2014 Ammann Awards: The Author Chooses The Best Bridge Stories

Bentonsport Bridge spanning the Des Moines River in Van Buren County, Iowa. Photo taken in December 2014

To start off the Author’s Choice Award version of the 2014 Ammann Awards, presented by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, I would like to present you with an overture which is in connection with this year’s theme: Bigger is not always better. Enjoy!

 

This year’s Author’s Choice Awards features some of the most interesting stories of how people have come together to save their valued work. However, we have a story of a bridge found underneath a pub, as well as a failed attempt to salvage a historic bridge, and a disaster caused by gravity. And finally stupidity at its finest- caught on tape and youtubed! So without further ado, here are my pics for 2014:

Most Spectacular Disaster:

USA:

Ledbetter Bridge in Kentucky- Spanning the Tennessee River, this 1931 three-span polygonal Warren through truss bridge was one of the latter works of architectural art built by Polish engineer, Ralph Modjeski (1861-1940). The bridge no longer exists as it was removed last month, several weeks after a replacement span 700 feet downstream opened to traffic, but one cannot help but watch sections of the bridge collapse on its own, as seen in the photo gallery here.  After reporting one of the approach spans dropping by two feet in 24 hours, officials fenced off the entire bridge, only to later watch sections of it fall on the shoreline. Cause: Erosion undermining the piers, plus some vultures perching on the railings of the affected spans, as the photographer stated.

International: 

Cherryvale Bridge in New Brunswick, Canada- Covered bridges have been especially hardest hit this year, as fire, oversized trucks and natural disasters have damaged or destroyed over three dozen bridges in North America and elsewhere. The Cherryvale Bridge in the province of New Brunswick was one of those unfortunate victims, as floodwaters knocked the 1870s wooden structure off its foundations in May, and the structure flowed downstream before being smashed against a concrete bridge carrying a highway. More on this story hereAs beloved as they are, covered bridges are usually rebuilt by demand from residents. This is the case as well, but will it happen with this bridge? We’ll have to see….

 

Best Historic Bridge Find:

USA: 

Rocky Balboa Railroad Bridge in Durham, North Carolina- This railroad underpass, featuring a 100-year old deck plate girder span, may be a typical bridge accomodating rail traffic. But (and the music from Rocky Balboa will support this), it has had a record of annihilating semi trucks and trailers, as well as tractors, busses, and other overweight vehicles. This DESPITE having every form of warning system and sign in place. Here’s a video to prove it:

 

International:

The Parade Bridge in Norwood (South) Australia- Australia has a wide variety of metal, concrete and wooden bridges dating back to the early 1800s. This bridge, located underneath a pub, was found by chance by the owner as the venue was undergoing extensive renovations. Made of parapet and cobblestone and built in the 1850s, this bridge has a unique history, which can be found here.

Honorable mentioned: The Kersten Miles Bridge in Hamburg, Germany- Built in 1897 and named after the mayor of Hamburg during the Medieval times, this arch bridge is one of the darlings of Hamburg one needs to see, if one wants to know which of the 2,500+ bridges should be visited in the second largest city in Germany. Apart from its ornamental appearance and the fact that the bridge is made of brick, a recent discovery of a pflaster mosaic underneath one of the spans is another reason to visit this unique landmark. More on this discovery can be found here.

Best Way to Salvage a Historic Bridge: USA:

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge East Span- The 1936 eastern half, consisting of cantilever truss spans, was replaced with a cable-stayed span with concrete girders last year and is still being dismantled even as we speak. Yet one person is looking at salvaging parts of the bridge for sustainable housing developments. Although it would look unusual to today’s housing standards, as seen in the article here, it would at least preserve the legacy of the eastern half of the bridge, which partially collapsed in the earthquake in 1989.

Also worth mentioning: Devil’s Elbow Bridge in Pukaski County, Missouri- The Freedom Prime Bridge and this bridge were two of the candidates considered for the author’s choice awards. Yet while Freedom received some accoldaes for best preservation example, this 1923 two-span Parker truss bridge got this one for two reasons: 1. The bridge was part of the Mother Road (Route 66) and because of the importance of the crossings along the highway that had once connected Chicago and Los Angeles, efforts are being undertaken to save what is left of this historic highway. 2. The bridge underwent an extensive renovation, which included new decking, sandblasting and repainting the trusses and making the bridge look just like it was when opened 91 years ago. The bridge should set an example for a pair of other crossings that have recently been rendered unsafe and whose futures are in doubt. More here

International: Katzenbuckel Bridge in Ebenhausen, Bavaria (Germany)- Spanning a rail line near Augsburg in Bavaria, this arch bridge was in the way of progress, for the German Railways want to expand the line and electrify it. The solution: Instead of razing the structure because of its historic significance, the plan is to raise the bridge to better accomodate traffic. Impressive but also one that will have other regions with similar bridges to consider this option, for there are enough candidates to go around. More on the plan can be found here.

Photo taken by James Baughn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worst Example of Restoring/Using a Historic Bridge

USA:  Blue River US 40 Bridge in Kansas City, Missouri- Preservationists and locals are scratching their heads about this 1931 bridge, a steel through arch bridge that is the product of a pair of local bridge builders. The bridge was dismantled to make way for its replacement in August, but in a way that the parts were cut apart and left in a pile, waiting to be taken to its new home in Grandview. Photos of the bridge before and after its dismantling can be found here. Given the “logic” behind this process, the first and foremost question that comes to mind is: How are you going to put the structure back together again without altering its historic integrity? Or are you going to scrap it? My prediction: Its induction into Nathan Holth’s Wall of Shame.

International: Kramer Bridge in Erfurt, Germany- This bridge in the news but in a negative sense. The face of Thuringia’s capital was the focus of a drug operation, used in the German mystery series, Tatort (Scene of the Crime). The episode was aired in December and drew fire from viewers who deemed both the usage and the content to be inappropriate. Shortly after the release, two of the three actors resigned and the German channel MDR decided to scrap the Erfurt series. Lessons on how Tatort should be produced and how places of interest should be used without degrading it should be given by those who have been with the series for over 2 out of the four decades of its existence on German TV, including the likes of Ulike Folkerts, Axel Prahl and Jan Josef Lieffers, who play investigators for their cities (Ludwigshafen and Muenster, respectively.)

 

Biggest Bonehead Story We had a lot of candidates for this category, many of whom just could not learn to shorten the height of and/or lighten the weight of the load. The end result: covered bridges losing their tops and other bridges dropping to the ravine with their load on it. Yet only two examples really standout and should serve as a signal to truck drivers to NOT rely solely on GPS and assumptions, but to obey the traffic signs, or face liabiity.

Pollock’s Mill Bridge in Jefferson, Pennsylvania- Spanning Ten Mile Creek near Jefferson, this single span Whipple through truss bridge, built in 1878 by the Massilon Bridge Company in Ohio is one of the last remaining iron bridges in western Pennsylvania. Yet it almost became a hunk of twisted metal after a tanker truck tried crossing the structure, only to fall partially through the decking. To make matters worse, the driver dumped liquid contents into the stream to lighten the load and keep it from collapsing. A double-environmental catastrophe. Yet with two trucks following him, he should have known better than to first drive through the height restricted underpass located just a half mile before the bridge and then try crossing this bridge, right? Leadership prevents stupid things from happening. Fortunately, the bridge will be repaired and nothing was severely adversed in the water. However, as the article stated here, it could have been worse…..

Watford Bridge in North Dakota- Spanning the Little Missouri River at US Hwy. 85, this Warren through truss with V-laced portal bracings has dealt with a lot in the 55 years in service, especially as it is located near the Bakken Oil Fields. This includes oversized vehicles crossing it and damaging the overhead bracing. Sometimes stupidity is best shown on video, and the truck driver probably did not realized how much of an idiot he was for ignoring the height restrictions until watching the amateur video taken by another truck driver and his passenger, who  spiced it up with some commentary (Note- some comments may not be suitable for children under 13.)

 

This sums up my picks for 2014. As you can see, we had some interesting stories, all caught on photos and film in hopes that drivers pay attention to their load when using the bridges. Because even the most modern bridges can only take so much. Take this advice in mind: Less is Always More, regardless of the gas price.  After watching the videos and reading the articles pertaining to the bridge picks, have a look at the winners of the 2014 Ammann Awards coming up in the next article…..