2015 Ammann Awards: The Author Has Some Bridge Stories To Tell

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To start off this new year, there are some good news as well as some bad news. First the bad news: The deadline for entries for the 2015 Ammann Awards has been pushed back again for the last time. This time the 10th of January at 12:00am Central Standard Time (January 11th at 7:00am Central European Time) is the absolute deadline for all entries, including that for Best Photo, Lifetime Achievement and other categories. Reason for the delay is the low number of entries, much of that has to do with the weather disaster of biblical proportions in the United States and Great Britain, which has kept many away from the cameras and forced many to fill sandbags. The the voting process will proceed as planned with the winners being announced at the end of this month.

The good news: The author has enough candidates and stories to justify announcing his choices for 2015- the first to be announced before the actual Ammann Awards presentations but one that should keep the interest in historic bridges running sky high, especially before the main course. In other words, the author is serving his appetizers right now to keep the readers and candidates hungry for more bridge stuff. 😉

So here is our first appetizer: The Biggest Bonehead Story

Photo taken by Tony Dillon

USA:

Truck Destroys Gospel Street Bridge in Paoli, Indiana- Ever since Christmas Day, this story has been the hottest topic in the media, even breaking records of the number of post clicks on the Chronicles. A 23-year-old woman, who claimed to be Amish, drives a 30-ton truck full of drinking water across the 1880 Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company structure that was only able to carry 6 tons. Naturally, the bridge gave in, yet the excuses the driver brought up became more and more incredulable: 1. I just received my driver’s license, 2. I couldn’t turn around or find an alternative so I took the chance, and 3. (Most outrageous): I didn’t know how many pounds equaled six tons.

Yet the question remains, which was more incredulable: The incident or the consequence of the incident: a mere $135 fine for crossing the light-weight bridge, destroying it in the process?

International:

Viaduct Collapses in Sicily- 2015 was not a good year for bridges outside of the USA, for several key (historic) crossings have met their fate or are about to due to human error. A temporary pedestrian bridge in Johannesburg (South Africa) falls onto the motorway crushing two cars. A pedestrian suspension bridge in New Zealand breaks a cable, causing the decking to twist and send hikers into the water.  Fortunately, no casualties. Both incidents happened in October. The highest glass bridge in the world, located in China, is cracking even though the government says it is safe.

But this bridge collapse on the island of Sicily, which happened in January, was a scandal! The Scorciavacche Viaduct near Palermo was completed in December 2014, three months earlier than scheduled, only for it to collapse partially on January 5th, 10 days after its opening! While no one was hurt, the collapse sparked a political outcry as the multi-million Euro bridge was part of the 200 million Euro motorway project, and as a consequence, officials prompted an investigation into the cause of the bridge. The construction company, which claimed that the accident was caused by “substinence,” tried shooting down the accusations, claiming the accident was overexaggerated. Makes the reader wonder if they tried covering up a possible design flaw, combined with human error, which could have caused the collapse. If so, then they have the (now jailed) Captain of the capsized Costa Concordia to thank, for like the ship that has been towed away and scrapped, the bridge met the same fate. Lesson for the wise: More time means better results. Check your work before opening it to others.

 

 

Best Historic Bridge Find:

While the author stayed out of the US for all of 2015 and focused his interesting findings on European soil, other bridge colleagues have found some bridges that had been either considered gone or had never been heard of before. One of these colleagues from Minnesota happened to find one that is still standing! 🙂

 

USA:

Bridge L-1297 in Clearwater County, Minnesota-

According to records by the Minnesota Historical Society, the Schonemann Park Bridge, located south of Luverne in Rock County, is the only example of a Waddell kingpost truss bridge left standing in Minnesota. This 1912 bridge is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Bridge L-1297, which spans the Clearwater River near Gronvich in Clearwater, is the OTHER Waddell kingpost pony truss bridge that is still standing. Its markings matches exactly that of its Schonemann counterpart. Although there is no concrete evidence of when it was built and by whom, Pete Wilson, who found it by chance and addressed it to the Chronicles, mentioned that it was likely that it was built between 1905 and 1910 by the Hewett family, which built the bridge at Luverne. In either case, it is alive, standing albeit as a private crossing, and should be considered for the National Register. Does anybody else agree? 🙂

International:

The Bridges of Zeitz, Germany

It is rare to find a cluster of historic bridges that are seldomly mentioned in any history books or bridge inventory. During a bike tour through eastern Thuringia in March, I happened to find a treasure in the hills: A dozen historic bridges within a 10 km radius, half of which are in the city of 29,000 inhabitants, including the ornamental Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge located on the east end of town. Highly recommended the next time you pass through the area. These bridges will be profiled further in the coming year because of their aesthetic and historic value, which makes the town, resembling an East German bygone era, more attractive. Check them out! 🙂

 

Spectacular Disasters:

Flooding and Fires dominated the headlines as Mother Nature was not to kind to the areas affected, thus they were flooded, destroying historic bridges in the path. If there was no flooding, there were dry spells prompting fires that burned down everything touched. While there were several examples of historic bridges destroyed by nature, the author has chosen two that standout the most, namely because they were filmed, plus two runners-up in the international category. Fortunately for the bridge chosen in the US category, there is somewhat of a happy ending.

Photo by James MacCray

USA:

Full Throttle Saloon Fire-  Only a few weeks after celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Motorcycle Rally at the World’s largest saloon, the Full Throttle Saloon was destroyed by a massive fire on September 8th. Two of the historic bridges, relocated here to serve as overlook platforms and stages, were damaged by the blaze with the bridge decking being completely burned away. While the saloon was considered a total loss, bar owner Michael Ballard is planning on rebuilding the bar complex and has already lined up concert events including the upcoming Motorcycle Rally in August. More on how you can help rebuild here. Whether the bridges will be part of the plan is unclear, but given the effort to bring in the structure, it is likely that they will be kept and be part of the project as well. More on the project will follow, but things are really looking up for bikers and bridge lovers alike. 🙂

 

International:

300-year old arch bridge washed out by flooding-

While there was a three-way tie for spectacular natural disasters done to the historic bridges on the international front, this concrete arch bridge in Tadcaster in the UK stands out the most. The bridge collapsed on December 29th as floodwaters raged throughout much of the northern part of Great Britain. It was one of dozens of bridges that were either severely damaged or destroyed during the worst flooding on record. The saddest part was not the video on how the bridge fell apart bit by bit, but the bridge was over 300 years old. Demolition and replacement of the bridge is expected to commence at the earliest at the end of this year once the damages are assessed and the clean-up efforts are under way.

Runners-up:

Coach takes a swim under a culvert in Brazil:

Two runners-up in this category also have to do with bridge washouts due to flooding. One of them is this culvert wash-out in Brazil. A video submitted to the French magazine LeMonde shows what can happen if engineers choose a culvert over a replacement bridge, as this coach sank into the raging creek, went through the culvert and swam away! :-O Fortunately all the passengers evacuated prior to the disaster, however, it serves as a warning to all who wish to cut cost by choosing a culvert over a new bridge- you better know what you are getting into, especially after watching the video below.

 

Massive Panic as Bridge is washed out in India-

The other runner-up takes us to the city of Chennai in India, where flash flooding wreaked havoc throughout the city. At this bridge, the pier of a concrete bridge gave way as a large wave cut up the crossing in seconds! Massive panic occurred, as seen in the video seen below:

 

 

Dumbest Reason to destroy a historic bridge:

The final category for this year’s Author’s Choice Award goes to the people whose irrational decision-making triggered the (planned) destruction of historic bridges. This year’s candidates features two familiar names that are on the chopping block unless measures on a private scale are undertaken to stop the wrecking ball. One of the bridges is an iconic landmark that is only 53 years old.

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

USA:

BB Comer Bridge in Alabama- Three years of efforts to raise awareness to a vintage cantilever bridge went up in smoke on November 14th, when county officials not only rejected the notion for a referendum on saving the BB Comer Bridge in Scotsboro, but also turned down any calls for the matter to be brought up for all time to come. While the organization promoting the preservation of the bridge claimed that the city and Jackson County would not need to pay for the maintenance of the bridge, officials were not sold on the idea of having the bridge become a theme park, which would have been a win-win situation as far as producing funds for the tourism industry is concerned. Instead, behind closed doors, the contract was signed off to convert the 1930 bridge into scrap metal, giving into the value of the commodity. Talk about short-sightedness and wrist slitting there!

 

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International:

Fehmarn Bridge to come down- In an effort to push through the Migratory Freeway through Fehmarn Island and down the throats of opposing residents, the German Railways condemned the world’s first basket weave tied arch bridge, built in 1963 to connect the island with the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The official reason was too much rust and any rehabilitation would prolong the bridge’s life by only 20 years- highly disputable among the preservationists and civil engineers given the number of concrete examples of rehabilitated bridges lasting 50+ years. Yet many locals believe that the German Railways is pushing for the bridge to be removed in favor of its own railroad crossing that would carry Fernzüge from Hamburg to Copenhagen, eliminating the ferry service between Puttgarten and Rodby in Denmark. The fight however is far from over as the campaign to save the island and its cherished architectural work is being taken to the national level, most likely going as far as Brussles if necessary. In addition, lack of funding and support on the Danish side is delaying the tunnel project, threatening the entire motorway-bridge-tunnel project to derail. If this happens, then the next step is what to do with the Fehmarn Bridge in terms of prolonging its life. The bridge is in the running for Bridge of the Year for the 2015 Ammann Awards for the second year in a row, after finishing a distant second last year.

 

AND NOW THE VOTING PROCESS AND RESULTS OF THE 2015 AMMANN AWARDS, WHICH WILL BEGIN STARTING JANUARY 11th, AS SOON AS THE DEADLINE FOR ALL ENTRIES PASSES. HURRY TO ENTER YOUR PHOTOS, BRIDGES, AND PERSONS DESERVING HONORS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!!

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