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Relocation Gives Old Bridges New Life

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

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Psst! Hey, buddy, wanna repurpose a bridge?

Historic bridges nationwide are being saved each day as painting contractors and others answer that call to restore and relocate once-beautiful old bridges, rather than subject them to the wrecking ball.

The idea has been around since at least 1987, when the Surface Transportation & Uniform Relocation Assistance Act, Historic Bridges Section, began requiring states to complete a statewide historic bridge inventory. The law also required marketing of the bridges before demolition.

Today, the concept is in full flourish, with many states supporting thriving bridge relocation programs. Many of these programs include significant technical and financial support for those willing to take on the bridges. In addition, the highest bidder does not always prevail. Many factors are involved in making the awards.

Paint BidTracker, the construction reporting service devoted to identifying contracting opportunities for the coatings community, reports on about 10 such offerings each year.

Here are just a few of the current opportunities.


Crawford County, IL, will accept proposals June 30 for painting, rehabilitating and relocating the Honey Creek Bridge, over Honey Creek, southeast of Hardinville, on County Highway 8.

The pony truss bridge was built in 1928 and last rehabbed in 1972.

The county will pay to remove the structure, which requires painting and other repairs to preserve its historic integrity. The recipient must pay for relocation, site preparation, rehabilitation and reassembly and assumes future responsibility to maintain the bridge and the features that give it its historical significance.

 Illinois’ Honey Creek Bridge
 Illinois’ Honey Creek Bridge will require painting and other repairs in
order to preserve the historic integrity of the structure.

New Hampshire

The town of Deering, NH, is accepting sealed bids to replace the second New Hampshire Turnpike Bridge (State Bridge No. 032/101) over the Contoocook River.

This one-lane, single-span Low Warren Truss structure will be replaced with a two-lane, pre-manufactured steel truss, similar to the existing bridge but galvanized.

The bridge appears on the state Department of Transportation “Red List” and has been labeled as structurally deficient because the superstructure is in poor condition.

The bridge is about 76 feet long and 21 feet wide. The minimum bid is $1, and the proposal must detail how the bridge would be moved, re-used and preserved.

Consultants have worked with the state to develop a memorandum of agreement and set of covenants to attempt to re-use the bridge. The team has already prepared the pertinent environmental documents, as well as the state Department of Environmental Services Standard Dredge and Fill and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetlands application packages.

 New Hampshire Turnpike Bridge (State Bridge No. 032/101)
 The minimum bid for this single-span bridge now being stored in
a New Hampshire sandpit is just $1. The actual sale depends on several factors.


The state of Indiana is stepping up its already-aggressive Historic Bridge Marketing Program, triggered by complaints from historic preservationists that the state was replacing too many historic bridges without sufficient study to determine if they could be reused.

Recently, the program obtained a new home for a historic bridge over the Little White River, awarding a contract to refurbish the steel truss bridge and relocate it on the Cool Creek North Trail in Carmel, where it will become a bicycle and pedestrian crossing.

The bridge was built between 1910 and 1920; it is 80 feet long and 14 feet wide.

The contract is part of a growing effort by the state to save its bridges. Such sales have previously been advertised for 60 days, but critics say that is not enough time for potential recipients to develop proposals and raise money. The state is developing a new plan that will give potential buyers more time and is reaching out to more groups or individuals to find new caretakers.

 Little White River Bridge
 Indiana Dept. of Natural Resource /
Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology
 A century-old, steel-truss bridge over the Little White River will get a new life as a bicycle and pedestrian path in Carmel, IN.

North Carolina

North Carolina DOT’s busy Bridge Relocation and Reuse Program, established in 1978, is designed to develop alternatives to demolition for historic truss bridges scheduled for replacement. Efforts include donations of bridges to new owners, assistance with disassembly and relocation, storage in a bridge yard until a new owner can be identified, and preservation in place.

While many of these bridges are no longer sufficient for highway use, the truss bridges may continue to serve pedestrian, bicycle, and restricted vehicular traffic off the state system. The state currently has bridges available for restoration in three counties.

 Pennsylvania (Petit) Thru Truss
 The deck is in fair condition on this 251-foot-long Pennsylvania (Petit)
Thru Truss span in Bladen County, NC. Repainting will entail lead containment.


Tagged categories: Bridges

Comment from shane hirvi, (3/30/2011, 12:55 PM)

Maybe NACE and SSPC should pick up a couple of bridges and stick em at their home offices to be better able to serve the bridge inspection needs of this country.

Comment from Billy Russell, (3/31/2011, 5:20 AM)

I will take this opportunity to enlighten you Shane because you are obviously lost and confused,the article is referring to the structural integrity of the Bridge they have civil and structural engineers for that part of inspection the problem was states were not inspecting the Bridges enough or as thorough as needed the two organizations you mentioned do something totally different to bridges (GENIOUS)

Comment from shane hirvi, (3/31/2011, 12:41 PM)

What on earth are you talking about Billy? This article is charming little ditty about relocating and reusing bridges that are no longer suitable for their intended purpose. After reading this little piece of whimsy I, as a reader, can sit back and dream about the little country bridges I would like to buy and put across the creek in the back forty. Billy did you even read the article? This article does not mention civil or structural engineers once--and the only time the word "engineers" appears is when talking about the USACE. Billy Russell I would like to be the first person to inform you that "GENIOUS' is not a word. So, Mr."GENIOUS" Russell, I was merely mentioning that NACE and SSPC could greatly enhance their already successful bridge inspection classes by using the structures as instructional tools. I think that buying a bridge and utilizing it as an educational device would give NACE or SSPC's bridge inspection classes a little more credibility and marketability. I understand that neither NACE or SSPC is going to rush out and buy a bridge any time soon. It would be a nice gesture for SSPC and/or NACE to save one of these historical structures that lifted our great nation over the rocky cliffs and dangerous waters below that enabled us to become the greatest nation in the world. I always appreciate being enlightened by a "GENIOUS" like you Billy. At least read the article before you post your confused rantings...

Comment from Frank Braden, (4/2/2011, 11:16 AM)

For those who care, GENIUS, n pl. an exceptional natural aptitude; GENIUSES; GENII, Webster's Dictionary also, The Scrabble Dictionary, 3rd Edition. It is fair to say that both Bill and Shane have valid points. As a bridge coatings inspector, I am always amazed at how and when our state and federal entities, cities, counties, and other communities decide to give attention to our infrastructure and in what way they decide to throw money at each issue. I believe that many of these historical structures are refurbished through private funds however, it is highly possible that some of our tax money is used as well. Our bridges are falling apart across the country and it is due in large part to poor or inadequate inspection on a timely basis. And, yes, some inspectors are lazy, incompetent and could care less - as long as they get a paycheck. I have seen bridges that have been slated for blast and paint that have obvious structural deficiencies and the engineers have decided that they are OK. It is not OK when the contractor, the coatings inspector and the state engineer or PM have to carefully walk or climb throughout a bridge structure, being alert and aware, that the steel beam they would prefer to step on to get to the next level or area, is visually suspect as to whether it will hold even the weight of our boot, much less the weight of the rest of us. It is a poor use of time, money and resources to "save" old bridge structures when we have so many in-use bridges in need of serious attention. I like Shane's idea of using old bridges for training purposes and NACE, SSPC and other instructional organizations should consider using them for training. Many organizations, corporations, etc. would probably pitch in some money as well, if asked, but let's all use these old structures for a real, truly honorable purpose - functional purpose - instead of creating that "good, warm feeling way down in our hearts" that saving a useless bridge structure from death is a worthwhile cause. Please, give me a break. Preservationists, environmentalists, goodie-two-shoes and people that want to have that pat on the back from the mayor, or the big wig in downtown politics, should really think about what is really important to this country. Wake up America! I do not want to be on the evening news as one of those people found at the bottom of the ravine with 100 tons of bridge laying on top of me because everybody was paying so much attention to the decrepid "historic" bridge, that they lost sight of the real issue - the bridge that they have been driving over since they got their drivers license at 16. And remember, folks, our bridges were built by that infamous "low bidder", just like everything else in this country. Nobody uses their right to reject a bid from a so-called qualified contractor because, as one state engineer put it, we don't want to go to court and spend the money to defend our position, it costs too much and we might lose the case. Even if we win, we lost time, money and the project will surely have to be re-bid. Well, gee, I'd rather have a good contractor do the work at a reasonable price (not the engineer's estimate, which is not typically realistic to accomplish quality work in today's market) than the "low bidder" who has little to no experience with the work at hand. Basically, in this country, many of the contractors can qualify to blast and paint a bridge if they have EVER done so before! Never mind that they have only done interstate bridges (flat tops), it's just a bridge. They can surely handle the mile long truss bridge, stretching over the big river. Sure, no problem. What a crock. If we can't easily choose the best contractor to do the work, without the fear of litigation, we will continue to cultivate fear in every motorist that the next time you drive over a bridge, just might be your last. I know that I have. How about you?

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/4/2011, 9:16 AM)

Frank, The policy decisions to maintain or repurpose historic bridges and the policy decision to use the low-bid process is made at the legislature by elected officials. Once that decision is made into law (such as the "Surface Transportation & Uniform Relocation Assistance Act" mentioned in the article) - .gov agencies are required to follow that law. Substantive changes in how historic bridges are dealt with can only be made after changing the law.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/4/2011, 10:59 AM)

Back to the original comment - Shane, I think you have a good idea. It would be possible for NACE to acquire a small bridge here in Texas and transport it to their facility in Houston. From what I understand, it is a pretty involved process. Seems very useful to me that inspectors-in-training could have an actual bridge up close to inspect upon.

Comment from shane hirvi, (4/26/2011, 10:45 PM)

Tom, do you know of any small single span (20-30ft) bridges here in Texas that could be easily transported which are scheduled to be removed from service? I wonder if something could be put together. Frank, we have both worked quite contently for the low bidder many times in our lives.

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