2017 Ammann Awards Results: Part 2

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Cobban Bridge spanning the Chippewa River near Cornell, Wisconsin. Winner of the Bridge of the Year Awards. Photo taken by Troy Hess.

Just 12 hours after publishing the press release of Part 1 of the Ammann Award winners, there was a lot of positive feedback from our Readers, especially in the category of Best Photo, where Chauncy Neumann came out the winner in that category, followed by Esko Räntilla and lastly, Kevin Skow- just to name the top three of the top six winners of the Awards. However, just after posting the first half of the results, I contacted the winner of Lifetime Achievement Award for an interview, informing him that he had won and asking him if he would be interviewed about his work. His response: cool as heckfire, let’s do it! 🙂 There are two reasons for Nels Raynor to be honored for this year’s Lifetime Achievement Awards. The first has to do with his many years of hard work in restoring numerous bridges, especially with his company BACH Steel, located in Michigan. There will be more on his successes when the interview is finished and posted. The second has to do with a historic bridge he restored that won an accolade this year. That will come in a bit. But looking at the results, Raynor was in a dog-eat-dog battle with silver medalist James Baughn of Bridgehunter.com throughout most of the competition until he pulled away with 245 votes to Baughn’s 105 in the waning days of the voting process. The Bronze and Tourquois Medals had to be split up among three people in each standing, all of whom had at least 104 votes but the margin between third and fourth place was only a single vote. Nevertheless, the finishing results look like this:

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT:

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The Schlema Stone Arch Bridge spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River at Schlema

TOUR GUIDE INTERNATIONAL:

This category was the only one in the Ammann Awards where each candidate successfully vied for first place and stayed there before being dethroned by another one. Even the bridges in a small town of Rochlitz, southeast of Leipzig, took first place honors for a few days before being outvoted by silver medalist, Winnepeg (Canada) and bronze medalist, St. Petersburg (Russia). It finished in fourth with 92 votes, five less than St. Petersburg.  It also marked a first where a candidate was entered twice due to additional bridges that were added after the first run. That was with Glauchau (Saxony), Germany, which finished fifth in the 2016 Awards but because of four additional bridges, plus information from local historians and local publicity from the newspapers, it was reentered in the 2017 competition. It finished fifth, receiving the Quartzite Medal, after receiving 56 votes, far outdoing Quebec City, London (UK) and Cambridge (UK). The winner of the Tour Guide International Award goes to the bridges in the Aue-Schneeberg Region in western Saxony, Germany. Featuring the bridges along the Zwickauer Mulde, Schwarzwasser and Schlema Rivers, the region, which has bridges in the cities of Aue, Schneeberg, Schlema and even Zschorlau finished with 126 votes, after lagging behind Glauchau until the second-to-last day, thus receiving the Gold medal. More Information on the bridges in the region can be found here. Here are the rest of the results:

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Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown (Lehigh Co.), PA  Photo by HABS-HAER

TOUR GUIDE USA:

There are many characteristics that make this year’s winner a treat to visit. Lehigh County, Pennsylvania has a wide array of covered bridges as well as arch bridges. They include, on the one hand, the Geiger and Rex Covered Bridges- both the oldest still in use- but also the oldest stone arch bridge in Reading  (built in 1824) and the Albertus Meyer Memorial Bridge in Allentown, a 1913 arch viaduct that is the longest in the county. That was probably the main reason why the majority of voters selected Lehigh County as this year’s Tour Guide winner. After tangling with Clinton County, New York, Lehigh County received the gold medal with 201 votes, 71 more than Clinton County, which received the Ore Medal with 131 votes. Silver and Bronze go to the bridges in northern West Virginia, where Marshall County finished second with 149 votes and Wheeling finished with only two votes less. Civil war-based arch bridges in Bridges to the Past in Hardin County received tourquois with 132 votes. While the Cleveland Browns Football Team are walking away from the most humiliating football Season on record with an 0-16 record, the people of Cleveland are taking pride in the city’s bridges with 131 voters checking the City in for a fifth place finish and a Quartzite Medal. Here is the final tally of the top six of 14 candidates.

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The Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge at its new location in Conway, AR. Winner of the Best Preservation Practice Awards. Photo taken by Wayne Keller

BEST EXAMPLE OF A RESTORED HISTORIC BRIDGE

In perhaps the most intensive finish in the history of the Ammann Awards, the race came down to two bridges, each with its own preservation Story. The Springfield Bowstring Arch was perhaps one of the most successful bridge preservation stories on record, as crews saved the leaning 1871 iron bowstring arch bridge from disaster by dismantling it as well as rebuilding it at its new location at a park in Conway in Faulkner County, Arkansas.  For Nels Raynor, Julie Bowers and crew, this 18-month project, which included several volunteers, consultants and historians, was one of the shortest and most successful on record, for it usually takes 2-3 years to accomplish such a feat. But for the crew, it was the most successful story in the company’s history and one of the best in bridge preservation history.

It had some massive competition from another bridge, located in Des Moines, Iowa, in the Green Bridge. The 1898 three-span Pratt through truss bridge was restored on site with new cassion piers and truss bridge parts as well as new decking and lighting and became a posterboy in the face of the city council’s attempts to modernize the Des Moines River crossings by replacing arch bridges with faux arches. Grand Avenue fell victim with Locust and Court Avenues coming up on their plans. With their success Story, perhaps the City will rethink the way they treat their historic structures as they have been on the onslaught by those who think newer and leaner is better. Both Green and Springfield had raced neck-on-neck, changing leads at least two dozen times in the last two weeks of the competition before Springfield finally edged the Green Bridge for Gold Medal by a score of 1720 votes to the silver medalist’s 1682. Bronze went to the Ponte Pensil Sao Vicente in Santos, Brazil, with 717 votes. This category had more bowstring arch bridges in the top six than in the past, as the crossings at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds in Ohio and at Merrimack College near Boston finished in fourth and fifth respectively. The Ore Medal for sixth place goes to the Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, Minnesota, which the Minnesota River crossing garnered 366 votes. 6126 votes were recorded in this category, which was the second best behind the last category of the Awards.

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Cobban Bridge spanning the Chippewa River near Cornell, WI: Winner of Bridge of the Year.

BRIDGE OF THE YEAR:

With 7160 votes total for 13 candidates, the Bridge of the Year category set a new record for the highest number of votes recorded  in the history of the Ammann Awards. None of the candidates received less than 200 votes each but there was a fierce competition for first place among five bridge candidates which lasted until the final four days of voting. It was then that 1800 voters selected the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge spanning the Chippewa River in Wisconsin, the Cobban Bridge. The 1908 product of Modern Steel Structures Company is listed on the National Register of Historic Places but its future is in peril after county officials voted to close off the bridge to all traffic last year, deeming it unsafe. Officials want to see the bridge replaced by 2021, but locals would like to see the bridge saved and rehabilitated for reuse. There has been on ongoing debate on what to do with the bridge. Despite claims that the cost for rehabilitating the bridge is prohibitive, figures have been revealed as overexaggerating. Could the Cobban Bridge be the next Green Bridge of Des Moines? 2018 will be the decisive year for residents of Chippewa County and the state of Wisconsin as to what will become the lone truss bridge of its design in the state, let alone the last of its kind in the country.

Apart from the Cobban Bridge receiving gold, the silver medal winner went to the Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge with 617 votes, two thirds shy of the triple crown for BACH Steel. The duo truss bridges of Pulp Mill in Berlin, New Hampshire received the bronze with 589 votes, despite having competed with Cobban, fourth place finisher Hvita Bridge in Iceland (which received 580 votes) and the Wave in Glauchau, Germany for first place. Pulp Mill had traded leads with Cobban several times before the last rush put it out of reach by a long shot. The Wave finished tied for 10th with the Green Bridge in Des Moines and well out of medal range. Despite being arsoned for the second time in over a decade, the Cedar Covered Bridge near Winterset, Iowa received the Quartzite and finished fifth with 435 votes, 11 votes more than the ore medal winner, the Covered Bridges of New Brunswick, Canada, the topic of discussion and many stories because of closures due to structural issues and drivers falling through the flooring. Here is the tally in detail:

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And with that ends the most intensive but exciting 2017 Ammann Awards. Observing the voting process and watching people get engaged made this round as exciting as the Holiday Season itself, even though the latter was shorter than normal due to Christmas Eve falling on thr Fourth Advent which meant shorter Holiday Shopping and time for Christmas Markets. In any case, with plans of other Websites, like Bridgehunter.com planning to go international and the Chronicles providiing more coverage, including bridge tours, bridge book profiles, interviews and others, it is hoped that the 2018 Ammann Awards will be bigger and more exciting than this year.

While the author of the Chronicles picks his favorites to be published in the next article, those interested in submitting bridges, photos and more should keep in mind that nominations officially begin on October 3rd and end December 3rd. Voting will proceed right afterwards, ending on January 8th, 2019. Winners to be announced on January 12th. For details, click here and/or contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles if you have any questions.

For now, let’s have a look at the Author’s Choice Awards, which follows this article and I must warn you: If you are a fan of Judge Marilyn Milian of the People’s Court, you will have a blast at what she could have said to the stories that made headlines in 2017. Stay tuned! 🙂

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Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge Restored- To be Part of Local Park Trail

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Springfield Bridge at sunset. Unless noted, photos taken by Workin Bridges and BACH Steel for press release use.

Historic Bowstring Arch Bridge Restored after a nearly one-year project to relocate the structure to a city park. Dedication ceremony on 23 September in Conway.

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CONWAY, ARKANSAS- Bridge crews and preservationists are celebrating the rebirth of one of the oldest surviving historic bridges in Arkansas. The Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge is back in use after a record-breaking stint, which featured the disassembling, relocation, restoration and rassembling of the 1871 structure, a product of the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio, all within a span of ca. nine months! Usually, such projects last between 1-2 years, pending on the truss type, length and width and the way it should be restored. For other bridges, such as arches, suspension bridges and viaduct, it may take up to five years, pending on how it is restored.  The Springfield Bridge, with its main span of 146 feet and a width of 12 feet, is one of the longest of its kind built by King that is left. However when looking back at the bridge before its relocation from the Faulkner-Conway county line to Conway City in November 2016, it presented a totally different picture- a rather sad one when looking at it through the lens of Julie Bowers of Workin Bridges and Nels Raynor of BACH Steel.

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Springfield Bridge before its relocation. Photo taken by Julie Bowers

Workin’ Bridges is a non  profit organization based in Grinnell, Iowa that is dedicated to historic bridge preservation, and Bach Structural and Oranmental Steel (BACH Steel) of Holt, Michigan. Six years after the completion of a study by Raynor and Bowers , the historic bridge restoration project was successfully completed. The success was due to a rare collaboration between the City of Conway, Faulkner County, and Dr. Ken Barnes of the Faulkner County Historical Society who was essential in the writing and successful grant application and petitioning the City of Conway to find a place to move the bridge. Permission to move was granted by the National Park Service for this structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A dedication to the restoration and future of this iron bowstring will be held Saturday, September 23rd at 10:00 am  at Beaverfork Lake Park in Conway, Arkansas.

The iron truss was fabricated in 1871 and erected in 1874 over E. Cadron Creek between Faulkner and Conway Counties as the first and oldest highway bridge built for farm to market requirements by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The bridge restoration was funded by City of Conway tourism dollars used for parks, Faulkner County equipment, expertise and  funds for the extra crane, with the help of Metroplan which allowed the restructuring of grant funding to allow preservation to move forward.

The bridge was removed from the Cadron in November of 2016. The BACH Steel  Rivet Gang went to work with the disassembly and marking the members for transportation to a paint removal company in Little Rock, managed by Snyder Environmental. Workin’ Bridges was then given the job of designing the new substructure at Lake Beaverfork, engineered by James Schiffer of Schiffer Engineering Group of Traverse City, Michigan.

Once the caissons were designed, drilled, formed and poured,  and covered with riveted columns repairs to the bridge trusses began. Nels Raynor of BACH Steel is the premier bridge restoration craftsman throughout the United States that specializes in restoring bridges the old fashioned way. “In Kind” restoration means that parts are replaced with similar parts, rivets replaced with rivets and if new parts are required they are fashioned with care. When asked Raynor stated: “This one stands out as one of the most beautiful. I wish there were more people like those of Conway and Faulkner County. Those who wish to protect and save their hesitate. It’s part of my life’s work to preserve those structures. My company has been bless with finding those with the same passion inmy partners Derek and Lee Pung, Andy Hufnagel and Brock. Behind the scenes we have my daughter Heather Raynor, Nathan Holth and Jim Schiffer. We want to thank everyone for giving us the creative freedom to make this one of the most memorable and beautiful bridges we have ever been involved with.”

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Close-up of the work done on the bridge, which includes new decking and railing, plus restoration that is in-kind.

Jack Bell, Chief of Staff for the City of Conway, Mark Ledbetter, Director of Roads for Faulkner County, Steve Ibbotson, Director of Parks for the City of Conway and Judge Baker were the team that provided the collaborative efforts to make this a successful project. They teamed up for all of the site requirements, from building a road and crane pad to the old location on Cadron Creek, to building the roads and crane pad for the reset at Lake Beaverfork. They utilized reclaimed stone from the original abutments to sculpt the new location with retaining walls and provide a bench for viewing. Bell said, “The partnership between Workin’ Bridges, BACH Steel, Faulkner and the City of Conway was essential to bring this project to fruition.  A significant piece of Faulkner County history has been saved and an iconic amenity has been added to our Parks system.”

New railings, as required by law, were designed by Raynor and company, who were able to provide historically accurate laced and riveted railing, using requirements for today’s pedestrians. The rail was then sent to Conway, where the local historical society teamed up with Workin’ Bridges to  promote the “Paint the Rail” campaign. The campaign successfully contributed the funds needed to coat the rail, using a PPG product delivered by Furgerson Brothers Painting.

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Nels Raynor answering questions from reporters.

The restoration will be featured in a documentary filmed by Terry Strauss of Ultimate Restorations and should be available for viewing on PBS and through Amazon Prime in the fall of 2017. It will be featured in a later article provided by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.  The project was also documented by Workin’ Bridges with the aid of Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org. The bridge was built by craftsmen and the record of their work, the “craftsman’s record” was evident in each cast and riveted piece in the bridge said  Raynor. “To think that this all started six years ago with a site visit to Arkansas with my son Brock and Bowers with Workin’ Bridges. What this bridge has become today is just amazing to me and I have been involved with many bridge projects”.

It is a testament to the fact that we work better together, always have. The collaboration made a very big bridge project manageable, and used resources in a way that reduced time and material cost”, stated Bowers from her office in Holt, Michigan. “One never knows if a site visit that renders real numbers for project evaluation will become a job. These bridges take a lot of time, craftsmanship and money, but in the end it is all about making memories. The collaboration worked well and rendered a project that could have cost far more into an affordable package for the parks system.”

More information about the bridge, pictures from the process can be found at Springfield Bridge on Facebook. Questions may be directed to Julie Bowers at jbowerz1@gmail.com. The Chronicles would like to congratulations to Julie, Nels and the rest of the crew for bringing a relict back to life. Thanks to you, you’ve just given people a chance to learn more about the history of Conway County, King and American infrastructure. 🙂

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