An Interview with Clark Vance

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In 2011 at the Historic Bridge Convention in Missouri, I had a chance to meet Clark Vance in person and found him to be open-minded in many aspects, but having knowledge that is enriched for historic bridges, and other artefacts. Mr. Vance just recently retired from his position as high school teacher, but has been a key contributor of historic bridges for bridgehunter.com for as long as the website has existed, providing readers with photos and interesting facts on historic bridges, mainly in the Midwestern part of the US, centering around the states of Kansas and Missouri. Because of his contributions to historic bridges- as a photographer, historian and sometimes consultant- Mr. Vance won the Ammann Awards for Lifetime Achievement in 2018.

I had a chance to interview him recently about his interests in the topic and found some more interesting facts about him, how his interest in historic bridges first started and some words of advice for those who are working in the field of historic bridges, in terms of photography and preservation. This is what I learned from him, as you read the interview:

 

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  1. Tell us more about yourself in terms of professional and private life.

I recently retired from 11 years of teaching engineering, math, and software engineering to high school students. I previously worked in IT and automotive technology. I still enjoy working with and driving my (too many) cars and motorcycles. My wife is a psychologist in private practice and her daughter is a professor at an art and design school. I highly recommend being retired.

 

  1. What got you interested in historic bridges?

My father was a civil engineer with the Kansas Highway Department in the late ‘40s before going to work as a structural engineer in private industry. He didn’t mind my gazillion “What’s that?” questions as a kid and actually had the knowledge to answer a lot of them, particularly about man made artifacts in the natural environment. My curiosity about infrastructure was rewarded with good explanations of whatever odd item caught my attention. Some of my best times as a kid were when he and I would visit road construction sites and he would answer all my questions then add information about things I hadn’t noticed.

 

  1. You do mostly bridge photography, right? Or do you write or talk about them?

My main public activity surrounding bridges is as a contributor to BridgeHunter.com. I’ve enjoyed old maps as a way to see into the past and discover things that are unused and forgotten. My enjoyment of driving back roads and hiking fit with this, and BridgeHunter gave me an excuse to photograph the things I found. I don’t consider myself a bridge expert or historian and I try to avoid spending too much time talking with others about bridges lest they consider me odd(er).

 

  1. Do you teach historic bridges in school? If so, how?

I didn’t get a chance to teach the second year class where we taught truss analysis, so my role as an educator was mostly as an informal consultant for the students working on entries to bridge building competitions. I taught an intro civil class where I got to cover infrastructure and of course I exposed my students to a lot of structural history using bridges. I hope they came to appreciate the significance of structures that their later instructors will possibly dismiss as obsolete.

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  1. What kind of historic bridges do you look for?

Although I enjoy simply documenting older existing structures, my greatest enjoyment comes from locating and documenting bridges that have been forgotten. Most of the time there is little left physically but I like to record the location and identify any visible remnants. Kansas City still has places where one can see the paths worn by the wagons heading out on the Santa Fe Trail. For whatever reason, I feel it’s important for people to remember the paths used in the past.

 

  1. A historic bridge in your opinion is…….

Defining what constitutes an historic bridge is similar to identifying an historic car. Anything old enough is worth preserving, and the more important it was when new, the more significant when old. Even the plainest, cheapest Model T should not be scrapped if it’s possible to preserve it. A Cadillac V-16 is obviously more rare and more worthy of preservation. From the perspective of the people trying to use objects in the economy, is would be foolish and wasteful to try to run a fleet of Model T taxis and it’s equally foolish to expect a tall, narrow pony truss to carry a combine or loaded grain trailer. It’s fun to drive old cars across the Chain of Rocks bridge but trying to keep it as part of the interstate system makes no sense.

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Chain of Rocks Bridge. Photo taken by Jason Smith in 2011

 

  1. What is your favorite historic bridge?

Picking favorites is difficult. Friends and I would walk out on the Chain of Rocks bridge not long after it closed. I haven’t been back since it got cleaned up but I imagine it’s still pretty spectacular. As a kid my family would visit relatives in southeast Kansas and I have a long standing love for the Marsh arches. I also enjoyed driving the old Flagler railroad bridges linking the Florida Keys back in the ‘70s.

 

  1. What historic bridge(s) do you miss the most?

Probably the bridges I miss most are: The Chouteau Bridge in KC. Totally obsolete and awful for trucks and cars alike, it was nonetheless an important bridge when built and quite impressive an an old, still functioning work. The ASB automobile lanes were narrow and had a reputation for fatal accidents where the lanes split to go around the trusses. For better or worse, one could have a close look at the structure and mechanism while driving by. More generally, I miss the many through trusses that were everywhere when I began traveling and which have almost all been replaced by much more efficient boring bridges guaranteed to keep concrete plants busy repairing and replacing them.

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  1.  What words of advice do you have for the following:

 

Photographing Historic Bridges: Get the big picture and the little details. Show the setting and what one would see driving by or passing under. Also, catch the details that can help identify the builder, date, and other parts of the history.

Teaching about Historic Bridges: I wish I had more knowledge about this. I found that I could engage students by providing some of the history behind modern concepts. Bridges played an important role in the development of engineering as a field, so I tried to cover bridge technology in discussions about changes brought about by developments in material science, structural analysis methods, etc.

Preserving Historic Bridges: Two things strike me as most important, public support and technical skills. Right now old bridges are in a place similar to steam locomotives in the ‘50s. They are being phased out and replaced by products deemed superior by policy makers. I don’t think there is much hope of their remaining in common use. The focus needs to be on finding ways to save them from being scrapped and preserving the knowledge needed to put them back in limited use when more of the public has the desire to experience the old technology. Each one lost will make the remaining ones more valuable and more likely to be saved.

 

Thank you for your time, Clark and wishing you all the best in your endeavors. J

 

The next question is who will win the now rebranded Bridgehunter Awards in the category Lifetime Achievement? If you haven’t voted yet, click here and you will be directed to the ballot. Deadline is January 10th and the winner will be announced two days later.

 

Note: Photos posted  but not cited here are all courtesy of Clark Vance.

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2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards: Nomination for Awards Now Being Taken

Zellstoff Bridge north of Zwickau (Saxony), Germany. Photo taken in September 2017
With construction season winding down and a lot of success stories involving restoring historic bridges, now is the time to nominate our favorite historic bridge(s) and preservationists both here and abroad. Between now and the 3rd of December, entries are being taken for the 2017 Othmar H. Ammann Awards. For those wishing to know about the awards, there are six categories for both American as well as international bridges where you can nominate your bridge, person or even best bridge photo.  Information on the categories and how you can enter are in the link below.
On this page, you can find the previous winners of the Ammann Awards which you can read about.   Voting will take place during the holiday season from December 4th until 6th January, 2018 with the winners to be announced on the 12th of January. The ballot will be available through The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. If you have bridges that deserve to be nominated and deserve an Award, or if you have any questions, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at:
flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.
Happy Bridgehunting and may the nomination for the Ammann Awards begin! 🙂

2016 Ammann Awards Ballot Part II

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BEST KEPT SECRET TOUR GUIDE:

US:

The Bridges of Boone County, Iowa– Minus the now removed Wagon Wheel Bridge, this county is rich with history involving its bridges, one of which involved a hero who averted a potential disaster in Kate Shelley.

The Crossings along the Chesapeake-Ohio Canal– Built in 1828, the canal system serves four states and provides water to Washington. It also features some of the oldest arch bridges in the country, some of which have been restored since 2005.

The Arch Bridges of Cowley County, Kansas– Until this year, 17 arch bridges served the county, most of which were built between 1890 and 1920 and made of stone. One of the bridges succumbed to flooding this spring.

The Bridges of Cincinnati/ Covington– Several bridges, big and small, old and young can be found in this metropolis, including John Roebling’s suspension bridge built in 1869, one year before his death on the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Bridges of Washington County, Maryland– 22 historic stone arch structures span Conococheague Creek and Antietam Creek, and its tributaries, including Wilson’s Bridge, a 210-foot long bridge built in 1819. Most of the structures are almost 200-years old.

The Bridges of Tompkins County, New York– Over two dozen bridges are found in this county that are historically significant, including their centerpiece, the Newfield Covered Bridge.

International:

Glauchau (Saxony)– Several arch bridges span the Mulde as well as on the hill leading to the castles. As a bonus, a covered bridge and an iron bridge can be found here.

Zwickau (Saxony) – It is extremely rare for a town to have a 500-year old covered bridge with a very unusual design, a cantilever pony truss bridge and an unusual through truss bridge in a community, but Zwickau has that and more.

The Canal Bridges of Brugges (Belgium)– several stone arch bridges span the canals serving this historic community.

Calgary, Alberta– Two dozen bridges, modern and historic serve this Canadian community including those on the city’s historic registry.

The River Tyne- Flowing through Newcastle and Gateshead, this river features 22 improtant bridges as it flows into the North Sea from the eastern UK.

The Bridges of Newark on Trent– Like Glauchau, Newark has 27,000 inhabitants and a wide-array of well-known bridges- ten of them.

The Bridges of Dublin, Ireland– Many bridges from different periods of time can be found here. This includes a pair of cable-stayed bridges, three arch bridges and a couple truss bridges.

BEST KEPT SECRET INDIVIDUAL:

US:

Good Thunder Railroad Bridge in Minnesota

Sibley Railroad Bridge in Missouri

Marais des Cygnes River Bridge in Kansas

Coalbrook Lake Bridge in Connecticut (was inundated until the drought)

The Purple People Bridge in Cincinnati

Clark’s Creek Bridge in Kansas

Clairemeont Avenue Railroad Bridge in Wisconsin

International:

Isabella Viaduct in Puerto Rico

Röhrensteg Pedestrian Bridge in Zwickau, Germany

Ribblehead Viaduct in the Yorkshire Dales National Park (UK)

Anderton Boat Lift in Cheshire (UK)- photo included here

Sandford Drawbridge in Nova Scotia (Canada)- the world’s smallest bascule bridge

Prince Alfred Bridge in New South Wales (Australia)

Rosa Luxemburg Bridges in Berlin, Germany

Abteibrücke in Berlin, Germany

Bowenfels Railroad Viaduct in New South Wales (Australia)

Hangeseilbrucke, Geierlay, Germany

Sinking Bridge in Corinth, Greece

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

Clark’s Creek Bridge in Geary County, Kansas

Paradiesbrücke in Zwickau, Germany

Röhrensteg in Zwickau, Germany

Times Beach (US 66) Bridge in Missouri

Augusta Bridge in Kansas

Fehmarn Bridge in Germany

Hayden Bridge in Oregon

Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge in Arkansas

Green Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa

Dodd Ford Bridge in Minnesota

Gasconade (US 66) Bridge in Missouri

Sinking Bridge in Corinth, Greece

White River Bridge in Clarendon, Arkansas

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2016 Ammann Awards Ballot Part I

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Route 66 Gasconade Bridge in Missouri. Photo taken by Roamin Rich

For instructions in English, please go to the areavoices version of the Chronicles (click here). Für die in der deutschen Sprache, bitte zum Blog The Flensburg Files gehen (clicken Sie here).

BEST PHOTO:

 

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BEST EXAMPLE OF A RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE:

Information on these bridges are available via links:

Long Meadow Bridge (MN): http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2016/10/28/long-meadow-bridge-open-to-bike-traffic/

Green Bridge in Des Moines (IA): https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.1826891580920201&type=3

Houck Iron Bridge in Putnam Co. (IA): https://blog.jimgrey.net/2014/09/26/restored-and-repurposed-the-houck-iron-bridge/

Fort Morgan Rainbow Bridge (CO): http://www.fortmorgantimes.com/fort-morgan-local-news/ci_30393446/city-earns-award-rainbow-bridge-rehab-project

Wagon Bridge in Hemphill Co. (TX): http://www.prweb.com/releases/2016/08/prweb13632078.htm

Bird Island Bridge in Chicago: http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/news/ct-sta-division-street-bridge-st-0807-20160805-story.html

Molly’s and Rogers Landings US 66 Bridges (OK): http://www.route66news.com/2011/10/12/mollys-landing-saves-part-of-old-route-66-bridge/

Harahan Bridge in Memphis (TN): http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/news/2016/09/27/video-tour-the-mississippis-new-big-river-crossing.html

Beaverkill Covered Bridge in Sullivan Co. (NY): http://cdn.equipmentworld.com/painstaking-restoration-of-historic-covered-bridge-in-the-catskills-nears-completion/

Wolf Road Bridge near Cleveland (OH): http://bridgehunter.com/oh/cuyahoga/bh49083/

Hamilton Co. Park Bridge (IN): http://cdn.equipmentworld.com/indiana-festival-celebrates-three-historic-bridges-joined-together-to-form-one/

Maple and Lafayette Bridges in Fayetteville, AK: https://www.fayettevilleflyer.com/2016/12/05/city-to-celebrate-re-opening-of-historic-maple-and-lafayette-bridges/

Dodd Ford Bridge near Mankato, MN: http://mankatotimes.com/2016/06/30/ribbon-cutting-for-historic-dodd-ford-bridge-set-for-july-5th/

Eau Claire Railroad Viaduct (WI): http://bridgehunter.com/wi/eau-claire/bh36335/

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:

 BACH STEEL: Nels Raynor, Derek Pung, Lee Pung, Andy Hufnagle, Brock Raynor and Nathan Holth- Several Bridges saved through in-kind restoration (restoring to its original form, including Farm Lane, Paper Mill and Martin Road, as well as their newest project: Springfield Bowstring Arch.

Christopher Marston: Chris has been working for Historic American Engineer’s Record for almost 30 years, documenting and collaborating successfully to preserve many historic bridges. Interview here: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2016/10/06/an-interview-with-christopher-marston-of-habs-haer/

Nick Schmiedeler: It unknown how many years he has been a pontist, but Nick has found more abandoned “Elvis” bridges than a typical pontist in his/her lifetime. Record of his findings here: http://bridgehunter.com/profile/Nick_Schmiedeler

Royce and Bobette Haley: Known as Bridge Road Warriors, this couple has found and photographed more bridges in a span of two years than anyone in his/her lifetime. More on their work here: http://bridgehunter.com/profile/roycehaleyIII

John Marvig: Before 2010, no one really dared to photograph railroad bridges, that is until John arrived. Since then, 10 states and thousands of bridges profiled and photographed as can be seen here: http://johnmarvigbridges.org/

Kaitlin O’shea: For over a decade, she has been running the website Preservation in Pink, providing some interesting educational aspects to historic preservation, including bridges. And this over a good coffee and company with the flamingo: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2016/12/02/interview-with-kaitlin-oshea-preservation-in-pink/

Ian Heigh: For many years, this engineer has been responsible for maintaining the Scottish National Railway and especially the longest bridges in the country: Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay. More here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_vZjvTuSJw

MYSTERY BRIDGE:

Before voting, check out the information on the bridges being voted by clicking here. If any problems, please type in Mystery Bridge. The following candidates are numbered from 62 to 76. Two votes for the US and two for the international versions are allotted here.

 

 

 

2016 Ammann Awards Voting Underway

Devil's Elbow Bridge carrying US Hwy. 66 in Missouri. Photos courtesy of Roamin Rich
Devil’s Elbow Bridge carrying US Hwy. 66 in Missouri. Photos courtesy of Roamin Rich

After tallying and categorizing all the entries, in some categories the highest number on record, the voting process for this year’s Othmar H. Ammann Awards is currently underway. Between now and 6th January, you have an opportunity to select your favorite candidates in five categories: Best Photo, Lifetime Achievement, Best Kept Secret Tour Guide and Individual Bridge, Mystery Bridge, Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, and Bridge of the Year. Because of a record high number of entries in all but two categories, for the first time this year there will be an unlimited number of voting allowed for each of the categories with the exception of Mystery Bridges. There, you are allowed four votes- two for the US and two for the International Scene (Int.). That means for all ofthe categories except what was just mentioned, you can vote for as many bridges and people as you want at any time. It will encourage you to have a look at the bridges more carefully, esp. with the pictures, before you decide which bridges deserve your vote.

To vote, please go to the wordpress version of the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. There you will have the ballot, which is divided up into Parts I & II. Part I has the categories of Best Photo (a gallery is enclosed), Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge, Lifetime Achievement and Mystery Bridge. In Part II, we have Best Kept Secret Tour Guide, Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge (both divided into US and International) and lastly, Bridge of the Year. Both Links are below.

BALLOT:

PART I

PART II

 

Bridges nominated but not on the list will be mentioned in the Author’s Choice Awards, which will be announced on January 6th, the same day as the last day of voting. They will most likely be candidates for the 2017 Awards as well.  Winners will be announced on January 11th.  As there are many entries from Germany, the announcement of voting in German can be found via sister column The Flensburg Files (click here for access)

If any questions of should some issues arise, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.

Good luck and let the voting commence.

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Odds and Ends: Eleven as the Magical Number

Kunitz Covered Bridge in Jena, Germany. Photo taken in August 2016
Kunitz Covered Bridge in Jena, Germany. Photo taken in August 2016

As we close in on the end of the year, we find that the number eleven is the magical number. Eleven is a tribute to the people who have made a difference, big or small, but whose lives were cut short because of tragedy. Eleven is the number which has been popping up recently because of three events that have hit home:

  1. It marks an end of 27 years of sorrow and worries as an 11-year old boy has come home to rest. Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped on 22 October, 1989 while returning home on a rural road near St. Joesph, Minnesota. His remains were found on 1 September, 2016, by a man who later admitted that he had kidnapped and murdered him. While he is currently behind bars awaiting sentencing, millions of people have cried, stopped by the site of the murder to lay flowers and have even done tributes for the boy, whose dreams of being an athlete were shattered one cold fall night. Jacob’s mother Patty addressed a crowd of people asking what can be done for the family (which you can read here) Even a poem in his memory can be found on sister column The Flensburg Files for you to read here.
  2. It marks the 15th anniversary of another tragedy but with larger proportions as two planes, on the morning of 11 September, 2001, crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, another into the Pentagon in Washington and another in Pennsylvania despite being enroute to the White House. This event has changed the world in many aspects, yet we still don’t understand how this could happen.
  3. It symbolizes the ongoing Spring Revolution in the Middle East and northern Africa, which happened five years ago in seven countries, including the conflicting country of Syria.

In honor of those, whose lives were unnecessarily cut short and whose dreams of becoming a professional in their field of interest were shattered, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be wearing a special avatar between now and the end of the 2016 Othmar Ammann Awards on its areavoices website and in some posts in the wordpress website. This is an important way of showing solidarity with the families and friends of those whose lives ended too early. You will find the logo here, and it will be used in all articles to come:

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It’s an arch bridge at sunrise, crossing a large body of water, showing solidarity between parties, and bring peace and prosperity to all. Jacob’s name symbolizes every child’s dream and hope for a better life, which can only happen if we as parents, teachers, historians and the like can help them make it happen.

Othmar H. Ammann Awards underway earlier than expected.

Furthermore, entries are being taken earlier than expected for this year’s Othmar H. Ammann Awards, the awards where we take pride in the areas historic and unique bridges in the USA, Europe and elsewhere. The reason behind this is twofold:

  1. This year is the fifth anniversary of the Ammann Awards. To commemorate the event, the Chronicles’ Hall of Fame will be established, which will feature the top six finishers of each category, plus the inductees from the Lifetime Legacy. Therefore, there will be two rounds of voting for this year’s awards: The first round will be for the 2016 Awards, while the second round will feature the voting of all the winners and runners-up in each of the categories dating back to 2011, with the top six overall being inducted. The Hall of Fame page will appear in the Chronicles’ wordpress page.
  2. In light of the recent tragedy in Minnesota, but also in connection with the 50th anniversary of the National Register of Historic Places and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, starting the contest early will help families take their children on photo tours of several historic bridges in the US to show them the importance of bridges in the development of the US infrastructure. As Europe has some gorgeous historic bridges that are two centuries old in many places, people there can share their experiences in preserving them with their American counterparts. So taking a parent’s advice, take your kids out and show them how bridges shaped your countries, spend some time with them taking pictures and writing essays about your favorite bridge(s), and send them to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Entries in other languages are welcomed.

More information on how to enter the 2016 Ammann Awards in the categories of best photo, bridge of the year, lifetime achievement, tour guide of the bridges in the region, and best kept secret can be found here. Deadline for all entries is 1 December 2016 with voting to follow. The winners will be announced on 11 January, 2017 for both the annual awards as well as the Hall of Fame.

Please note, the contest is open for everyone both in the US as well as Europe and elsewhere.

A series on the National Register of Historic Places and the role of historic bridges is in the works which includes interviews and other comments. They will be posted in both wordpress and areavoices versions. In addition, the author has several bridge tours in eastern Germany, which will be added in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more from the Chronicles.

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2015 Amman Awards Voting Part 1

Finally, after a pair of significant delays due to events that have interrupted our lifestyles on both sides of the Big Atlantic, the time has come for the voting process for the 2015 Othmar H. Ammann Awards, powered by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and Poll Daddy.com. Unlike in previous voting, all the voting will be done directly through the Chronicles, which means more independence from external sources. 🙂 Also differently from last year is that the voting process will commence in two separate articles. This article will feature the category of Best Photo, where all photos will be presented and you will choose your top two votes.  Article 2 will feature the rest of the categories in the form of ballots with descriptions being presented. Please follow all instructions given when voting. In case of questions, please contact Jason Smith at the Chronicles

You have until 2 February to vote. The votes will be tallied and the result presented the same day. The five-year anniversary version of the Ammann Awards, where the top two from each category in the years 2011-2016 will be selected and voted on next year. More details will come in November.

Here we go with the voting! 😀

BEST PHOTO (2 Votes limit)

Photo taken by the author in December, 2014
Photo taken by the author in December, 2014

Bentonsport Bridge in Iowa- Jason D. Smith

 

MN-210 Bridge

Thomson Bridge in Minnesota- John Weeks III

 

hayden bridge

Hayden Bridge in Oregon- Julie Bowers

 

TROY CARTER/CHRONICLE A car drives over the Nixon Bridge above the East Gallatin River near Manhattan on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Gallatin County Commissioners approved Tuesday an engineering study for its replacement.
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A car drives over the Nixon Bridge above the East Gallatin River near Manhattan on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Gallatin County Commissioners approved Tuesday an engineering study for its replacement.

Nixon Bridge in Montana- Troy Carter- Bozeman Chronicle

 

TROY CARTER/CHRONICLE Anglers row on the Jefferson River just before the Williams Bridge near Willow Creek on Saturday, Oct. 24. Six one-lane truss bridges, including the Williams Bridge, have been designated structurally obsolete according to the Gallatin County Road and Bridge Department.
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Anglers row on the Jefferson River just before the Williams Bridge near Willow Creek on Saturday, Oct. 24. Six one-lane truss bridges, including the Williams Bridge, have been designated structurally obsolete according to the Gallatin County Road and Bridge Department.

Williams Bridge in Montana- Troy Carter  Bozeman Chronicle

 

hwy.5 bridge alabama

Hwy. 5 Bridge in Alabama- J. Carson Barrett

 

firescald bridge tn

Firescald Bridge in Tennessee- J. Carson Barrett

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Chapel Curry Bridge in Alabama- J. Carson Barrett

 

Savana-Sabula Bridge in Iowa-Illinois- Roger Deschner

 

AFTER LOOKING AT THE PHOTOS, PLEASE PROCEED TO PART II, WHICH IS HERE ->