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This Bridge Moves Through the Air

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

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Is it a bridge? Is it a ferry? Is it somehow both?

That’s the nature of the transporter bridge, a seeming hybrid of bridge and ferry that carries a portion of roadway over a body of water to get vehicles from one side of a valley to the other.

The Newport Transporter Bridge recently caught the eye of Gizmodo reporter Chris Mills because of its unique design—he called it among the “weirdest” bridges in the world.

This weird design was actually a clever solution to a problem: the need to help people cross over the River Usk in South Wales while also keeping the path clear for ships to pass through the waterway. Because of low banks on each side, ferry use was not a feasible option during low tides.

British entertainer Tom Scott delves into the why’s and how’s of this “aerial ferry” as he takes you on a tour of the bridge from above:

The "aerial ferry" provided a unique solution for a bridge crossing in a spot plagued by low tides and home to tall-ship traffic in Newport, South Wales.

History of the Newport Transporter Bridge

While reports vary, Friends of the Newport Transporter Bridge (FONTB) indicated that only 16 such bridges were built between 1893 and 1916. Just 8 remain today.

Considered “The largest and most elegant of the remaining bridges” by FONTB, the Newport Bridge was designed by Ferdinand Arnodin with Newport Borough Engineer Robert H. Haynes and opened in 1906.

According to the Newport Museums & Heritage Service, the bridge originated from the need to help workers residing on the west side of the river in Newport cross to the east side, where most industry was established. Before the transporter bridge, that crossing required a 4-mile walk to cross the river on the town bridge.

Newport Transporter Bridge
Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The transporter bridge still ferries motorists, as well as tourists, across the River Usk in South Wales.

The museum said the transporter bridge was the most economically feasible option: tunneling would be difficult and expensive, and a traditional bridge needed an extremely long approach ramp to give it the height needed for tall ships to pass beneath.

With the transporter-style design, a rail track is suspended from a high-level boom suspended from the towers. The gondola platform is suspended from the rail track and is pulled from one side to the other by twin 35 horse power electric motors.

The museum reports that the span between the tower centers is 196.6 meters (645 feet). The towers measure 73.8 meters (242 feet) in height, and the distance above the surface of the water is 180 meters (592 feet).  The steel in the main transverse cable weights 548 metric tons (539 tons).

The transporter bridge isn’t the only option for Newport residents these days. In 2005, a new bridge opened upstream, which doesn’t require any tolls or transport waits.

However, the transporter bridge remains a tourist destination, offering bridge crossings, as well as access to the high-level walkway.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Infrastructure; North America; Program/Project Management

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