2013 Ammann Awards: Smith picks his favorites

Bergfeld Pond Bridge in Dubuque, Iowa. One of the nine-span 1868 Mississippi River crossing that had existed until 1898 when it was dismantled. Photo taken in August 2013 by John Marvig.

While many people are taking last minute attempts to submit their ballots for the 2013 Ammann Awards, as the deadline was extended to January 11th due to the extreme severe cold weather that kept many from voting, the author of the Chronicles went ahead and chose the select few bridges that deserve the best attention possible. In its third year, the Smith Awards go out to the bridges that serve as examples of how they should be preserved from the author’s point of view.  This year’s Smith Awards also hit a record for the number of entries, for many examples were presented that should be brought to the attention to those whose historic bridge may be deemed unsafe in their eyes, but restorable in the eyes of those who have the experience in preservation as those who have close ties with the structure.

So without commenting further, let’s give out the Smith Awards beginning with:

Quinn Creek Kingpost Bridge in Fayette County, Iowa. Photo taken in August 2013 by James Baughn

BEST BRIDGE FIND: 

USA:

This year’s Smith Awards for the Best Bridge Find in the United States is given to three Iowa bridges because of their unique features. The first one goes out to the Kingpost through truss bridge spanning Quinn Creek in Fayette County. Built around 1885 by Horace Horton, this bridge was thought to have disappeared from view in the 1990s when it was replaced by a series of culverts. Bill Moellering, the former county engineer and Ammann Award for Lifetime Achievement candidate was the first person to prove us wrong, for he mentioned of the bridge’s existence during our correspondence in March of last year (I had asked him to speak at the Historic Bridge Weekend, which he accepted). Dave King and James Baughn provided the pictorial evidence a few months later. Albeit not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this one will most likely be listed in the near future. And given the county’s staunch stance regarding its historic bridges, this bridge will remain in its place for many generations to come.

The second one goes  to the Bergfeld Pond Bridge in Dubuque. This span was one of the nine spans of the 1868 bridge that had spanned the Mississippi River for 30 years before it was dismantled and the spans were dispersed all over the country. This one is in its third home, as it used to span Whitewater Creek near Monticello before its relocation to its present spot in 2006-7. The next question is: what happened to the rest of the spans? The Chronicles will have an article on this unique span in the near future.

Photo taken by the author in September 2010

And the last one goes to the Lincoln Highway Bridge in Tama in Tama County. The bridge was built by Paul Kingsley in 1915, two years after the Lincoln Highway, which the bridge carried this route for many years, was created. Its unique feature is the lettering on the concrete railings, something that cannot be found with any other concrete bridge in the US, or even Europe. The bridge was part of the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway celebrations last year and will surely have a celebration of its own in 2015, the same year as the 100th anniversary of the Jefferson Highway, which meets the Lincoln Highway at Colo, located west of this bridge. As James Baughn commented through his bridgehunter.com facebook page: “It is a true crime to visit Iowa and NOT photograph this bridge.” This one I have to agree.

 

Photo taken by S. Moeller. Public domain through wikipedia

International:

Fehmarn Sound Bridge in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany:  Spanning the channel connecting mainland Germany and Fehmarn Island, this 1963 bridge was unique for it was the first bridge in the world to use the basket-style tied arch design. It has since been recognized a national historical landmark. Yet another unique bridge in North Rhine-Westphalia received larger recognition this year, and because this bridge type was used extensively beginning in the 1990s, this bridge fell to the wayside. Yet it at least deserves this honor for the work engineers and construction crews put in to make this span possible, especially as it is one of the key landmarks to see, while visiting northern Germany. The bridge still serves rail and vehicular traffic today, albeit it will receive a sibling in a form of another crossing that will connect Fehmarn Island with Denmark, thus eliminating the need for ferry service and completing the direct rail connection between Berlin and Copenhagen through Hamburg and this location.  Construction is expected to begin in 2018.

BIGGEST BONEHEAD STORY:

International:

St Jean Baptiste  Bridge in Manitoba, Canada.  What is much worse than replacing a historic bridge against the will of the people? How about tearing down a historic bridge that is a key crossing to a small community and NOT rebuilding it. This is what happened to this three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge in February 2013. Extreme hot weather combined with flooding from the rains in the fall of 2012 undermined the easternmost abutment and bank of the crossing, prompting officials in Winnepeg to not only close down the bridge, but dropped the entire structure into the Red River of the North. The implosion occurred in February 2013.  This has created widespread pandemonium not only because of its historic significance (it was built in 1947), but because of the detour of up to 50 kilometers either to Morris Bridge or to Dominion City to cross the river. There is still no word from Winnipeg regarding whether or when the bridge will be rebuilt, angering them even more.  A sin that is not forgiven, and politicians making that unintelligent decision will most likely be voted out of office in the upcoming parliamentary elections, if they have not been relieved of duties already.

Note: A new bridge would cost up to CDN $60 million and take five years to build.

More on this story can be found here.

 

Second place:

Europa Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany. The incident in Canada far eclipses the incident involving the 42-year old bridge crossing the Baltic-North Sea Canal, where crews closed most important crossing connecting Flensburg and Denmark in the North with Hamburg and the rest of Germany in the South. And this during the peak of summer travel in July!  While trying to squeeze across using the tunnel carrying a main street through Rendsburg, the closure left travelers with no choice but to use the rail line and the Rendsburg High Bridge.  You can imagine how crowded the trains were at that time. Given the fact that the A-7, which crosses this bridge, is the main artery slicing through Germany, many residents are still scratching their heads and demanding the logic behind this abrupt closure of an important link between the south and north.

 

USA

Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge: Arsonism overtook the theft of metal components from bridges as the number one culprit that has either severely damaged or even destroyed historic bridges. At least a dozen reports of vandalism and arson on historic bridges were reported this year in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and even Iowa. What gets people to set bridges made of wood, or metal bridges with wooden decking is unknown, except for the fact that their ignorance is hurting the counties that maintain them as tourist attractions.  The Ponn Humpback Covered Bridge in Vinton County, Ohio is a classic example of one of those victims of arson. Built in 1874, the bridge used to be one of two in the country with an arched bridge deck until fire engulfed the bridge in June 2013. This five years after the county had spent over $300,000 in restoring the bridge by adding a new roof and improving the trusses and decking.  Police are still looking for the perpetrator to this day and more information about the incident can be found here. It’s unknown whether this bridge will be rebuilt, especially as there is a steel pony truss bridge built alongside the structure to accommodate traffic.

More on the tragedy here.

 

Second Place: 

I-5 Skagit River Bridge in Washington:  Not far behind the theme of arson is the collapse of the I-5 Skagit River Bridge in Washington state, which occurred in May 2013. A semi-truck exceeded the vertical clearance limit on the portal bracing of this 1950s through truss bridge, sending part of the bridge into the water. While the driver was not cited, it sparked a debate on how to deal with through truss bridges with many people wanting them taken off the roadways for good. One state senator even went further by advocating the elimination of the Section 106 and Environmental Impact Survey requirements for bridge replacement. Both of these are way too expensive and, as a political science professor at the University of Jena would say: “It will just not happen.” So we’re going to end this topic by travelling to a through truss bridge on any highway- on a reduced load- and cross it, appreciating its grace and beauty!

More on the bridge disaster here.

 

Bonus:

Ft. Lauderdale Railroad Bridge:  There are many reasons why No Trespassing signs are posted on railroad bridges. Add this incident involving a railroad bridge in the Florida community. A 55-year old woman, walking home from her breast cancer walk, found herself hanging onto dear life from a bascule bridge that had lifted to allow ships to pass- and getting a pose in the process from thousands of onlookers who took pictures and posted them onto the social network pages!  Being dressed in pink and in an outfit like that probably made many people react in strange way, but for her, it probably made her day. Fortunately she was rescued by fire crews, but it redefined the meaning of No Trespassing, which now ranks up there with being photographed by automated cameras in Europe if exceeding the speed limit on the motorways.  Do as expected, or expect to shamed in the media!  More on the story here.

SALVAGEABLE MENTIONED:

Photo taken in August 2011

Roof Truss Bridge at FW Kent Park in Iowa:  This crossing has a unique story. The truss bridge was built using the steel trusses from a vintage automotive dealer in Iowa City, four miles east of the park, which were found in the ditch along the road in the late 1980s and converted into a bridge to serve the pedestrian path encircling the lake. The bridge is a must see, as it is located on the north end of the lake and is one of nine truss bridges that makes the core of the park. Click here for more about this story.

 

 Honorably Mentioned

New Bennington Bridge in Vermont:  Technically, this bridge should have gotten this award for it featured a one of a kind Moseley iron arch span whose superstructure was found along the road in the ditch, cut in half and was put together as a truss bridge now serving a park complex. Yet the difference is the creativity aspect, for this salvaged and restored span had once been  a bridge before it was taken out of service. Hence its nomination in the Ammann Awards for Best Bridge Preservation Practice. It would not be surprising if these two bridges won their respective awards for 2013.

 

WORST EXAMPLE OF HOW TO PRESERVE A HISTORIC BRIDGE

View inside the bridge. Photo taken by Steve Conro, released into public domain through www.bridgehunter.com

 

New Castle Bridge near Oklahoma City: The 10-span Parker through truss bridge was a victim of a double-tragedy: a tornado that destroyed two of the spans and the demolition of all but one span, as directed by the local and state governments. It is unclear what the plans are for the remaining span, yet this act falls in line with eating up all but the head of the gingerbread man. A tortuous loss that should have gone one way or the other: dismantle and store the remaining trusses for restoration and reuse or tear down the whole structure and risk receiving the Bonehead Award for 2013, which was given to the arsonists who succeeded all the way in this type of business.

 

BEST EXAMPLE OF HOW TO PRESERVE A HISTORIC BRIDGE

USA:   

The Petit Jean Bridge in front of Danville City Hall. Photos courtesy of J. Randall Houp

Petit Jean Bridge in Arkansas:  While looking at this 1880 bowstring arch bridge, one would say that it is a typical vintage bridge that deserves to be honored, even if it is demolished with the information being placed in the books. Yet apart from its history with an infamous lynching incident in 1883 that scarred Yell County, the Petit Jean Bridge receives this award and is in the running for the Ammann Awards for Best Preservation Practice for a good reason: It is the only bridge in the state, let alone one of a few rare bridges that was relocated more than one time in its lifetime- and still retained its original form! The bridge was relocated three times, including one to its final resting point this past October: in front of the Danville City Hall to be part of a city bike trail network. If the Petit Jean Bridge wins the Ammann Awards in addition to this one, it will be because of the care that the county took in relocating and restoring the bridge multiple times. What other historic bridge can make this prestigious claim?

 

International:

Three bridges in the UK have received the Smith Rewards for the best example of preserving a historic bridge. The first one goes to the Llangollen Chain Bridge in the Northeastern Part of Wales. The cantilever suspension bridge was built in 1929, even though the crossing has a 200-year tradition, yet it was closed to all traffic 30 years ago due to safety concerns. Since that time, efforts were undertaken to raise funds for restoring and reopening the structure connecting the Llangollen Canal and the railway. This was successful and the bridge is currently being restored, awaiting reassembly  this year.  The second one goes to the Whitby Swing Bridge in North Yorkshire, a duo-span deck girder swing bridge that underwent renovations totaling £250,000 last year to redo and waterproof the electric wiring, strengthen and paint the girders. It worked wonders for while flooding this past December left the swing spans in the open position, no damage was done to the electrical wiring and the superstructure itself. Something that people can take pride in and show others how restoring a swing bridge can actually work.  And lastly, the Sutton Weaver Swing Bridge, located near Chester (England) is currently undergoing an extensive rehabilitation to rework the swing mechanism, strength the Howe trusses and improve the decking for a total of £4.5 million, with the goal of prolonging its lifespan by 50 years. The preparations for this project was herculean for a temporary span was constructed prior to the closure of the 90-year old structure, for the bridge provides the only vital link between the two communities.  Once the bridge reopens next year, it will show to the public that the project and its difficulties in arrangement and processes was really worth it, especially as the people of the two communities have a close relationship with the bridge.

For more information on these bridges, click on the links marked in the text. As you can see in the selections, it is just as difficult in choosing them as it is for people voting for the candidates for the Ammann Awards. Yet despite the fear that 2013 would usher in the year of destruction of historic bridges- and we’ve seen a lion’s share this year- it actually was a good year for many unique examples were restored for reuse, marking a sign that the interest in historic bridges is huge- both in the United States, as well as elsewhere. How 2014 will take shape depends on numerous factors, which include the interest in historic bridges, the increasing number of preservationists and technical personnel willing to restore them, and lastly the financial standpoint. There was speculation that the Crash of 2008 in the US marked the end of the preservation movement, yet that did not seem to move the people whose close ties with these structures remain steadfast. If communities cooperate with private groups and provide support towards preserving the remaining historic bridges, as seen with the Bunker Mill, Riverside and Green Bridges, then there is a great chance that they will receive new life and will be greeted by the new generations interested in them. Without cooperation and funding, the structures will simply sit there rotting until they are swept away by the ages of time.

On to the results of the Ammann Awards; even though the deadline is January 11th to submit your votes, the results will be given out on the 13th. Stay tuned.

 

 

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