The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

Friday, 27 March 2015 09:45cat

Albion River Bridge: maintainance or replacement?

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Albion River Bridge: maintainance or replacement? im Wilson, The New York Times

A great dispute has started in Albion California, with regards to the Albion River Bridge replacement. The bridge is the last wooden bridge along California's coastal highway and Caltrans wants to replace it with an arched concrete structure. A group of residents characterized by supporters of the replacement plans the "sentimentalists" object to the demolition of te bridge as they consider it an element of their eccentricity.

The 1,000 feet long Albion River Bridge, built during World War II, consists of recycled Douglas fir and railway steel, as a result of the limited resources of the time. Back then, it was mentioned in state documents that the bridge would be "adequate in every way for a period of more than 15 years". Driving along its narrow roadway, commuters do not obtain the full picture, of being suspended between two cliffs at a height of 15 storeys above the Albion River. Dan Clary, 64, resident of Albion, considers the bridge "the soul of Albion", while another neighbour, Susan Waterfall, 70, organizing with her husband the local music festival, says "the bridge is an extension of our eccentricity".

California's Department of Transportation officials have recently characterized the bridge as "functionally obsolete" and "structurally deficient", considering it too narrow, too expensive and too vulnerable in an earthquake, to maintain it in its current state. In several community meetings, experts have explained residents of inadequate railings, rotten wood components and potential collapse risk after an earthquake-triggered tsunami. They hence propose its demolition and the construction of an arched concrete bridge, with plenty of room upon its deck for cyclists and walkers which would last 75 years. The new bridge is estimated to cost $27 million to $44 million. Repairing and retrofitting the existing bridge would cost $20 million, according to Caltrans' estimates with another $150,000 spent yearly for regular maintenance. Engineer Leonardo Bowers, 77, is supportive of a new bridge, but at the same time realizes the "death experience" his neighbours will have to go through. 

With the bridge being an essential link to the state's transportation system, any replacement plans will have to get the California Coastal Commission's approval. According to Bob Merrill, the commission's north coast district manager, they are also obligated to consider the locals' opinion. 



Source: NY Times

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