BB Comer Bridge to become History

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer
Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

SCOTTSBORO, AL (USA)-  As a general rule, democracy works when the majority of the population favor a project that is for the benefit of the community; even if it means putting it to a vote. The campaign to save the BB Comer Bridge garnered massive amount of support from people within Jackson County, as well as many throughout Alabama and parts of the US. It was hoped that the Jackson County Commissioners would put the issue up to a vote, to assume responsibility over a historic bridge with over 80 years of history.

Sadly, County Officials not only rejected the proposition for a vote or even a referendum, but they rejected calls for any measures involving the cantilever span, once and for all. The notion at the council meeting on 9 November effectively closed the last doors to any opportunity to convert the bridge into a recreational area. The contract was signed yesterday to remove the bridge as soon as the new span opened to traffic next spring.

According to a statement by the BB Comer Foundation released yesterday: “It’s sad to see a piece of history destroyed for lack of positive vision.  The hurdles could have been met and crossed if people put their minds to it.  Without doing anything to the bridge it would stand for generations. We are just about to throw a 12 million dollar resource in the trash because efforts to figure out absurd ownership requirements from ALDOT did just what they were supposed to do, stop the preservation of this bridge.”

County officials were concerned about the liability it would have to undertake to preserve the bridge, which includes its maintenance. In addition, some officials questioned the credibility of having a third owner take over the bridge, especially with regards to requirements presented earlier by the Alabama DOT. For cost reasons alone as the official reason, they decided that the effort was not worth it, despite the benefits of using the 1930 bridge that was built by the Kansas City Bridge Company.

“Saving your bridge required the establishment of a governmental entity to assume ownership of the bridge,” stated officials at the bridge foundation. “It would have required no funds from the county or city.  The Comer Bridge Foundation, in concert with the authority, that we were asking them to form could have carried out fundraising activities and, as a government entity, been eligible for grants and other funding mechanisms.  The Bridge could have been used by movie companies for filming at a rate of up to five  thousand dollars a day.  There are many other revenue producing items that would have been available to the Tourism Authority. We were never able to convince the city or the county, despite all efforts, to create the necessary government entity to work with ALDOT on the rest of the conditions.”   Several examples of bridges that became part of a joint cooperation with a private and public sector exist in the United States, including the Sutliff Bridge in Johnson County (Iowa), especially after the bridge was rebuilt in 2012 after sustaining substantial damage in the 2008 flood. This 1896 three-span Parker through truss bridge was one of several examples of historic bridges in Johnson County alone that were saved and reused thanks to efforts by both the private and public sectors. Other examples can be found at FW Kent Park west of Iowa City.

Still, it is unclear how county officials had a change of heart, and how members of the foundation plus other proponents for the preservation of the historic bridge were given the cold shoulder and their pleas were quashed. But apparently the culture of fear factor, combined with behind-the-door politics may have played a key role in sentencing the bridge to death, without any chance to put the proposal up for a vote. A show trial where the defendant is pre-programmed to die is the motto for the bridge.

And with that, time is short; get your photos of the bridge between now and the time the new bridge opens in March- and the historic iconic bridge becomes a memory.

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To show solidarity towards the French and Lenabese and the families who were killed in a series of terrorist attacks on 13 November, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, together with sister column The Flensburg Files, will present a special logo to show support in these dark times. These logos will be used for the rest of 2015. While the photo shows the Bridge of Friendship at the German-Danish border in Flensburg, Germany, the lettering represents the colors of the French national flag.

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.

 

 

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Fehmarn Bridge Spared/ Industrial Areal Rejected

Fehmarn Bridge in Germany. Used as the new logo for the Bridgehunter's Chronicles. Photo taken in September 2014
Fehmarn Bridge in Germany. Used as the new logo for the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. Photo taken in September 2014

Co-produced with sister column:

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Burg (Fehmarn)-  In the last 20 years, attempts have been made to turn the largest island in Germany, located northeast of Oldenburg in Schleswig-Holstein at the border to Denmark, into an industrial area, especially in the northern half of the island. And since last summer, a petition was made to put the proposal up to vote, which was granted on March 8. The question was whether profits from the new industrial area would make sense or whether it is best to keep the island as is and feed its profits from tourism and environmentalism. In other words, do they want the industry or not.

The majority spoke for the latter- and by an enormous number of votes!

Voters on the 8th voted unanimously to reject the proposal by the conglomerate Baltic FS to establish an industrial area in the northern part of the island with an average vote of two thirds favoring the annullment of the agreement with the firm and less than a third for the agreement. The plan would have allowed companies to establish their facilities on 15 acres of land between Puttgarden and Marienleuchte, which would have resulted in the widening of the Migratory Route (Vogellinie) between Hamburg and Lübeck to the south and Copenhagen in the north.  The majority that voted against the proposal were concerned about the increase in air and noise pollution caused by the establishment of several small firms as well as the subsequential increase in traffic, and that the environmentally sensitive region would sustain significant damage as a result.

Proponents of the proposal wanted additional revenue to that coming from the tourism section, which is the main source of income. Yet because of the haste in planning by Baltic FS combined with questions about the affects of the Areal being answered vaguely or even left out, the majority of the residents of Fehmarn voted to cut the cord on the deal. The proposal, according to the news source Fehmarn Heiligenhafen is now on ice for at least two years, but attempts are being made by the Initiative Bewahrt Fehmarn (Preserve Fehmarn) to ensure that the Areal plan is off the table for good, together with the widening of the Vogellinie route and with that, a new bridge over the Fehmarn Sound to the south west of Burgstaaken and a new tunnel to the north at Puttgarden. Should this plan be successful, it is most likely that the Areal may be scrapped or even relocated. The Danish town of Rodby in Lolland may be the best place for the district, if the latter is proposed, given its strategic location.

 

Fehmarn Tunnel and Bridge on Ice?

In addition to the good news regarding the Areal, work on the Fehmarn Tunnel between Puttgarden and Rodby (Denmark) as well as the proposal for building a new Fehmarn Bridge between Burgstaaken and mainland Germany has been stalled for political reasons. According to sources from the Lübecker Nachricht newspaper as well as from the Initiative Bewarht Fehmarn, work on the new 18-kilometer long tunnel will most likely start in 2018 with the completion being in 2024. This will be three years later than scheduled. Reason for the delay is the debate on the future of the Fehmarn Bridge on the south end. According to an article produced in December, the 1963 basket-weave tied arch bridge was the very first bridge of its kind built, setting the stage for several more similar structures that have been built since then and three more to be built in the next five years; one of which is the Levansau Bridge west of Kiel.

The German Railways (Die Bahn), owners of the bridge, wants two new bridges- one for railway traffic and one for the motorway and relieve its duties in maintaining the bridge- possibly even tearing it down. Residents are against the proposal for the bridge as it is one of the main icons of the island, plus it would mean residents losing acres of land and pollution setting in from an increase in traffic. While the tunnel proposal is on the table, it has not been etched in stone due to opposition and costs for the project, which politicians in Berlin are debating. While the bridge is expected to handle traffic for another 30 years at the most, according to sources, work is underway to determine what needs to be done with the bridge to prolong its life further, while at the same time ensure that the island does not witness an increase in volume of traffic through the tunnel or three-bridge solution and with that, the conversion of the two-lane road into a motorway, something the majority of residents are opposed to.

More on the Fehmarn Bridge you’ll find via Bridgehunter’s Chronicles by clicking on the logo below:

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The Flensburg Files and its sister column will keep you informed on the developments in the Fehmarn Region. Yet the Initiative Bewahrt Fehmarn needs your help and support. For more on how to help, please go to their facebook page and contact the people involved to see how you can help.