near Bad Durremberg in Saxony-Anhalt. The 1910 arch structure used to serve a local road to Wengelsdorf, but was removed in November this year, as the German Railways plan to modernize the Y-point where the raillines split to Leipzig and Halle from the south. The Railway Station Bridge in Halle finished in third, followed by an unusual wire truss bridge in Potsdam and finally, the truss bridge at Schkopau Station, south of Halle.
BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:
The category Bridge of the Year goes out to bridges that made waves in the headlines because of (successful) attempts of restoring them, as well as interesting findings. Our top six finishers in this year’s category consists of those by Julie Bowers and crew at BACH Steel, Elvis Bridge finder Nick Schmiedeler and those along Route 66. Clark’s Creek Bridge in Kansas came out the winner with 53.4% of the votes. This bridge was discovered by Schmiedeler and was one of the first bridges that were dubbed Elvis Bridges, meaning these bridges had been abandoned and hidden under vegetation for many decades. Clark’s Creek is a King Bridge product having been built in 1876. Second place finisher is the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge with 18.1% of the vote. Thanks to Julie’s efforts, this 1870s structure is expected to be restored, relocated to a park and reused after years sitting abandoned, leaning to one side. Third place finisher is the Times Beach Bridge spanning the Meramec River along Route 66 west of St. Louis, with 6.9% of the votes. This bridge was a subject of fundraising efforts to be restored as part of the Route 66 State Park Complex and bike trail. The bridge was recently given a reprieve from demolition by Missouri Dept. of Transportation. More later. Rounding off the top six include Gasconade Bridge along Route 66 with 5.4%, Hayden Bridge in Oregon, another project by BACH, with 4.9% and Fehmarn Bridge in Germany with 3.2%. Word has gotten out that the sixth place finisher will receive a rehabilitation job, which will prolong its life by 30 years and keep its symbol as the icon of Fehmarn Island.
Our last category for the 2016 Ammann Awards is for Lifetime Achievement. Unlike this year, there are two winners for this prize, one emeritus and one who is the youngest to win the awards. Eric Delony, who spearheaded efforts in preserving historic bridges through a nationwide program and was director of HABS-HAER for 32 years, received the Lifetime Achievement Emeritus Award. More on his work can be seen here. John Marvig became the youngest pontist to win the Lifetime Achievement thanks to his efforts in identifying, photographing and working with authorities in preserving railroad bridges in the northern part of the US. Since having his website in 2010, his focus went from railroad bridges in Minnesota and Iowa to as many as 9 states. The freshman at Iowa State University received 49.3% of the votes, outfoxing the second place finishers, Royce and Bobette Haley as well as Nick Schmiedeler. Christopher Marston finished fourth with 5.4% of the votes, which was followed by Ian Heigh (4%), Kaitlin O’shea (3.5%) and BACH Steel (2.9%).
And with that comes the closing of one of the most intensive competitions involving historic bridges in the history of the Ammann Awards. It was one that got everyone excited from start to finish, and for many bridges, there is a ray of hope in their future as more and more officials and the communities have become interested in preserving what is left of their history for the younger generations to enjoy. For some profiled that have a questionable future, not to worry. If one person refuses to preserve, another one will step up in his place, just like the electors in the US elections. The interest in historic bridges is there and growing. And that will continue with no interruptions of any kind.
The full results of the Ammann Award results can be found in the Chronicles’ wordpress page by clicking here. Note there are two parts just like the ballots themselves. The links to the pages are also there for you to click on.
This is the last entry carrying the Jacob slogan. Since September 2016 the Chronicles has been carrying the slogan in memory of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year old boy who was kidnapped on 22 October, 1989 and subsequentially murdered. His remains were discovered in September 2016 bringing a 27-year old case to a close. The murderer has since been sentenced to 20 years in prison with a lifetime incarceration in a state mental hospital to follow. His house was demolished on Christmas Day. As the murder happened closer to home (the author originates from Minnesota), the Chronicles started its Ammann Awards nominations early and carried this unique slogan in his memory. To his parents and friends, he will be remembered as a boy with dreams that never came true, yet he came home to rest and now is the time to bridge the gaps among friends, family and acquaintences, while keeping in mind, dreams can come true only if we let them, and help them along the way to fulfilling them with success and respect.
From the next entry on, the Chronicles will be carrying its present slogan, which is an upgrade from its last one. Some changes will be coming to the Chronicles, which includes establishing a Hall of Fame for the bridges nominated for the Ammann Awards as well as other interesting parts that will be added. Stay tuned, while at the same time, have a look at some mystery bridges that are in the pipelines and are on the way. 🙂
Mead Avenue Bridge in Meadville, Pennsylvania. One of the most unique bridges in the US and perhaps even beyond. Spanning French Creek, the two-span through truss bridge featured an 1871 worught iron Whipple span encased with a 1912 Baltimore span. When I visited the bridge during the 2010 Historic Bridge Weekend, the blue-colored span was closed to traffic with a bleak future in its midst. The majority of the city’s population wanted the bridge gone. But efforts were being undertaken to try and preserve at least half the span. This bridge was the first one profiled in the very first aricle I wrote for the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles blog, when it was launched in October of that same year. Click here for the article.
Fast forward to the present and the situation has changed completely. The bridge is being profiled again as the first article produced by the Chronicles as a website, yet the bridge is no more.
Well, not quite. 🙂
Most of the historic bridges like this one would be cut up into pieces and hauled away to be recycled. In Pennsylvania it is no exception for many of them are being replaced through the rapid replacement program initiated by PennDOT and many bridge builders in the private sector last year. Yet a last-minute attempt by one pontist has paid off. The bridge is being distmantled, the parts will be hauled, BUT it will be relocated. The question is how?
The Chronicles had a chance to talk about the plan to restore the bridge with Art Suckewer, the pontist who is spearheading the efforts and pulled off the last minute trick to saving the artefact from becoming a thing of the past. What he is going to do with the bridge and the challenges that he and his crew are facing at the moment are discussed below:
- How did you become interested in historic bridges in general? I always liked them since I was a kid but never thought of them as more than a neat part of the scenery until recently. After purchasing a farm property in a historic district with several stream crossings, I researched my options and discovered that acquiring an old truss bridge was a viable solution. I learned a lot through your website, bridgehunter and historic bridges. Through speaking with Julie Bowers, Nathan Holth and Jim Cooper, I learned what was involved and received enough guidance to try to acquire one. While Mead Ave. was on my list, I thought it was too big of a project, and Vern Mesler was going for it so it seemed like it would be preserved. Instead I went for the Beatty Mills Bridge and the Carlton Bridge as my primary and back-up selections. Little did I know I’d get them both!
- What got you interested in the Mead Avenue Bridge in Meadville? What is so special about it in your opinion? Your website, bridgehunter.com and historic bridges.org brought it to my attention. What is so special is that it still exists, that it was very decorative (none of the websites show the bridge with its original spires – look at pictures/ woodcut prints of the Azuma Bashi Bridge in Japan if you want to get a sense of what this bridge once was) and that even though it is a Penn Bridge Co. bridge it represents the last example of an early, long span Keystone Bridge Co. design. I am now 95% certain that it was built by Keystone Bridge Co. to Jacob Linville’s 1865 patent as a kit to be erected by Penn Bridge Co.
- How did you purchase the bridge? Vern Mesler was going to take it but he had difficulty getting his plan approved due to very sensitive environmental issues (I still think his approach was the best way to go). Once Vern gave up, I stepped in because I feel strongly that the bridge should be saved. I think because I established credibility with PENNDOT in recovering two other bridges successfully (thanks to Nels Raynor, Nathan Holth, Jim Cooper and Ross Brown), my engineering background and experience in writing proposals and working with government agencies gained from my day job, they gave me a shot. I had pursued the recovery for nine months with serious efforts beginning in August. That said, it didn’t come together until after it was already too late and ownership had been transferred to Mekis (the prime contractor for the replacement) but with Mekis’ support/flexibility and strong support from PENNDOT, especially Kara Russell and Brian Yedinak, and Ross Brown’s inspection of the bridge and willingness to attempt my plan to reinforce the 1912 Baltimore truss as a falsework and disassemble the 1871 Whipple in place did we get the go ahead. We had less than two months and Ross worked 10 – 12 hour days 7 days a week to pull it off but the 1871 structure has now been successfully removed. The remaining structure will be lifted by crane by Mekis then disassembled by Ross and removed by May.
- What difficulties did you encounter? The plan we were allowed to pursue was the most difficult and risky approach. Finding the funds was tough. Due to the lateness, Ross had a very narrow window to pull off the job and it ended up being one of the worst/coldest winters in memory. Also, the bridge had lots of previous improper repairs that made Ross’ job much more difficult.
- What are your plans for the bridge? What are the places you want to relocate the structure? While I have committed to putting the bridge on my property and I do have a place for it, I consider that to be a placeholder. Ideally I’d like to find a home in a northwestern Pennsylvania town as a pedestrian walkway within a town as part of that towns revitalization. Alternately, a public use elsewhere. We have some leads.
- How much rehabilitation will be needed before the bridge is reconstructed? A lot. The bridge is suffering from a thousand improper repairs as well as differed maintenance. However, the project is doable because the quality of the castings, both in tolerance and material is extraordinary – definitely benefitting from the demands of James Eads on Andrew Carnegie to meet his exceedingly high quality standards for the Eads Bridge as both bridges construction periods overlapped.
- When will we see the reconstructed bridge next time? Within ten years (if it is reused for a public purpose then it may be soon; if no one else wants it, I’ve got two other bridges to fix first so it will be a while).
- Any advice you would give to any party interested in preserving a bridge, regardless of whether it is in place or if it needs to be relocated? Look at all options; be flexible; listen to the experts (especially the craftspeople); be patient yet persistent; leverage your resources; be prepared to walk away – you can’t win them all; If you think ‘someone should…’ ask yourself if that someone is you.
Good luck to Art and his crew as they continue with the project. The removal and disassembly part is just the first of many phases that will be done during the 10-year frame he’s mentioned. There are many more to come, and if there is a proverb to end this article, it is the song produced by the East German music group Karat entitled “Über sieben Brücken muss du gehen.” (You must cross seven bridges) There, the person had to cross seven bridges spanning the worst of ravines in order to reach his destination. This is what Suckewer and crew are facing with the Mead Avenue Bridge. But after the seventh bridge is crossed and the newly restored Mead Avenue Bridge is in place, the efforts will pay off in the end. Even if the seventh bridge is out and there is no place to relocate the bridge, there will be many attempts to make sure that the restored bridge finds a new home and someone who will take care of it and use it for his purpose.
But before we speculate, let’s watch, wait and see how this next chapter, the one after a rather happy ending in the current one we’re reading, unfolds. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest.
Note: More photos of the Meadville Bridge are available via flickr.