BHC Newsflyer 1 July, 2019

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bhc newsflyer new

Podcast can be accessed via link: https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episode/e4ghc4

 

Links to the headlines:

 

Morandi Bridge Demolished:

Headlines

New Replacement span

Videos of the Bridge collapse and demolition:

 

Aetnaville Truss Bridge in Wheeling Faces Demolition

Sydney historic Bridge faces uncertain future after years of neglect

Historic Mangaweka Bridge may live on

 

Bridge Towers of the Remagen Bridge in Germany Needs a new owner:

Facts and history of the Bridge

Information on the Remagen Museum

News Story (in German)

 

Historic Bridge in Winona Reopens after a Three-year Renovation Project:

Facts and Photos of the Bridge

Information on its reopening

Video on the Bridge Project:

 

Historic Bridge Plaque in Napa Restored

Canton Railroad Bridge being Replaced

Help needed in solving mystery of railroad Bridge in Olbernhau (Mystery Bridge 116)

 

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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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One bridge spared, two on the way out?

Wheeling Suspension Bridge over the Ohio River in Wheeling, West Virginia. Photo taken by author during visit in August 2010

Sioux Falls’ local bridge receives a new life; Wheeling Suspension Bridge failing; Sewell Falls Bridge to be razed and replaced

With Sequestration (the process of initializing automatic budget cuts across the border) taking hold on the American way of life with the potential of putting the recovery process in reverse, for many pontists and bridge enthusiasts alike, the last bit of news one could receive are some more bridges either failing or coming down with the wrecking ball. Unfortunately for two key bridges in the eastern part of the US, that may be the case, as the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles presents its newsflyer with the details:

Wheeling Suspension Bridge

Spanning the Ohio River in Wheeling, West Virginia, this wire suspension bridge, built in 1849 with the total length of 1307 feet (main span 920 feet), used to carry the National Road, which connected Cumberland, Maryland with Vandalia, Illinois and was the first road to use macadam for surfacing. It took 26 years to construct 620 miles of highway, the first in the country, but the suspension bridge at Wheeling did not come into being until 1849, with Charles Ellet Jr. designing the bridge. After its collapse in 1854, it was rebuilt by Ellet again and was later reinforced with additional wire cables, including stayed cables designed by Washington Roebling (in 1872), the same person who oversaw the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York after the death of his father, John Roebling.  While the bridge was restored in the 1980s to provide local traffic to the city, trouble is now looming for this National Historic Landmark, as inspectors found a snapped cable on the eastern tower of the bridge, prompting officials to close the bridge to all traffic, including pedestrians. The cable was designed to keep the bridge from swaying. How long the bridge will be closed off depends on how the repairs will be made to the bridge, let alone the length of time it will take to get the bridge back into service. It will without a doubt leave people with the tune of “London Bridge is Falling Down” in their heads, replacing London with Wheeling. Yet it would create a tragedy similar to the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge crossing in 1940, when “Galloping Gertie” succumbed to 40 mph winds thanks to poor engineering. More news on the Wheeling Suspension Bridge will follow. A link to the bridge closure can be found here.

Note: Wheeling had already lost another historic landmark with the demolition of the Bridgeport Bridge in 2011 after over 20 years’ abandonment.

 

Sewell Falls Bridge coming down

The process of decimating New Hampshire’s historic bridges continues as another bridge is slated for demolition, with no chance to protest the decision. The city of Concord voted on Thursday to proceed with the demolition process as inspection reports revealed that the bridge deteriorated to a point where a complete rehabilitation of the structure would be futile. The original plan had been to construct a new bridge alongside the two-span through truss bridge with riveted connections that was built by a prominent bridge builder, John Storrs, who was influential in the city of Concord, and later became mayor of the state capital. While residents are hesitant regarding the potential to convert the residential street into a major highway, city officials believe that a new bridge is a necessity due to safety and liability concerns. The bridge will remain in its place for another year or so as funding is being collected for the project, meaning it will be in service for people to see until 2015, when the entire city landmark becomes a pile of scrap metal. More on the city’s decision can be found here.

Photo taken by the author while on a bike tour in 1999. Note, this was taken underneath the McKennan Hospital Car Park Complex

McKennan Railroad Bridge receives new life

Of the dozens of bridges that were targeted for demolition, as mentioned in an earlier article in the Chronicles, it appears that this Big Sioux Crossing, located at the former McKennan Hospital Car Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota will be spared after all. Built in the early 1900s, this two-span Howe pony truss bridge used to serve the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad before the company went into administration and the bridge was given to the City of Sioux Falls in the 1970s to be converted into a pedestrian bridge. Despite one of the spans falling into the river during the 1946 Flood, the bridge has remained in service since then. Despite talks to demolish the sturcture, sources closest to the Chronicles revealed that the bridge will be saved thanks to the plans from a local hotel to integrate it into its plans. It will serve as the entrance to the hotel’s terrace, while at the same time, provide access to the city’s bike trails. This is a win-win situation for the city and the developers, especially as the city already has a grand track record for reusing its historic bridges for recreational purposes. Over a dozen historic bridges are still being used as bike trails and other recreational purposes, half of them coming from former railroad lines that had existed prior to 1970. It accounts for a third of Minnehaha County’s number of historic bridges including those along the Big Sioux River. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will provide you with a tour of the region, which will be posted later on the in the spring.

 

Ambridge-Woodlawn Bridge to be rehabbed. A step in the right direction for preserving Pennsylvania’s (remaining) historic bridges?

There is an old saying that was mentioned many years ago by British author Kazuo Ishiguro which stated that in order to be successful, one has to work within his own boundaries and with the resources that he has at his disposal. Some of the themes used in his novels- the most popular was of course “The Remains of the Day” (published in 1989)- have something to do with trying to go beyond one’s own limits only to meet failure and later regret some years later and eventually, these self-made tragedies are usually served as a lesson for future generations and those who have yet to experience life and know that there are limits to what one is doing.

I wish I can say the same for the governmental agencies and their dealings with historic bridges, for up to now, whenever a historic bridge that has a unique appearance which people can relate to is considered obsolete, they would successfully find ways to destroy them in favor of modernized structures with a very bland feature. We have already seen the demise of the Bridgeport and Fort Steuben Bridges in the Wheeling (West Virginia) area within the last nine months. The Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad Bridge over the Minnesota River in the village of Carver, located southwest of Chaska, was removed upon orders of the Union Pacific Railroad in October 2011 despite pleas from the villagers and those interested in preserving a bridge. And perhaps the latest act of stupidity among the agency is replacing the Dolles Mill Bridge in Bollinger County (Missouri) with a concrete slab bridge that is narrower than the Parker through truss bridge built in 1913.

So it definitely came to a surprise that the Ambridge-Woodlawn Bridge, located over the Ohio River near Ambridge would actually be spared demolition despite being 85 years old and quite a narrow bridge fitting today’s standards. Built in 1927 by the American Bridge Company, the bridge is located in Beaver County, approximately 80 kilometers south-southwest of Pittsburgh, but still deep in the territory of western Pennsylvania.  Up to now, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation played a role of the wrecking ball in influencing decisions to demolish these bridges, destroying as much as 60% of its bridges within the past decade. This included the Foxburg, West Hickory, Venango and East Brady Bridges. Yet despite its bad track record, plus further plans to replace more historic bridges in and around the Pittsburgh area this year, there seems to be a change of heart, or so it seems, with this bridge.

I had a chance to visit this bridge during my tour of the region in 2010 and was quite impressed with its history and appearance. The bridge is a cantilever truss bridge using a Pratt design, and it was built using pinned connections, meaning the parts are put together via bolts and eyelets. The bridge features Howe lattice portal and strut bracings and finials on each of the four cantilever towers of the bridge, all shaped in a form of a curved pyramid.  The bridge’s east approach spans the Ohio River Boulevard and a couple abandoned rail lines before making its was across the Ohio River. After reaching the bank, the two Warren pony truss spans crosses the Norfolk Southern Railway before the road terminates at Constitution Boulevard on the west end of the river.  Its aqua green color gives the bridge an impressive look, and the people of Ambridge have used the bridge as part of their marketing strategy to bring more people and business to the community of 7,800 inhabitants. Interesting enough, Ambridge was incorporated by the American Bridge Company in 1905, by converging neighboring Legionville with the remnants of the village of Economy, which was founded in 1824 by the Harmony Society. The bridge building company was located here and was the main anchor of business in the city as steel mills drew in thousands of residents, looking for work and a place to start their lives. By 1940, the population had reached 18,968 before the steel mills shut down and many people left the community.  While the steel mills no longer exist, the city has preserved much of its business district and is now a main source of tourism. There is hope that the bridge will become part of that heritage once the rehabilitation work is completed.

I spent over an hour at the bridge and saw some bridge inspectors there, looking at the state of the bridge and making some notes and perhaps some recommendations. Judging by the appearance of the bridge, it was on the borderline between saving it and scrapping it. As draconian as PennDOT has been to the historic bridges, I would not have been surprised had the decision for the latter choice been taken. But much to my surprise after talking with the inspectors, my assumptions were wrong. From their point of view, it would be possible if the bridge would last another 25-30 years if some repairs are made.  It was a rather optimistic prediction given the sorry state of the bridges in the US in general.  As a whole, America’s bridges were graded C on a scale from A (excellent) to F (fail) by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2009. That means that despite progress in repairing/ rehabilitating as well as replacing bridges deemed structurally obsolete to today’s standards, there is still more work to be done. Yet in terms of preserving historic bridges in general, my grade would be in the D range, and in the case of Pennsylvania, a walloping F.  That means that historic bridges most of the time are minimally maintained, causing them to deteriorate to a point where replacement is warranted. And that could be expensive, as a new bridge is four times as expensive as updating the bridge to meet current traffic standards. There were many examples of historic bridges I visited in western Pennsylvania that fell victim to neglect because of incremental ways to save money for maintenance- even for a good coat of paint if it is needed. As of this entry, a couple have since been removed and replaced and a few more are slated to come out soon.

Despite its top three ranking for the worst infrastructure in the country, Pennsylvania has been trying to catch up on bridge work through its massive bridge replacement program, regardless of where the funding comes from- from the state, federal government or even the private sector. Yet given the dire straits of the US economy and the political stalemate that has been going on in Washington- especially in light of this year’s presidential elections, it seems that the funding is being dried up faster than there are plans for replacing bridges in the next five years. Henceforth, the only viable option for PennDOT is to heed to the demands of the experts in bridge rehabilitation and preservation, listen to the public and rehabilitate the bridge from top to bottom so that the structure can continue serving traffic for more than 30 years and still be part of the legacy that Ambridge still prides itself in.

The plan calls for a complete closure of the bridge between now and the end of November of this year and will include the repair and partial replacement of the bridge deck, replacement of the sidewalk and railings, repairs on the steel superstructure, new roadway, and a new paint job, just to name a few features of the project. What will produce a mixture of reactions from the public and those interested in the bridge is the change in paint color from aqua green to grey. While grey is commonly used on many truss bridges, it is highly questionable on this bridge, given its conformity to the surroundings. Yet there are some bright sides to the use of grey on the bridge, which includes it being brighter for cars at night and more noticeable for navigation on the Ohio River. What the bridge will look like once the rehabilitation is completed remains to be seen, but it appears that if the rehabilitation project is successful, it could spell a chance for PennDOT to look for ways to rehabilitate other historic bridges in the area. It does not necessarily have to be the main links, like the Ambridge-Woodlawn Bridge. It could also be some historic bridges, like the Carlton Bridge in Mercer County, which only takes an average of 10 vehicles a day. Rehabilitation can be a win-win situation for all parties involved. It saves money, prolongs the bridge’s life and maximizes its usage and especially, it preserves the historic significance of the bridge and its affiliation with the community and the people connected with it. The Ambridge-Woodlawn Bridge may help PennDOT to finally turn the curve in terms of its stance on historic bridges.

Links:

http://www.bridgehunter.com/pa/beaver/ambridge/

http://www.historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowser=pennsylvania/ambridge/

http://www.wpxi.com/news/news/local/ambridge-aliquippa-bridge-closed-through-november-/nLKm5/

 

 

Bridgehunter Fast Fact:

Minus the greater Pittsburgh and Wheeling areas, Beaver County ranks in the top five of the highest number of truss bridges in western Pennsylvania, as many simple and cantilever truss bridges can be found within a 5-6 kilometer radius of each other on average. One of the reasons for this is the policy of rehabilitating and preserving pre-1965 spans with a potential of being reused again, despite the historic significance. A couple noteworthy examples include the Fallston Bridge (below). Built by the Penn Bridge Company in 1884, this two-span Whipple truss bridge was rehabilitated in 2005 and still serves traffic to this day. The bridge is located over the Beaver River near the Beaver Valley Golf Course in Fallston.

Photo taken by James Baughn in 2009

The other example is the rehabilitation going on at the Beaver Expressway Bridge (middle bridge in the photo below). Built in 1963, the bridge serves freeway traffic and was undergoing extensive rehabilitation of the deck truss span during the visit. The cities of Rochester and Beaver had already renovated a neighboring bridge to the north of the structure.

Photo taken by James Baughn in 2009

 

Author’s note: Unless noted, photos were taken during a tour in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and along the Ohio River in August 2010

Bridgeport Bridge (Finally) Came Down

Photo taken in August 2010

Bridgehunter’s Chronicles News Flyer:

14 September, 2011  Bridgeport, Ohio-  After three years of attempts to bring the bridge down and over 22 years of sitting idle and neglect, the three-span Parker through truss bridge spanning the Ohio River came down yesterday. Crews planted explosives in the substructure to implode the bridge and bring it into the river. Built by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in Canton, the bridge used to connect Bridgeport and Wheeling, WV before it was replaced in 1998 with a concrete structure, which carries US Highways 40 and 250 today.  The Bridgeport Bridge had received national recognition for its unique design and was even eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, pleas by preservationists, pontists and locals to convert the bridge into a pedestrian crossing fell on deaf ears and ultimately led to the bridge to sit abandoned for over 13 years, allowing the structure to deteriorate to a point where extensive rehabilitation was no longer considered an option due to exorbitant costs and safety and liability concerns. Already during the visit as part of the 2nd annual Historic Bridge Conference last year, the roadway was taken out  revealing much of the bridge parts, which had corroded away to a point where it had landed into the river. This prompted the US Coast Guard to issue an ultimatum to have the bridge removed or face fines and other sanctions, which the department of transportation of both Ohio and West Virginia heeded to. While parts of the bridge, including the finials will be salvaged to be given to the historical society and other interested groups for display purposes, the bridge will be cut into pieces and sold for scrap metal.

For more information on the bridge, please refer to the following links provided by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and Historic Bridges.org:

http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2011/06/03/bridgeport-bridge-finally-comes-down/

http://www.historicbridges.org/ohio/us40/

 More on the bridge demolition can be found here:

http://www.theintelligencer.net/page/content.detail/id/559278/Long-Standing-Bridgeport-Bridge-Razed-Today.html?nav=515

 

http://jimgrey.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/saying-goodbye-to-the-old-bridge-at-bridgeport/

Bridgeport Bridge (finally) comes down

Portal view Photo taken in August 2010

When you first take a look at this bridge, you’ll find that it is located in a very rural setting- abandoned for many years with lots of vegetation overgrowing on and around the structure, making it impossible to cross unless you want to deal with beds of thorns, poison ivy, and deer ticks. However, as you can see in the next pictures, the augmented views of the bridge, taken from the side of its successor, a piece of bland concrete piece of monotonous artwork which puts a blotch in the city scape, you will find that the bridge has gone through years of abuse and neglect, with peeling paint, rusting sections, and flooring system that has been taken out, exposing the bottom chord, most of which is corroding or missing. If you go underneath the bridge, like yours truly did during the time of the Historic Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh, last August, it was like going through the jungle of Dante (as in Dante’s Inferno), with the banks of the Ohio River, where this bridge spans, being littered with garbage, signs of darkness thanks to the overgrowth on the bridge and if there was a hint of sunlight, it created a very eerie sensation, as if you were walking through a bombed out cathedral after the war with blown out windows, charred pews and pipes of an organ, and the silence and loneliness you only see when you are clinging barely onto life while facing death at the same time.

I’ve only seen one bridge that had this eerie sensation and that was with a railroad bridge spanning the Rock River on the west end of Rock Valley, Iowa, even though it has long since been converted to pedestrian use. However, after being on and underneath this structure, it really shows what nature can do to a structure after years of neglect and what life can do to someone or some agency for neglecting it to begin with.

The Bridgeport Bridge, spanning the Ohio River at Wheeling, West Virginia, separates the state with Ohio to the east. It is one of the rarest bridges of its kind that you can find in the US- a three-span bridge whose endposts are vertical and not diagonal like a common truss bridge has. One can find those in many places in Europe, like the Hollernzollern Bridge over the Rhein River in Cologne, Germany or the Chancy Bowstring Truss Bridge over the Rhône near Geneva, Switzerland. Yet by examining the portal bracing and the finials that are located at each corner on the upper chord, it is typical of an American truss bridge, as many portal bracings on arch and truss bridges in Europe at that time were either a common portal (A-frame) or have a concrete arch entrance, like you see when entering the castle across the drawbridge. Also unique is the fact that unlike the Hollernzollern Bridge, the bridge is a three-span  pin-connected Parker through truss bridge, with all these aforementioned features, which leads to the question of why a bridge company would market that in their truss bridge catelogue, like the Wrought Iron Bridge Company did.

When the bridge was built in 1893, the Wrought Iron Bridge Company was in the middle of marketing their bridges through the catelogues. That means governments and residents wanting to have a bridge in or near their town or home would order the bridge through the company catelogue, then have the company agent send the order to the manufacturers, who construct the parts to fit the needs of the customer before it could be shipped by train and assembled on site. Wrought Iron’s style of business, similar to ordering products through a Sears Catelogue in the US or Quelle in Germany (before it folded in 2009), was later practiced by other bridge companies that wanted to keep the bridge company giant in check; especially after Wrought Iron Bridge became part of the American Bridge Company consortium seven years after the Bridgeport structure was built. It is unclear how many bridges similar to Bridgeport’s were ordered and built, but it did become clear that unless something is done to keep the crossing at Wheeling intact and used for anything apart from vehicular use that consequences would come out of it, which would scar the city for life.

The Bridgeport Bridge used to serve US Hwy. 40 until the successor was built, the Military Order of the Purple Heart Bridge, in 1998. Before that, the roadway was strengthened in 1987 by adding a Bailey truss bridge onto the deck to serve as a roadway. Unfortunately, it was not enough to accomodate the traffic flow and it was closed to traffic once the Purple Heart Bridge was open to traffic. Then it just sat there, rotting away until it became clear that the structure, deemed a beatuy when it was first opened to traffic, because an ugly eyesore, which needed to be removed- at least in the eyes of the City of Wheeling.

Attempts have been made for at least five years to do something with the structure- either restore it for pedestrian use or remove it. The former was brought up by preservationists and those interested in saving the structure, but fell on deaf ears. The latter was attempted by those who did not want the structure anymore but it fell on deaf ears due to funding and opposition.  Promises and predictions to remove the bridge has gone on since 2006, with the last call to remove it being in 2009. That did not happen. Now the US Coast Guard has come in, ordering the bridge to be removed post haste, as debris and parts from the bridge have fallen into the Ohio River. Therefore, the plan is to have the bridge removed beginning in July, with help from the department of transportation offices of both Ohio and West Virginia. The project is expected to take two months, but it will also include salvaging the most memorable parts to be exhibited at the local museums. Whether this plan will be realized due to the deficit problems in the US and the struggling growth of the economy remains to be seen. Given the situation that is being dealt with at the moment, it is possible that the plan may yet be pushed back again, and again, and again……

While removing Dante’s jungle may be a relief to many, it will serve as a permanent scar to the community as the structure would have served as a complement to what Wheeling has already. It has one of the oldest suspension bridges in the country, as well as a historic city center, and the city does have some unique features that make it attractive. It was just too bad that the Bridgeport Bridge was not one of the historic features that should be saved. While leaving the bridge closed to traffic may serve as a temporary solution, it was indeed an out of sight and out of mind tactic, which once the bridge is eventually removed, it will remain a site where it once stood and it will remain in the minds of many in the community, that will associate Wheeling with this bridge.

PHOTOS (All were taken in August 2010 and linked through Flickr):

Inside the bridge with the roadway removed.

Dante’s jungle: The sun shining into the lower chord of the bridge

Dante’s Jungle: The abutment and the portal bracing from the banks of the Ohio River

Abutments: Note the bottom abutments (together with the center piers) came from a bridge built around 1837. The ones on top are from the 1893 bridge

Behind the bridge. Note: You can see the Ohio State Line sign hanging from the lower strut bracing just as one would get off by car when it was open to traffic. That sign, along with some other memorabilia from the bridge, are expected to be saved and displayed at the museum before the rest of the structure comes down.

Close-up of the finials at the corners of the bridge- this time at the center piers. Some of them will be preserved for display purposes.