2016 Author’s Choice Awards

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Boone. Photo taken in September 2010 when the bridge was closed to all traffic. It was torn down in 2016 after the western half of the structure collapsed.

While voters are scrambling to cast their last-minute ballots for the 2016 Ammann Awards by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, we have a wide array of bridges that received the Author’s Choice Awards. The awards are based on the author’s selection of bridge stories that were either the most talked about or the most unique, pending on the categories here. What is even interesting about this year’s awards is that they are being given on the eve of Donald Trump taking office as the next President of the US on January 20th. As he promised to spend billions on improving infrastructure, he has no clue as to how to allocate these funds properly, let alone specify , how these new bridges are to be built, I decided to pose a challenge to him on that to see if he’s paying attention to the needs of Americans in his quest to “make America great again.” You will see that in one of the categories…..

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the winners of these awards and their runners up…..

Most Spectacular Disaster:

US-

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Iowa

The Wagon Wheel Bridge is the tragedy story of 2016, but started in September 2015. We had an arsonist set fire to the planks which set the motion for its demise. In February 2016, floating chunks of ice in the Des Moines River rammed the western half of the bridge, tilting the already tilting cylindrical steel piers even further and creating an “S” shape in the structure. The last nail in the coffin was the collapse of one of the middle spans in March. While a pair of eyewitnesses saw the event live while fishing, neither of them were hurt.  The wrecked span and the westernmost span were removed in June, but not before saving a pair of planks awaiting display at a local historical society in Minnesota. The rest of the spans- including the longest of the 730-foot bridge- were removed shortly before Christmas.   The Wagon Wheel Bridge represented a tragedy in two parts: There was tragedy because of Mother Nature and there was tragedy because of years of neglect. While Boone County was relieved of its liability, its next step is to preserve its legacy in a form of a memorial or exhibit. That has yet to be seen.

Runner-up-

Tappan Zee Bridge in New York

During work on the replacement of the 1952 cantilever truss span over the Hudson River at Tarrytown, a crane located at one of the towers of the new bridge collapsed, falling onto the old structure, stopping all traffic in both directions for hours. No casualties were reported, but one of the propane truck drivers travelling eastbound barely missed the crane by feet! Luckily, the old structure, which is scheduled to be demolished in 2018 after the new bridge is open to traffic, sustained no damage to the super structure but minor damage to the railings on the deck the crane fell. The cause of the collapse was high winds. It was a close call and one that brings up the question of strength and effectiveness of truss bridges as they appear to be gaining favor over cable-stayed and modern beam bridges, for many reasons.

International- 

Suspension Bridge in Bali:

We had several bridge disasters on the international scale this year. The Lembogan-Ceningan Bridge was the worst of them. Built in the 1980s, this suspension bridge collapsed under a weight of pedestrians and motorcyclists who were participating in a Hindu ceremony on October 16th. Nine people were killed and scores of others were injured. The cause of the collapse was a combination of too many people, which exceeded the weight limit, and design flaws. The collapse rekindled two disasters that we’ll be commemorating this year: The 50th anniversary of the Silver Bridge collapse over the Ohio River and the 10th anniversary of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis. Both bridges had design flaws that caused their failures respectively.

Runner-up-

Mahad Bridge in Mumbai, India:

India had two major bridge failures in 2016- the Kolkatta Flyover which killed 23 people and this one, spanning the Savitri River between Mumbai and the State of Goa. This one was far worse, as the stone arch and steel structure that dated back to Colonial British rule collapsed under the pressure of floodwaters, taking with it two busses full of passengers. Nine lives were lost including one of the two bus drivers. Dozens were injured and at least 20 had been reported missing. The bridge collapse combined natural disasters with inadequate bridge design and lack of maintenance, both of which were brought up to the national government afterwards.

Biggest Bonehead Story:

US-

Broadway Bridge in Little Rock:

How many attempts does a person need to demolish a bridge? For the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, one needed three to bring down a steel arch bridge in 1987 in favor of the current suspension bridge. That bridge was 100 years old at the time of its demise. For the Broadway Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas, a multiple span arch bridge featuring a 1974 tied arch main span plus multiple span concrete closed spandrel arch approaches built in 1893, one needed EIGHT attempts! Very lame attempts to not only justify the bridge’s weaknesses prior to the demolition by government officials, but also in demolishing the structure through implosions. The bridge was finally brought down with the crane for the eighth and final time. Yet the epic failures did raise a question of whether the bridge was THAT functionally obsolete and whether the new tied arch bridge will survive as long as the downed span. I don’t think so…..

Photo courtesy of Dr. Benita Martin. Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Viadukt_Chemnitz.jpg

Runner-up-

Two-Mile Creek Bridge near Hatfield, AK:

2016 started off with the demolition of this through truss bridge over Two-Mile Creek, the last of its kind in Polk County, by an oversized truck with trailer!!! The bridge was replaced in quick time, being opened by November! Thanks, dude for your ignorance!

International-

Chemnitz Viaduct in Germany:

As part of the plan to modernize the rail track between Kassel (Hesse) and Chemnitz (Saxony) via Erfurt, Jena and Glauchau, the German Railways are trying to replace a 120+ year old historic bridge that is perfectly in good enough form to last another 120 years. Its replacement proposal: An open spandrel steel arch bridge with very little aesthetic value. Good thing the people in Chemnitz are speaking out against that proposal and for restoring one of only a handful of pre-1939 landmarks in Chemnitz. But will their voices be heard? Die Bahn macht man mobil!

Runner-up-

Eisenbahnviadukt in Linz, Austria:

Linz’s mayor Klaus Luger had it his way when he campaigned for the 1912 three span bridge spanning the Danube River to be demolished and 70% of the Linz community voted for it. However, haste made waste when one of the three spans, removed from the river and on a hydraulic lift, collapsed! That span was to be reused as part of an a plan for a park. This put the last nails in the coffin regarding any chance of saving the bridge’s legacy. Luger must’ve really hated the bridge enough to see it to a recycling complex.

Hamilton County Bridge. Photo taken by Tony Dillon

Best Use of a Restored Historic Bridge-

Molly’s Landing Bridges along Historic US 66:

While the historic bridges in Oklahoma are dwindling rapidly every year, a successful attempt was made to relocate one of the twins of the Bird Creek Bridge. Slated for demolition in 2012, Russ White, owner of Molly’s Landing found a creative way of saving the 1936 spans for their complex near the Verdigris. This led to Roger’s Landing to take the remaining spans of the bridge some time later. While the Bird Creek Bridges are no longer on Route 66, one can see them on display not far apart from each other.

Runner Up:

The Bridge at Strawtown Koteewi Park and White River Campground in Hamilton County, Indiana.

This was almost a toss-up between this bridge and Molly’s Landing. But the bridge in Hamilton County definitely deserved at least runner-up of this award because engineers and park officials managed to import three historic bridges from three different counties to form a 285-foot long super span, featuring a Pratt through truss, a Whipple through truss and a rebuilt deck girder span connecting the two spans! Indiana has been well-known for restoring and reusing historic bridges, yet this one takes bridge preservation to new levels.

Worst example of reusing a Historic Bridge:

B.B. Comer Bridge in Alabama: The multi-span cantilever through truss bridge was demolished earlier this year, after officials in Alabama rejected a proposal to even talk about preserving the 1930 span. As compensation, ALDOT offered one of the bridge’s portal bracings to be erected at a park near the bridge. If this was compensation or a strategy to save Governor Bentley’s “legacy” in the face of scandals he was facing at that time, here a simple Denglish term to keep in mind: “Ziemlich Lame!”and “Opfer eines F**k- ups!”

Photo taken by Victor Rocha. Link: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/41/Bridge_to_Nowhere%28San_Gabriel_Mountains%29.JPG

Best Find of a Historic Bridge-

US-

Bridge to Nowhere in San Gabriel Mountains (California):

California is well known for its multiple-span concrete open spandrel arch bridges, especially along Highway 101. However, this bridge, located near Azusa, can only be accessed by foot! Built in 1936, the bridge was abandoned after a mudslide blocked the key highway between San Gabriel Valley and Wrightwood in March 1938. Today, the bridge can be reached by foot, although it is seen as a liability because of a high rate of fatalities. The US Forest Service owns the bridge and has been working together with local groups on how to minimize it. Nevertheless, the bridge has a unique background worth seeing.

Lungwitz Viaduct spanning a creek and major street in Glauchau (Saxony). Photo taken in 2016

International-

The Bridges of Glauchau (Saxony), Germany:

The author visited this community in the summer 2016 and was quite impressed with its bridges. While the town is located along the Zwickauer Mulde, which is laden with modern bridges, most of the arch bridges dating back to the 1800s and earlier are located either along the railroad line, or on the hill spanning gulches and moats at or near the city’s two castles. Very atypical for a city in a river valley, where normal historic bridges would be located.

Röhrensteg in Zwickau (Saxony), Germany

Röhrensteg in Zwickau, Germany:

The Bridge of Pipes is the oldest of Zwickau’s bridges. It is also the most unique because of its design and function. It has two different truss spans- one per side- two different portal bracings and until 70 years ago, used to transport water over the river from Reinsdorf to Zwickau’s city center using wooden pipes! This was one multi-functional bridge and despite getting a much-needed facelift, one of the key landmarks people should see while in Zwickau.

Russia’s bridges:

With that, I have a “Denkzettel” for Donald Trump with regards to another runner-up, the bridges of Russia, according to the magazine Russia Today. The author there found some very unique and fancy bridges- some rolling back bridge types that had been scrutinized by many bridge engineers and politicians and some that are pure eye-openers. Donald Trump vowed to invest billions of dollars in funding to improve the infrastructure and build great bridges. How can he do that? He should use the playbook of the bridge types that have been rendered useless in the past but are being used in other countries. That means if he wants to make America great again, he needs some signature structures like the Bollmann Bridge in Savage, MD, The Hulton Bridge near Pittsburgh and even the arch bridges along California’s coast. If he continues the policies of building cable-stayed bridges, like the Kit Carson Bridge in Kansas City or the Fort Steuben Bridge near Wheeling, WV, he will make America blander and more boring than it is right now. So Mr. Trump, I challenge you to make America Great by not only preserving our American heritage and history but also build your fancy bridges that we want to see for generations to come. Put the Twitter down and get to work. Any ugliness on the landscape and we will make sure these eyesores are gone at the same time as you are, which will be much quicker than you think. If Russia and China can do it and the Europeans can preserve their past heritage, so can the United States of America, the Republic to which it stands, one nation, under God and under several prophets from Jesus Christ to Muhammad to Siddartha Buddha, indivisible, with liberty, justice and equality to all, regardless of preference.

And now to the Ammann Award results………

2016 Author’s Choice Awards

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Boone. Photo taken in September 2010 when the bridge was closed to all traffic. It was torn down in 2016 after the western half of the structure collapsed. 

While voters are scrambling to cast their last-minute ballots for the 2016 Ammann Awards by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, we have a wide array of bridges that received the Author’s Choice Awards. The awards are based on the author’s selection of bridge stories that were either the most talked about or the most unique, pending on the categories here. What is even interesting about this year’s awards is that they are being given on the eve of Donald Trump taking office as the next President of the US on January 20th. As he promised to spend billions on improving infrastructure, he has no clue as to how to allocate these funds properly, let alone specify , how these new bridges are to be built, I decided to pose a challenge to him on that to see if he’s paying attention to the needs of Americans in his quest to “make America great again.” You will see that in one of the categories…..

 

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the winners of these awards and their runners up…..

 

Most Spectacular Disaster:

 

US-

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Iowa

The Wagon Wheel Bridge is the tragedy story of 2016, but started in September 2015. We had an arsonist set fire to the planks which set the motion for its demise. In February 2016, floating chunks of ice in the Des Moines River rammed the western half of the bridge, tilting the already tilting cylindrical steel piers even further and creating an “S” shape in the structure. The last nail in the coffin was the collapse of one of the middle spans in March. While a pair of eyewitnesses saw the event live while fishing, neither of them were hurt.  The wrecked span and the westernmost span were removed in June, but not before saving a pair of planks awaiting display at a local historical society in Minnesota. The rest of the spans- including the longest of the 730-foot bridge- were removed shortly before Christmas.   The Wagon Wheel Bridge represented a tragedy in two parts: There was tragedy because of Mother Nature and there was tragedy because of years of neglect. While Boone County was relieved of its liability, its next step is to preserve its legacy in a form of a memorial or exhibit. That has yet to be seen.

 

Runner-up-

Tappan Zee Bridge in New York

During work on the replacement of the 1952 cantilever truss span over the Hudson River at Tarrytown, a crane located at one of the towers of the new bridge collapsed, falling onto the old structure, stopping all traffic in both directions for hours. No casualties were reported, but one of the propane truck drivers travelling eastbound barely missed the crane by feet! Luckily, the old structure, which is scheduled to be demolished in 2018 after the new bridge is open to traffic, sustained no damage to the super structure but minor damage to the railings on the deck the crane fell. The cause of the collapse was high winds. It was a close call and one that brings up the question of strength and effectiveness of truss bridges as they appear to be gaining favor over cable-stayed and modern beam bridges, for many reasons.

 

International- 

Suspension Bridge in Bali:

We had several bridge disasters on the international scale this year. The Lembogan-Ceningan Bridge was the worst of them. Built in the 1980s, this suspension bridge collapsed under a weight of pedestrians and motorcyclists who were participating in a Hindu ceremony on October 16th. Nine people were killed and scores of others were injured. The cause of the collapse was a combination of too many people, which exceeded the weight limit, and design flaws. The collapse rekindled two disasters that we’ll be commemorating this year: The 50th anniversary of the Silver Bridge collapse over the Ohio River and the 10th anniversary of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis. Both bridges had design flaws that caused their failures respectively.

 

Runner-up-

Mahad Bridge in Mumbai, India:

India had two major bridge failures in 2016- the Kolkatta Flyover which killed 23 people and this one, spanning the Savitri River between Mumbai and the State of Goa. This one was far worse, as the stone arch and steel structure that dated back to Colonial British rule collapsed under the pressure of floodwaters, taking with it two busses full of passengers. Nine lives were lost including one of the two bus drivers. Dozens were injured and at least 20 had been reported missing. The bridge collapse combined natural disasters with inadequate bridge design and lack of maintenance, both of which were brought up to the national government afterwards.

 

Biggest Bonehead Story:

US-

Broadway Bridge in Little Rock:

How many attempts does a person need to demolish a bridge? For the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, one needed three to bring down a steel arch bridge in 1987 in favor of the current suspension bridge. That bridge was 100 years old at the time of its demise. For the Broadway Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas, a multiple span arch bridge featuring a 1974 tied arch main span plus multiple span concrete closed spandrel arch approaches built in 1893, one needed EIGHT attempts! Very lame attempts to not only justify the bridge’s weaknesses prior to the demolition by government officials, but also in demolishing the structure through implosions. The bridge was finally brought down with the crane for the eighth and final time. Yet the epic failures did raise a question of whether the bridge was THAT functionally obsolete and whether the new tied arch bridge will survive as long as the downed span. I don’t think so…..

Photo courtesy of Dr. Benita Martin. Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Viadukt_Chemnitz.jpg

Runner-up-

Two-Mile Creek Bridge near Hatfield, AK:

2016 started off with the demolition of this through truss bridge over Two-Mile Creek, the last of its kind in Polk County, by an oversized truck with trailer!!! The bridge was replaced in quick time, being opened by November! Thanks, dude for your ignorance!

 

International-

Chemnitz Viaduct in Germany:

As part of the plan to modernize the rail track between Kassel (Hesse) and Chemnitz (Saxony) via Erfurt, Jena and Glauchau, the German Railways are trying to replace a 120+ year old historic bridge that is perfectly in good enough form to last another 120 years. Its replacement proposal: An open spandrel steel arch bridge with very little aesthetic value. Good thing the people in Chemnitz are speaking out against that proposal and for restoring one of only a handful of pre-1939 landmarks in Chemnitz. But will their voices be heard? Die Bahn macht man mobil!

 

Runner-up-

Eisenbahnviadukt in Linz, Austria:

Linz’s mayor Klaus Luger had it his way when he campaigned for the 1912 three span bridge spanning the Danube River to be demolished and 70% of the Linz community voted for it. However, haste made waste when one of the three spans, removed from the river and on a hydraulic lift, collapsed! That span was to be reused as part of an a plan for a park. This put the last nails in the coffin regarding any chance of saving the bridge’s legacy. Luger must’ve really hated the bridge enough to see it to a recycling complex.

 

Hamilton County Bridge. Photo taken by Tony Dillon

Best Use of a Restored Historic Bridge-

Molly’s Landing Bridges along Historic US 66:

While the historic bridges in Oklahoma are dwindling rapidly every year, a successful attempt was made to relocate one of the twins of the Bird Creek Bridge. Slated for demolition in 2012, Russ White, owner of Molly’s Landing found a creative way of saving the 1936 spans for their complex near the Verdigris. This led to Roger’s Landing to take the remaining spans of the bridge some time later. While the Bird Creek Bridges are no longer on Route 66, one can see them on display not far apart from each other.

 

Runner Up:

The Bridge at Strawtown Koteewi Park and White River Campground in Hamilton County, Indiana.

This was almost a toss-up between this bridge and Molly’s Landing. But the bridge in Hamilton County definitely deserved at least runner-up of this award because engineers and park officials managed to import three historic bridges from three different counties to form a 285-foot long super span, featuring a Pratt through truss, a Whipple through truss and a rebuilt deck girder span connecting the two spans! Indiana has been well-known for restoring and reusing historic bridges, yet this one takes bridge preservation to new levels.

 

Worst example of reusing a Historic Bridge:

B.B. Comer Bridge in Alabama: The multi-span cantilever through truss bridge was demolished earlier this year, after officials in Alabama rejected a proposal to even talk about preserving the 1930 span. As compensation, ALDOT offered one of the bridge’s portal bracings to be erected at a park near the bridge. If this was compensation or a strategy to save Governor Bentley’s “legacy” in the face of scandals he was facing at that time, here a simple Denglish term to keep in mind: “Ziemlich Lame!”and “Opfer eines F**k- ups!”

Photo taken by Victor Rocha. Link: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/41/Bridge_to_Nowhere%28San_Gabriel_Mountains%29.JPG

Best Find of a Historic Bridge-

US-

Bridge to Nowhere in San Gabriel Mountains (California):

California is well known for its multiple-span concrete open spandrel arch bridges, especially along Highway 101. However, this bridge, located near Azusa, can only be accessed by foot! Built in 1936, the bridge was abandoned after a mudslide blocked the key highway between San Gabriel Valley and Wrightwood in March 1938. Today, the bridge can be reached by foot, although it is seen as a liability because of a high rate of fatalities. The US Forest Service owns the bridge and has been working together with local groups on how to minimize it. Nevertheless, the bridge has a unique background worth seeing.

Lungwitz Viaduct spanning a creek and major street in Glauchau (Saxony). Photo taken in 2016

International-

The Bridges of Glauchau (Saxony), Germany:

The author visited this community in the summer 2016 and was quite impressed with its bridges. While the town is located along the Zwickauer Mulde, which is laden with modern bridges, most of the arch bridges dating back to the 1800s and earlier are located either along the railroad line, or on the hill spanning gulches and moats at or near the city’s two castles. Very atypical for a city in a river valley, where normal historic bridges would be located.

Röhrensteg in Zwickau (Saxony), Germany

Röhrensteg in Zwickau, Germany:

The Bridge of Pipes is the oldest of Zwickau’s bridges. It is also the most unique because of its design and function. It has two different truss spans- one per side- two different portal bracings and until 70 years ago, used to transport water over the river from Reinsdorf to Zwickau’s city center using wooden pipes! This was one multi-functional bridge and despite getting a much-needed facelift, one of the key landmarks people should see while in Zwickau.

 

Russia’s bridges:

With that, I have a “Denkzettel” for Donald Trump with regards to another runner-up, the bridges of Russia, according to the magazine Russia Today. The author there found some very unique and fancy bridges- some rolling back bridge types that had been scrutinized by many bridge engineers and politicians and some that are pure eye-openers. Donald Trump vowed to invest billions of dollars in funding to improve the infrastructure and build great bridges. How can he do that? He should use the playbook of the bridge types that have been rendered useless in the past but are being used in other countries. That means if he wants to make America great again, he needs some signature structures like the Bollmann Bridge in Savage, MD, The Hulton Bridge near Pittsburgh and even the arch bridges along California’s coast. If he continues the policies of building cable-stayed bridges, like the Kit Carson Bridge in Kansas City or the Fort Steuben Bridge near Wheeling, WV, he will make America blander and more boring than it is right now. So Mr. Trump, I challenge you to make America Great by not only preserving our American heritage and history but also build your fancy bridges that we want to see for generations to come. Put the Twitter down and get to work. Any ugliness on the landscape and we will make sure these eyesores are gone at the same time as you are, which will be much quicker than you think. If Russia and China can do it and the Europeans can preserve their past heritage, so can the United States of America, the Republic to which it stands, one nation, under God and under several prophets from Jesus Christ to Muhammad to Siddartha Buddha, indivisible, with liberty, justice and equality to all, regardless of preference.

 

And now to the Ammann Award results………

 

Linz Railroad Bridge to be Demolished

The Railway Bridge at night but in black and white. Photo courtesy of Madeleine Schneider
The Railway Bridge at night but in black and white. Photo courtesy of Madeleine Schneider

69% of the voters want a new bridge. Demolition and replacement to commence soon.

LINZ, AUSTRIA- The elections in Linz and the region of Upper Austria brought a lot of surprises as far as results are concerned, with the Austrian Volkspartei and the Free Democrats taking the first two places and the political mentality shifting right. The mentality of the citizens of Linz seems to in the right as well, as the majority of the population voted to say good-bye to the old lady over the Danube River today.

After nearly two years of campaigning for and against a new bridge, 68.1% of the population voted in favor of demolishing the three-span curved Whipple through truss bridge, which had been serving traffic for over a century. Already, Linz’s mayor Klaus Luger had already started planning for a new crossing, whose construction is scheduled to begin sometime next year and is expected to last 2-3 years. The new crossing will be a three-span tied-arch bridge with Warren truss features, providing six lanes of traffic including rail and bike lanes. The question was whether a two-bridge solution would be realistic in financial terms. Today’s vote sent a clear message, favoring Luger’s campaign to remove the old structure and put his prized work in its new place.

However, the bridge, which had its Historic Significance status removed by the Austrian Heritage Office last year, may have an afterlife, for plans are in the making to convert the center span into a floating park, resting on pontoons and located adjacent to the new bridge. Whether this plan of salvaging one of the three spans will bear fruit depends on the amount of money and support available. Yet the plan will be similar to the proposal to convert the truss spans of the eastern half of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge into passive housing. The 1936 bridge has been replaced with a cable-stayed span and is being dismantled for that purpose.

Still after years of effort, it appears that the majority would like to see the bridge go, as it has lived its useful life. And while the group and other preservationists are still asking why, they can be given credit for getting the message out there, and receiving as much support despite fighting a battle that is now lost.  One can hope that a small part of history can be saved and reused as a marker indicating how important the bridge was to the history of Linz as well as civil engineering.

bhc new logo newsflyer

Vote on the Linz Railroad Bridge on 27 September

All photos courtesy of the City of Linz
Photo courtesy of the City of Linz

Vote on the Two-Bridge-Solution to determine the bridge’s fate

LINZ, AUSTRIA- After countless debates and arguments for and against the demolition of a key landmark in the city of Linz, citizens will go to the polls to decide whether to keep the 115-year old Linz Railroad Bridge over the Danube River and have a replacement span alongside it, or to send it off in a pile of rubble. The vote will take place tomorrow and the Chronicles will inform you of the results once they have them. Planners on both sides have been working on proposals on converting the old bridge into a pedestrian- bike trail crossing on one hand, but also a new structure to accommodate all traffic on the other. Arguments for saving the bridge include keeping its structural integrity and integrating it into the cityscape of Linz, while showing people the history of bridge and its contribution during the age of industrialization. Together with the Styregg Bridge, they are the only two Danube crossings in Linz that are more than 110 years old, with the former still serving rail traffic despite turning 130 years old this year. The Austrian Railways, which used to share the bridge with vehicular traffic, has not used the Railroad Bridge since 2013, thus clearing the way for the repurposing proposal.  Opponents have claimed that the cost for renovating the bridge and re-purposing it for recreational use would be more than the cost of a one-bridge solution. In addition, claims of the structure’s instability and it being closed to traffic during the winter instead of salting the roadway were brought up recently during several meetings between both parties. And despite this practice existing in the United States, realigning the roadway would be an inconvenience, according to opponents.

Nevertheless, there are enough arguments for and against the bridge, some of which can also be seen in the videos below. It is more of the question of not only the number of voters going to the polls, but also if the heart lies with keeping the old lady for generations to come or if it is time to let it go. No matter the result though, construction of the new bridge will take 2-3 years to complete with or without the steel bridge in its place.

Here are the videos of the campaign for saving the bridge and voting for the two bridge solution:

An interview was conducted a year ago with the Save the Bridge Initiative, which you can click here for details.

 

 

bhc new logo newsflyer

Linz Railroad Bridge Update: Aktionstag at Donaupark Urfahr on September 12

The Railway Bridge at night but in black and white. Photo courtesy of Madeleine Schneider

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark the date on your calendar: 12 September, 2014 at 6:00pm (Central European Time) at Donaupark Urfahr in Linz, Austria. The Group Initiative Save the Linz Railway Bridge (Rettet die Eisenbahnbrücke) is hosting the bridge festival Aktionstag, featuring the Austrian bands of Attwenger and Folkshilfe. There are no entry fees but you can donate to the cause. The festival brings together people with close ties to the bridge who want to see the 114-year old bridge saved and reused for pedestrian use.

This includes the political parties of the Free Democrats, the Volkspartei and Greens, who are making up the majority who are pressing the mayor of Linz, Klaus Luger, to reconsider plans to demolish the bridge. Luger, along with supporters of the party SPO (the Social Democrats), are pushing to see the bridge replaced with a modern structure, despite growing opposition from the majority of Linz’s population, preservationists, and even engineers who have expertise in preserving historic bridges, including Erhardt Kargel, whose invitation to speak with Luger was rejected, according to interview with the city magazine, Linzider (see article here for more details).  A new design is expected to be revealed in September, yet with the mayoral elections scheduled for next year, the topic of this bridge and its future will be one of the top themes of the election campaign.

For more information about this bridge festival on 12 September and/or on how to contribute to saving the bridge, click here for more details. The initiative is also on facebook, where as many as 8,250 likes have been posted. There is a potential that the 10,000 mark will be reached between now and then, and the numbers will double by year’s end.  Join in on the action in saving the Railroad Bridge by attending the concert and being actively engaged in pushing the city to support preserving the bridge.

The Chronicles interviewed Robert Ritter, who is one of the leading organizers in saving the bridge. You can click here to read the information behind the initiative to save the bridge. The Chronicles, which is throwing its support behind the bridge, will keep you posted on the latest developments as they come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINZ, AUSTRIA-

Linz Railroad Bridge Preservation: Interview

Obique view of the bridge. Image courtesy of Thomas Nemcsek.

The next Chronicles entry takes us back to Linz in central Austria, and in particular, this bridge over the Danube. Two years ago, the Chronicles published an article about the future of this three-span hybrid Parker-Whipple through truss span that used to carry rail and vehicular traffic and features a pedestrian boardwalk. At that time, public sentiment favored replacing the bridge with a modern one, which would fit the modern landscape but leave the Styregg Bridge in the northern part of the city as the lone historic bridge left. As seen in the article here, the Office of Historic Preservation was the last barrier to be taken down before demolition could proceed, which was backed by the city government and the Austrian Railways.

Fast-forward to the present, and we see a somewhat different scenario involving the bridge. The Austrian Railways has relinquished its responsibility of the bridge to the organization Linz AG, public support for the bridge has increased to the majority, but attempts to destroy efforts to preserve the bridge including one agency changing sides and producing one of the biggest scandals in the city’s history, are still there.

The organization Rettet die Eisenbahnbrücke (EN: Save the Linz Railway Bridge) was formed and started several initiatives to convince the city to change its mind. Despite its infancy, the support for the bridge has been enormous, with almost 8,000 likes on facebook and tens of thousands of signatures that prompted the city to involve the public about the plans for the bridge. Even the Chronicles has thrown in its support for this unique bridge that has been considered a historic jewel for the city, the Danube River and central Europe.

Underneath the bridge in black and white. Photo courtesy of Arno Schröckenfux

I had an opportunity to interview Robert Ritter, one of the organizers who is spearheading efforts to get the bridge saved, asking him about the current situation of the bridge and what the group wants to do with the bridge. Despite a long battle ahead of them, he remains optimistic that the public will have a say towards what they want to do with the bridge, which is restore the structure and convert it into a bike and pedestrian crossing with an option to include streetcar service in the future. Here is the Chronicles’ Q&A with Herrn Ritter:

1. What got you started with saving the Linz Railroad Bridge?
It was initially press reports saying that the demolition of the bridge had been enacted in the municipal council. We were wondering that nobody in public seemed to take notice of this incredible act let alone stand up against it. We learned that there were numerous initiatives campaigning for the preservation of the monument, all more or less remaining unnoticed or unsuccessful. So we decided to try the same through Facebook. Some weeks before we started a Facebook campaign demanding a beach cafe at the river Danube had led to a round table involving politicians and Facebook activists to realize the project.
2. In the past three years, political support has been mounting to replace the railroad bridge with a more modern one because of claims that the bridge cannot be restored. Is the political pressure there and if so, how have you been combating it?
It’s more ignorance than pressure we are fighting against. We are detecting massive economical interests in destroying the bridge and a network of actors that are very close to corruption the way they have been pushing their concerns. However, we have strong support by most of the political opposition to the government and even by members of the governing parties (which are the social democrats and the green party).
3. The bridge is now privately owned, from what I understand. Is it right?   If so, what are your plans for the bridge?
That is correct although the “private” owner is a company that is owned by the city. The company is a result of sourcing-out services provided by the city. Our plans are to preserve the monument as a bridge for cyclists and pedestrians and – if necessary – for a tramway. A new bridge for cars can easily be built beside the railroad bridge unless it should turn out that another position for the new bridge is a better option in terms of traffic concepts.
4. How much support have you received so far?
Well, we almost have 8000 supporters on Facebook. Even 7000 were enough to make the mayor invite the Facebook activists for “Linz braucht einen Strand” to a round table. We notice that there is also very much popular demand for a preservation of the bridge by persons that are not on Facebook. And we do not detect much open opposition against our concern.
5. Is it true about the Denkmalamt removing the historic status of the bridge (as seen in one of the fb postings)?  If so, how will you go about in convincing the agency to reinstate this status?
The permission to demolish the monument (so the official term) was politically motivated and is a scandal on its own. Some history: in the 1960ies the municipal government of Linz destroyed a textile manufactory of the 17th century in face of grim protest of the public. As a result an independent advisory board for issues concerning historical monuments (Unabhängiger Denkmalbeirat) was established by law to never let anything like that happen again. Well, the advisory board argued by majority vote FOR a preservation of the railroad bridge. For the first time in the history of the advisory board the Denkmalamt ignored its recommendation. Notice that the Denkmalamt is subordinated to the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture headed by a social democrat minister. Coincidence?
6. If plans for restoring the bridge are approved, what is the timeline for the project? How will the bridge be maintained?
Well, we are far away from speaking of timelines. We are preparing to utilize all democratic means to fight for a participation of the population in the decision. At the moment the city government is planning a timeline for the demolition of the bridge. The demolition has to be executed within 3 years after the permission of the Denkmalamt which means a lot of pressure for the destroyers. There are detailed offers by steel building companies to restore the bridge. It is possible and it is by far cheaper to restore AND build a new bridge than to tear down the monument and build a new one.
7. Any advice to anyone who is working on saving a historic bridge, especially one over such a large river like the Danube? Do you know of other similar bridges that are being restored that are worth mentioning?
There are more best practice examples for restoring historic bridges than can be mentioned here. Some of them are the bridges Baltoji Voke  and Kaunas (both Lithuania), Eglisau (Switzerland) and The Hef in Rotterdam. To anyone who is working on saving a bridge: fear nobody, don’t give up, involve the public! And utilize social media – they have an incredible potential for reaching lots of people within a short time.
The Railway Bridge at night but in black and white. Photo courtesy of Madeleine Schneider
If you are interested in taking part in any efforts to save the Linz Railway Bridge, go to their facebook page to like (here) and follow up on the updates and photos provided on the page. There is also a website, where you can sign the petition and subscribe to updates on the current situation with the bridge so that you have an opportunity to participate in the efforts to save the structure. You can click on the link here for more details.
The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments involving the bridge, as things are heating up between those wanting to save the bridge and those wanting to demolish and replace it. The Chronicles is also on facebook and twitter which you can subscribe to follow the updates on that and other bridges in Europe and the US.  As you can see in the interview, the battle is brewing, but in the end, the people of Linz will have the final say as to what will be done to the bridge. It is hoped that a compromise- a historic bridge as a bike and pedestrian trail and a new bridge alongside it for vehicular traffic will serve to the liking of both parties. But it will all depend on the number of votes needed to realize this project.
The author would like to thank Robert Ritter for the interview and wish him and the rest of the group best of luck. Also a round of thanks to the photographers who were willing to share their pics of the bridge for this article. Their names have been noted on each one. 

Flood Aftermath in Europe

All photos courtesy of the City of Linz

Produced together with sister column: The Flensburg Files

Clean-up of flooded areas underway. Several small crossings destroyed by flooding, mostly concrete beam bridges. Others doomed due to damage. Linz Railroad Bridge spared flooding and near ship mishap but fate sealed?

Four weeks where fields became lakes, towns became small Italian villages, and farmers and merchants became gondola drivers and boaters. That is the signature of the Great Flood of 2013 in central Europe.  Heavy rainfall caused several major rivers in Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and other countries to flood their banks, setting new records, destroying livelihoods and causing damages that are exorbitant financially and in a literal sense. In Germany alone, 10 out of 16 states were declared disaster areas, with the hardest hit areas being in Bavaria, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony. Cities, like Passau, Halle (Saale), Magdeburg and Luneberg broke 400-500 year old records with much of the city being under water.

But surprisingly according to newspaper reports, unlike the Great Flood of 2002, damages to the bridges in Europe were minimal. While many smaller bridges were destroyed because of flash floods, the major bridges along the Saale, Elbe, Danube and Rhine Rivers (among them) sustained little to moderate damage. This is a stark contrast to what happened in 2002, where many major crossings were damaged to a point where demolition and replacement were warranted. This included the Pöppelmann Bridge in Grimma (Saxony), a 1719 stone arch bridge that was undermined in the 2002 flooding and had to be rebuilt. While Grimma was flooded out again this time around, the bridge survived the flood thanks in part to the main span allowing water to pass through.

Old Magdeburg Railroad Bridge spanning the Elbe- Photo taken in February 2011

But it does not mean that the bridges that survived the floods and mudslides are safe. Many bridges are being inspected to ensure they are safe for travelling. This includes the Elbe River crossings between Magdeburg and Lauenburg, where the Elbe put hundreds of miles of highways and rail lines underwater together with the bridges. While bridges like the historic Anna Ebert Bridge in Magdeburg are being inspected for structural concerns to determine whether street cars can use it again, it is possible that an even bigger solution to the flooding problem will come at the expense of these crossings as many local and state government officials are looking at all options possible to ensure that the next round of floodwaters stay in the rivers and not flood the banks. This includes raising some bridges and rebuilding and removing those that are hindering the flow of water. This puts such crossings like this and  the old railroad bridge over the Old Elbe River located downstream from the Anna Ebert Bridge, at risk. A link to the bridges of Magdeburg is here if you wish to look at the city’s bridges and their history.

Anne Ebert Bridge- Photo taken in February 2011

One of the interesting facts about this round of floods is the fact that not only the small river crossings were undermined and destroyed by flood waters, but the majority of the bridges destroyed in the floods were concrete beam bridges built between the 1980s and 2000s. This is unusual given the fact that beam bridges were built to allow river currents to flow over and underneath the structure. But as you can see in a video of a beam bridge being washed away in Poland two weeks prior to the Great Flood, if the river current is strong enough, it can cause the span to sag and eventually break it apart and wash it away. You can see the full video here. This was exactly what happened to the bridges in eastern Thuringia and western Saxony in the area of Zwickau and Chemnitz, as these crossings were either wiped out or damaged to a point where replacement is now a necessity. Even if beam bridges are made of wood and steel, many of them crossing these small streams were wiped out or barely survived but are not stable enough to be repaired. This will most likely lead to the question of which other bridge types to be used when these structures are being replaced, for many arch, suspension, cable-stayed and truss bridges survived the onslaught of flood waters with little or no damage. Interestingly enough, these types are being used more extensively for bridge construction here in Europe than beam bridges, which should put other countries (like the US and Canada), their agencies, politicians and bridge builders on notice regarding bridges to be used not only to accommodate traffic across ravines but also be structurally sound against such natural disasters.

To close this series on bridge disasters and the Great Flood of 2013, there are a couple interesting bridge stories to mention that provide some lessons in dollars and sense. One deals with preventive measures to keep a temporary bridge from being washed away at the cost of many thousands of Euros. Another bridge survived a near boat mishap, to the dismay of the majority of the community the bridge is located, for the 110-year old structure is due for replacement but is protected by federal preservation laws, which officials are pursuing to have this protection revoke to allow for the bridge replacement to proceed.  Here are the details:

Flood destroys new bridge abutments and temporary bridge in Zschopau, Saxony:

Many small bridges along this small river in western Saxony were severely damaged or destroyed during the floods. This bridge is one of them. Located along the Zschopau River in the town bearing the river’s name, near Chemitz, the Bailey pony truss bridge was supposed to serve as a temporary crossing as a new bridge was being built replacing a two-span brick arch bridge. Yet misunderstanding plus political inaction and rushing water doomed the temporary bridge as the floods not only destroyed the bridge, but also the abutments of the new bridge being built. This created a stir among residents who were against the construction of a new bridge and had pushed to temporarily remove the Bailey truss from the river, both unfortunately to no avail. The bridge has long since been fished out of the river, and a new temporary bridge is planned at the moment, but at costs that would have been avoided had action been taken earlier.  As for the new bridge, it is unknown when it will be completed for construction crews will have to build a new bridge completely from scratch, even revising their plans to ensure that the structure will survive such onslaughts as this one. An article on the bridge can be found here.

Linz Railroad Bridge survives flood and close call:

Never has there been such discontent towards a bridge as the city of Linz in Austria. As reported last year, the three-span through truss bridge spanning the Danube River has been targeted for demolition and replacement by politicians and the majority of the community, even after a pair of reports indicated that half of the bridge cannot be restored. Yet this 1903 structure has been protected by the Austrian Heritage Laws because of its historic significance to the region and its rare truss type that was used in bridge construction in Austria. This bridge survived a close call as a small ship traveling along the high flowing Danube River almost rammed into the bridge. However, this was not before having to evacuate 120 Swiss tourists ashore prior to its passage. The ship barely made it across the rising river. A few more centimeters and a collision with the truss bridge would have been likely, causing damage to both the boat and the structure. An article on this incident can be found here.  While many were wishing that the accident would have happened and the bridge would have either collapsed or been damaged to a point of irreparably, government officials, which includes the city council, the mayor of Linz and the railroad company that runs trains across the bridge have filed a petition to the Austrian Heritage Office in Vienna to have its historic status revoked, so that the replacement of the bridge could proceed at the earliest in 2014. While the decision was expected last month, there is still no word on whether this waiver will be granted. If the request is denied, the city and the railroad will be forced to consider alternatives, which includes rehabilitating the entire structure. This will take twice as long as the two years needed to replace the bridge. More information on this bridge can be found through the OÖ Nachricht here as well as through the Chronicles, here, which will keep you posted on the latest on this bridge. An organization aimed to save the bridge has been created. You can find them by clicking on here.

Our last part of the Flood Series focuses on Canada and its acute flooding situation which has ripped railroads out of their beds and dropped many important crossings into the water, including the ones in the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Stay tuned!

You can view the highlights of the Great Flood of 2013 in Europe through sister column the Flensburg Files, which you can click on here.