2016 Author’s Choice Awards

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Boone. Photo taken in September 2010 when the bridge was closed to all traffic. It was torn down in 2016 after the western half of the structure collapsed. 

While voters are scrambling to cast their last-minute ballots for the 2016 Ammann Awards by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, we have a wide array of bridges that received the Author’s Choice Awards. The awards are based on the author’s selection of bridge stories that were either the most talked about or the most unique, pending on the categories here. What is even interesting about this year’s awards is that they are being given on the eve of Donald Trump taking office as the next President of the US on January 20th. As he promised to spend billions on improving infrastructure, he has no clue as to how to allocate these funds properly, let alone specify , how these new bridges are to be built, I decided to pose a challenge to him on that to see if he’s paying attention to the needs of Americans in his quest to “make America great again.” You will see that in one of the categories…..

 

So without further ado, let’s have a look at the winners of these awards and their runners up…..

 

Most Spectacular Disaster:

 

US-

Wagon Wheel Bridge in Iowa

The Wagon Wheel Bridge is the tragedy story of 2016, but started in September 2015. We had an arsonist set fire to the planks which set the motion for its demise. In February 2016, floating chunks of ice in the Des Moines River rammed the western half of the bridge, tilting the already tilting cylindrical steel piers even further and creating an “S” shape in the structure. The last nail in the coffin was the collapse of one of the middle spans in March. While a pair of eyewitnesses saw the event live while fishing, neither of them were hurt.  The wrecked span and the westernmost span were removed in June, but not before saving a pair of planks awaiting display at a local historical society in Minnesota. The rest of the spans- including the longest of the 730-foot bridge- were removed shortly before Christmas.   The Wagon Wheel Bridge represented a tragedy in two parts: There was tragedy because of Mother Nature and there was tragedy because of years of neglect. While Boone County was relieved of its liability, its next step is to preserve its legacy in a form of a memorial or exhibit. That has yet to be seen.

 

Runner-up-

Tappan Zee Bridge in New York

During work on the replacement of the 1952 cantilever truss span over the Hudson River at Tarrytown, a crane located at one of the towers of the new bridge collapsed, falling onto the old structure, stopping all traffic in both directions for hours. No casualties were reported, but one of the propane truck drivers travelling eastbound barely missed the crane by feet! Luckily, the old structure, which is scheduled to be demolished in 2018 after the new bridge is open to traffic, sustained no damage to the super structure but minor damage to the railings on the deck the crane fell. The cause of the collapse was high winds. It was a close call and one that brings up the question of strength and effectiveness of truss bridges as they appear to be gaining favor over cable-stayed and modern beam bridges, for many reasons.

 

International- 

Suspension Bridge in Bali:

We had several bridge disasters on the international scale this year. The Lembogan-Ceningan Bridge was the worst of them. Built in the 1980s, this suspension bridge collapsed under a weight of pedestrians and motorcyclists who were participating in a Hindu ceremony on October 16th. Nine people were killed and scores of others were injured. The cause of the collapse was a combination of too many people, which exceeded the weight limit, and design flaws. The collapse rekindled two disasters that we’ll be commemorating this year: The 50th anniversary of the Silver Bridge collapse over the Ohio River and the 10th anniversary of the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis. Both bridges had design flaws that caused their failures respectively.

 

Runner-up-

Mahad Bridge in Mumbai, India:

India had two major bridge failures in 2016- the Kolkatta Flyover which killed 23 people and this one, spanning the Savitri River between Mumbai and the State of Goa. This one was far worse, as the stone arch and steel structure that dated back to Colonial British rule collapsed under the pressure of floodwaters, taking with it two busses full of passengers. Nine lives were lost including one of the two bus drivers. Dozens were injured and at least 20 had been reported missing. The bridge collapse combined natural disasters with inadequate bridge design and lack of maintenance, both of which were brought up to the national government afterwards.

 

Biggest Bonehead Story:

US-

Broadway Bridge in Little Rock:

How many attempts does a person need to demolish a bridge? For the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, one needed three to bring down a steel arch bridge in 1987 in favor of the current suspension bridge. That bridge was 100 years old at the time of its demise. For the Broadway Bridge in Little Rock, Arkansas, a multiple span arch bridge featuring a 1974 tied arch main span plus multiple span concrete closed spandrel arch approaches built in 1893, one needed EIGHT attempts! Very lame attempts to not only justify the bridge’s weaknesses prior to the demolition by government officials, but also in demolishing the structure through implosions. The bridge was finally brought down with the crane for the eighth and final time. Yet the epic failures did raise a question of whether the bridge was THAT functionally obsolete and whether the new tied arch bridge will survive as long as the downed span. I don’t think so…..

Photo courtesy of Dr. Benita Martin. Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Viadukt_Chemnitz.jpg

Runner-up-

Two-Mile Creek Bridge near Hatfield, AK:

2016 started off with the demolition of this through truss bridge over Two-Mile Creek, the last of its kind in Polk County, by an oversized truck with trailer!!! The bridge was replaced in quick time, being opened by November! Thanks, dude for your ignorance!

 

International-

Chemnitz Viaduct in Germany:

As part of the plan to modernize the rail track between Kassel (Hesse) and Chemnitz (Saxony) via Erfurt, Jena and Glauchau, the German Railways are trying to replace a 120+ year old historic bridge that is perfectly in good enough form to last another 120 years. Its replacement proposal: An open spandrel steel arch bridge with very little aesthetic value. Good thing the people in Chemnitz are speaking out against that proposal and for restoring one of only a handful of pre-1939 landmarks in Chemnitz. But will their voices be heard? Die Bahn macht man mobil!

 

Runner-up-

Eisenbahnviadukt in Linz, Austria:

Linz’s mayor Klaus Luger had it his way when he campaigned for the 1912 three span bridge spanning the Danube River to be demolished and 70% of the Linz community voted for it. However, haste made waste when one of the three spans, removed from the river and on a hydraulic lift, collapsed! That span was to be reused as part of an a plan for a park. This put the last nails in the coffin regarding any chance of saving the bridge’s legacy. Luger must’ve really hated the bridge enough to see it to a recycling complex.

 

Hamilton County Bridge. Photo taken by Tony Dillon

Best Use of a Restored Historic Bridge-

Molly’s Landing Bridges along Historic US 66:

While the historic bridges in Oklahoma are dwindling rapidly every year, a successful attempt was made to relocate one of the twins of the Bird Creek Bridge. Slated for demolition in 2012, Russ White, owner of Molly’s Landing found a creative way of saving the 1936 spans for their complex near the Verdigris. This led to Roger’s Landing to take the remaining spans of the bridge some time later. While the Bird Creek Bridges are no longer on Route 66, one can see them on display not far apart from each other.

 

Runner Up:

The Bridge at Strawtown Koteewi Park and White River Campground in Hamilton County, Indiana.

This was almost a toss-up between this bridge and Molly’s Landing. But the bridge in Hamilton County definitely deserved at least runner-up of this award because engineers and park officials managed to import three historic bridges from three different counties to form a 285-foot long super span, featuring a Pratt through truss, a Whipple through truss and a rebuilt deck girder span connecting the two spans! Indiana has been well-known for restoring and reusing historic bridges, yet this one takes bridge preservation to new levels.

 

Worst example of reusing a Historic Bridge:

B.B. Comer Bridge in Alabama: The multi-span cantilever through truss bridge was demolished earlier this year, after officials in Alabama rejected a proposal to even talk about preserving the 1930 span. As compensation, ALDOT offered one of the bridge’s portal bracings to be erected at a park near the bridge. If this was compensation or a strategy to save Governor Bentley’s “legacy” in the face of scandals he was facing at that time, here a simple Denglish term to keep in mind: “Ziemlich Lame!”and “Opfer eines F**k- ups!”

Photo taken by Victor Rocha. Link: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/41/Bridge_to_Nowhere%28San_Gabriel_Mountains%29.JPG

Best Find of a Historic Bridge-

US-

Bridge to Nowhere in San Gabriel Mountains (California):

California is well known for its multiple-span concrete open spandrel arch bridges, especially along Highway 101. However, this bridge, located near Azusa, can only be accessed by foot! Built in 1936, the bridge was abandoned after a mudslide blocked the key highway between San Gabriel Valley and Wrightwood in March 1938. Today, the bridge can be reached by foot, although it is seen as a liability because of a high rate of fatalities. The US Forest Service owns the bridge and has been working together with local groups on how to minimize it. Nevertheless, the bridge has a unique background worth seeing.

Lungwitz Viaduct spanning a creek and major street in Glauchau (Saxony). Photo taken in 2016

International-

The Bridges of Glauchau (Saxony), Germany:

The author visited this community in the summer 2016 and was quite impressed with its bridges. While the town is located along the Zwickauer Mulde, which is laden with modern bridges, most of the arch bridges dating back to the 1800s and earlier are located either along the railroad line, or on the hill spanning gulches and moats at or near the city’s two castles. Very atypical for a city in a river valley, where normal historic bridges would be located.

Röhrensteg in Zwickau (Saxony), Germany

Röhrensteg in Zwickau, Germany:

The Bridge of Pipes is the oldest of Zwickau’s bridges. It is also the most unique because of its design and function. It has two different truss spans- one per side- two different portal bracings and until 70 years ago, used to transport water over the river from Reinsdorf to Zwickau’s city center using wooden pipes! This was one multi-functional bridge and despite getting a much-needed facelift, one of the key landmarks people should see while in Zwickau.

 

Russia’s bridges:

With that, I have a “Denkzettel” for Donald Trump with regards to another runner-up, the bridges of Russia, according to the magazine Russia Today. The author there found some very unique and fancy bridges- some rolling back bridge types that had been scrutinized by many bridge engineers and politicians and some that are pure eye-openers. Donald Trump vowed to invest billions of dollars in funding to improve the infrastructure and build great bridges. How can he do that? He should use the playbook of the bridge types that have been rendered useless in the past but are being used in other countries. That means if he wants to make America great again, he needs some signature structures like the Bollmann Bridge in Savage, MD, The Hulton Bridge near Pittsburgh and even the arch bridges along California’s coast. If he continues the policies of building cable-stayed bridges, like the Kit Carson Bridge in Kansas City or the Fort Steuben Bridge near Wheeling, WV, he will make America blander and more boring than it is right now. So Mr. Trump, I challenge you to make America Great by not only preserving our American heritage and history but also build your fancy bridges that we want to see for generations to come. Put the Twitter down and get to work. Any ugliness on the landscape and we will make sure these eyesores are gone at the same time as you are, which will be much quicker than you think. If Russia and China can do it and the Europeans can preserve their past heritage, so can the United States of America, the Republic to which it stands, one nation, under God and under several prophets from Jesus Christ to Muhammad to Siddartha Buddha, indivisible, with liberty, justice and equality to all, regardless of preference.

 

And now to the Ammann Award results………