Bockau Arch Bridge Closed; Coming Down In Favor Of A New Bridge

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Bridge built in the 1600s to be replaced on a new alignment. Petition to reuse the bridge for pedestrian use still in the running.

AUE (SAXONY)/ DRESDEN/ BERLIN-  While we read about historic bridges being demolished we mostly find metal truss bridges, between the ages of 70 and 130 years, that are coming down, despite having potential of being reused. We almost never see a stone arch bridge that meets the wrecking ball, regardless of age.

That is unless you look at and read about this bridge, the Bockau Arch Bridge, spanning the Zwickauer Mulde River at the village of Bockau, six kilometers southwest of Aue and exactly the same south of Schneeberg in the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge). Built in the 1600s, the bridge is located near the historic Rechenhaus (Headworks House), dam and waterway, which had been built between 1556 and 1559, providing drinking water to the villages along the river. The crossing was essential for miners needing to use the bridge as they cross between Zschorlau and Schneeberg on the northern side and Bockau on the opposite side of the river. The five-span stone arch bridge, made using sandstone, was rehabilitated in the 19th century and survived a scare in April 1945, when Nazis tried to implode the structure in a failed attempt to stop the advancement of Russian troops from the east and Americans from the south and east. American troops from the 11th tank division occupied the bridge before the Nazis could demolish the structure.  Despite this, plus two major floods that caused damage to the structure (the last resulted in adding steel bracings to the arches), the bridge remains in decent shape- at least from my observations- although potential rehabilitation is needed to prolong its life much longer.

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Despite its historic status, the 400+ year old structure is coming down. Crews are cutting down trees in a plan to build a new structure to better accomodate traffic from Schneeberg and Zschorlau while at the same time, realign German highway 283 to eliminate the sharp curves the historic bridge presents to the highway. According to the Saxony Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the bridge will be a straight crossing, having a modern style with skewed approaches. The highway will be expanded into an expressway, merging traffic with that from Bockau. This includes bike and pedestrian paths. In addition, new retaining walls at the new bridge will be needed and the rock escarpment that flows down through Bockau into the Mulde will be redone. In the last phase of the project, which will be completed by November 2019, the historic bridge will be removed. This will happen towards the end of next year, unless waves are made by locals and politicians to keep the bridge in tact to be reused for pedestrian purposes.

A petition was created in April of this year, calling for the bridge to be left as is, even after the new bridge is built because it retains its historic character and is protected by the German Preservation Laws (Denkmalschutz Gesetz). In addition, three rare species reside at and near the bridge, including the fire salamander, different species of bats and the water ouzer (dipper). Calls for saving the historic bridge is gaining momentum, as even members of the German Green Party are calling for the bridge to be saved for the aforementioned reasons. Still, resisitance has been ignored for the State of Saxony has rejected plans for a two-bridge solution, and the Federal Government, which is footing the 6.4 million Euro project, expects the historic bridge to be demolished by November 2018.  The fight is still on but time and resources are running out, especially with every tree that is being cut down for the project, as the author observed during his visit on the 28th of August.

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In this picture, you can see how the new alignment will look like, with Highway 283 in the background.

Already the bridge is closed to traffic as of the 28th of August, as seen from my visit. The Zwickauer Mulde Bike Trail (which runs under the historic bridge) is also fenced off, with a detour following the current highway and street going to Schindlerswerk on the southern side of the river. The 1.5 kilometer detour is expected to remain in place until November 2018, when the bridge is removed. Highway 283 will be detoured from Aue through Zschorlau and Albernau beginning in September and lasting until the completion of the project in November 2019. Local traffic between Bockau and Aue will remain open with some restrictions.  Whether this plan will still take hold, depends on the progress of the petition for the preservation of the old bridge and whether authorities in Dresden and Berlin will concede and allow the locals to keep their bridge. Should that not be the case, this project may have some repurcussions with other projects in the pipeline, including the plan to replace the Chemnitz Viaduct to better accomodate the German Railways’ (the Bahn) InterCity trains. That project, which has been stalled due to stark opposition from locals, the state historic preservation office and other experts in bridge preservation, is also being backed by Berlin as the Bahn is partially owned by the government.

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Historic Bockau Bridge is now closed. Chances of saving the structure, let alone photograph it are getting slimmer by the day.

If you want to sign the petition to save the bridge, click onto the link and include your name, address and reasons for saving it. Never say never if you want your historic bridge kept in place once the project is finished. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest.