Newsflyer 24 May 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Major Truss Bridge Collapses in Washington, another Ohio River Truss Bridge Doomed, another Iowa Truss Bridge’s future in Limbo, Hope for Minnesota Bridge?

On the eve the upcoming SIA Conference in Minneapolis/ St. Paul this weekend, one would think that the tornado that wiped Moore, Oklahoma off the map (and with that, half of the Newcastle Bridge) would be the top theme to talk about, as people are cleaning up and questions remain on how to rebuild the infrastructure that is a twisted mess.

However, some other news has popped up in the past couple days have for some reason taken over the limelight, as some major historic bridges have been in the news- one of them in Washington state has rekindled the debate on the usage of truss bridges as means of crossing ravines from point A to point B.  Here is the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ second Newsflyer in three days’ time:

 

Major Interstate Highway Bridge Collapses in Washington

Located between Mt. Vernon and Burlington over the Skagit River, the 1,120 foot long bridge featured a Warren through truss (with subdivided beams) with West Virginia portal and strut bracings and riveted connections. The 1955 structure was supposed to be sound, as it carried Interstate 5, a major route running along the West Coast from Vancouver to San Diego. However, last night at 7:15pm local time, the northernmost span of the truss bridge collapsed while commuters were making their way home from work. Numerous cars were in the water, and there is no word on the official number of casualties as of present. The collapse has taken many people including transportation officials by surprise, as the most recent National Bridge Inventory Report gave this bridge a structural rating of 57.4, which is above average. The bridge was considered structurally obsolete but not deficient, meaning it was capable of carrying massive amounts of traffic. Yet this may have to be double-checked, as officials are trying to determine the cause of this tragedy. There is speculation that an oversized truck stuck in the portal entrance of the bridge may have caused the mishap. But evidence and eyewitnesses have to be found in order to prove this claim. I-5 has been rerouted to neighboring Riverside Drive, which runs through Mt. Vernon and Burlington, respectively, and will remain that way until further notice. The collapse will also rekindle the debate among engineers and preservationist alike of whether truss bridges are the right bridge type for roadways to begin with; this after many preservation successes, combined with the construction of bridge replicas, like at Sutliff and Motor Mill Bridges in Iowa, defying the critics of this type in response to another earlier disaster in Minneapolis in 2007. The Seattle PI has pictures and information on the Skagit River Disaster, which can be seen here.

 

Trestle Bridge in Texas Burns and Collapses

If the term “NO WAY!” is applicable to another bridge disaster, it would be this bridge. Spanning the Colorado River a mile north of US 190 and east of San Saba in central Texas, the 1910 bridge featured a 300 foot long wooden trestle and a through truss main span. While the bridge was still in use by trains to carry agricultural goods and oil products, the railroad company owning this bridge will have to either spend money on a new bridge or find alternatives, as fire broke out on the wooden trestle spans on Monday. In a spectacular video taken by fire and transportation officials, seen here, the entire burning structure collapsed like a domino. In the video, one person reacted to the collapse in three words: “There she goes!” Investigations are underway to determine the cause of the fire and destruction.

 

Cairo Bridge. Photo taken by James Baughn

Ohio River Bridge at Cairo, Illinois to be Replaced

The Cairo Bridge, spanning the Ohio River carrying US Hwys. 51 and 60 between Cairo, IL and Wickliffe, KY, is one of the most popular structures along the Ohio River and one of the best examples of bridges designed by Ralph Modjeski of Modjeski and Masters (with the help of the Mt. Vernon Bridge Company). In fact, the 1938 structure opened to traffic two years before the Austrian engineer’s death in Los Angeles. It is one of the key landmarks of the city of Cairo, especially because of its four tall towers that can be seen for 20 miles. Now, the City of Cairo will have to look at a new structure that will stand in its place. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has already started the Environmental Impact Survey to determine the impact on the surroundings when the cantilever truss bridge is dismantled and replaced in favor of a new modernized structure, whose bridge type to be used is left open. This will result in the Section 106 Policy to kick in, even though transportation officials have ignored the alternatives thusfar, and the recent disaster in Washington will support the KYTC’s claim that the bridge’s days over the Ohio River will soon be numbered. Photos of the bridge can be found here, as with the history of Modjeski and Masters, which includes a biography of Modjeski himself, who also built the Quebec Bridge in 1919, still the longest cantilever truss bridge in the world.

Overview of the Cascade Bridge. Photo taken by Quinn Phelan

To Replace or Not to Replace: The Cascade Bridge Story

One of the hair-raising stories we will be watching this year is the fate of the 1896 Baltimore deck truss bridge, spanning Cascade Ravine at Dankward Memorial Park in Burlington, Iowa.  The City wants to demolish the bridge because it is a liability. Engineering surveys conducted by Shuck-Britson and Klingner and Associates recommended replacement as the most feasible alternative. Yet both surveys have been attacked because they were not sufficient. This includes the usage of photos only by Shuck-Britson instead of doing on-site research, which state and federal agencies consider not sufficient. The majority of the citizens in Burlington do not want the bridge replaced because of its historic significance combined with safety issues a new bridge would have. And now Iowa DOT is coordinating a public survey to determine who is in favor of replacing the bridge in comparison to who is on favor of remodeling the bridge for reuse. Here are the factors that are important to note:

a. The cost for total replacement ranges from $3.5 million (according to Shuck-Britson) to $6 million (according to Klingner). The cost for rehabilitating the bridge: between $2 million (according to Workin Bridges based in Grinnell) and $8.5 million (according to Shuck-Britson).

b. The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which means the environmental and mitigation surveys need to be carried out before making a decision on the future of the bridge. In addition, it is part of the Great River Road, meaning it is one of the key tourist attractions along the Mississippi River.

c. The bridge, built by a local engineering firm based in Cedar Rapids with help of the Milwaukee Bridge and Iron Company, was closed to traffic in 2008 due to structural concerns on the 464 foot long structure- namely deterioration of the concrete abutments and rust on the bridge joints.

d. Most importantly, the City Council is dependent on a referendum that would introduce a franchise fee, to help pay for the Cascade Bridge Project. Without the fee (which appears to be dead on arrival), the project would be one of the first to be on the chopping block because of lack of funding.

Nevertheless, the future of this rare structure remains in limbo and it is a matter of time before a decision will have to be made. One fact is certain, the bridge will be visited by many enthusiasts during the Historic Bridge Weekend in August. Perhaps this might bring this matter to one’s attention on a larger scale.  Please see the link with a copy of the article photographed by Julie Bowers upon request to read the details.

Overview of the bridge with a airline jet approaching the runway of the nearby Twin Cities International Airport. Photo taken in August 2011

Rehabilitate or Replace? The Cedar Avenue Bridge Story

Another piece of good news, pending on one looks at it, comes from the City of Bloomington, Minnesota, which is trying to rid itself of an important historic landmark, considered a liability in their eyes.  As part of the $1.5 billion plan to expand the Mall of America, the state tax committee on Wednesday granted $259 million to be granted to the City of Bloomington, which owns the venue. $9 million will go directly to the Cedar Avenue Bridge Project. Yet the city has to approve the plan before receiving the money. While the Chronicles has an article coming on this story, a brief summary: The bridge was built in 1920 and features five spans of riveted Parker through trusses, crossing Long Meadow Lake. Together with a swing bridge over the Minnesota River, it used to carry Minnesota Hwy. 77 until an arch bridge built east of the span was built in 1978. It was closed to vehicular traffic in 1996 and has been fenced off since 2002.  Discussion has been brewing whether to restore the entire structure and reopen it to regular traffic, or tear it down and replace it with a new structure. As the bridge sits in the National Wildlife Refuge and is listed on the National Regsiter of Historic Places, federal officials want the bridge restored. The majority of the City Council favor a brand new bridge. And like the Cascade Bridge, figures for replacing vs. restoring the bridge have been flying around, with no idea of which option or how the bridge will be restored.  Thanks to $9 million on funding available, discussion will be intense and the Chronicles will follow the story as it unfolds. In the meantime, have a look at the photos here to determine what to do with the bridge.

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