Hole in the Clouds

Tag: bridge

The Once and Future Bridge

Oct 31, 2010



Two years ago, when they demolished the old South Street Bridge over the Schuylkill River, it was in such bad shape, I'm told, that chunks of its concrete were falling onto the expressway that passes underneath.

A week from Monday, this new South Street Bridge is scheduled to open, restoring a direct route from our neighborhood to the University of Pennsylvania across the river. The little flag near the right edge of the picture is flying over Penn's football stadium.

Looks like there's still a little work to be finished up in this next week. But they say they'll cut the ribbon right on schedule.


cityscape   Philadelphia   Schuylkill River   bridge   construction  

Bridge on the Bridge

Nov 7, 2010

This weekend, the mayor and his guys in suits cut the ribbon reopening the South Street Bridge across the Schuylkill River, after two years of demolition and reconstruction. 

For the first few hours, the bridge was only open to foot traffic. So this group of students from the University of Pennsylvania set up card tables in the middle of the roadway and played bridge on the bridge.

Soon after the ribbon-cutting, a small parade marched past the card players, led by the West Powellton Steppers and drum team. Behind them was a ten-foot-tall papier mâché puppet bearing a sign that said "Share the Road." Bringing up the rear--and putting an end to the brief and glorious era of bridge on the bridge--was the first motor vehicle to cross the new span, a Philly CarShare hybrid Prius.

cityscape   streetscape   Philadelphia   bridge   skyline   card game  

What part of this sign don't you understand?

Dec 20, 2010

Back in the mists of time, very shortly after construction of the first low bridge, they must have installed the first device warning boats or wagons or SUVs with roof racks about that low bridge. Over the centuries, some of these warnings have made it into song, as on the Erie Canal: "Low bridge, everybody down. . . ." Many warnings have made it into video; check out "Low Bridge" on YouTube, or for the less high-minded among you, check out "Low bridge crashes" on YouTube. 

One high-tech warning device uses light sensors to detect vehicles too tall to clear an underpass. When the sensors are tripped, bright lights start flashing on a warning sign. In Durham, North Carolina, this sort of setup also includes two video cameras that start rolling whenever the lights start flashing, to record from multiple angles what drivers do in response to the warning. Many of them kept right on driving; on YouTube, you can join the 382,000 viewers who have "enjoyed" "Thirteen crashes in thirteen months" (11 feet 8 inches).

Keeping that bridge in good repair must have gotten expensive, so the railroad decided to armor the trestle with steel beams mounted at bridge-height a few feet in front of the actual bridge. It's much cheaper and quicker to put up a new beam than to fix a damaged trestle. As of 2009, the beam had been replaced once.

Why do people keep hitting the bridges? If you look at the crash videos, you'll notice that most of the vehicles involved are rental moving vans--in other words, fairly tall trucks being driven by people who are used to driving cars that can fit anywhere. I once drove 1,200 miles in a rented truck, and I definitely could have been a statistic--low bridges, gas station canopies, drive-thru bank tellers, etc., were just not on my regular radar.

Why do we have so many low bridges? Apparently, most are railroad trestles which cannot be raised without major track realignments to avoid steep grades. The alternative of lowering the auto road is also impractical in most cases, especially where it might threaten the foundation of the railroad bridge.

But in Griffin, Georgia, they seem to have come up with a low-tech solution that might grab the attention even of a typically distracted driver like me. If the words on the sign didn't stop me, I suspect that the thwack of hitting the sign might make my day.



streetscape   bridge   Griffin, Georgia   (h/t: Aunt A)  

On the Ham

Aug 4, 2012

On the bridge of the navy frigate USS Ingraham, the tiny gold-colored wheel near the center of the picture, with spokes protruding from the rim, is what actually steers the ship. As the instrumentation suggests, American naval frigates were designed in the 1970s, back when phones were attached to the wall by curly cords. Frigates are gradually being decommissioned--sold off to countries looking for cheap warships--but meanwhile they are still very much in active service, accompanying aircraft carriers around the world or sailing independently on anti-piracy or anti-smuggling missions.

The Ingraham recently returned from a six-month deployment in the eastern Pacific near Panama, where its helicopters chased down small boats thought to be smuggling drugs to North America. The picture below shows family and friends standing on the flight deck during a recent tour of the ship conducted by Ensign Al, the Ingraham's electrical engineer who also serves as public information officer. Two helicopters operate from the flight deck. The ship in the background is a destroyer, slightly bigger than a frigate, which is also based at Naval Station Everett on Puget Sound north of Seattle.

Navy   Allen   bridge   USS Ingraham   ship   Uncle Rich   wheel   warship   frigate  

Building and Burning Bridges

Jan 3, 2013

Heading south across the James River from downtown Richmond, Virginia, the half-mile-long Manchester Bridge was completed in 1972 to replace a much lower span that was repeatedly damaged by floods.

Barely visible in the distance, near the righthand edge of this picture, are the brick piers of a former railroad bridge that was repeatedly ruined by fire.

The current Manchester Bridge includes a wide pedestrian walkway separating southbound and northbound traffic. This was required by law; in 1920, when the city of Richmond annexed what was then the city of Manchester across the river, the merger documents provided for a free pedestrian bridge across the James, in perpetuity. Until then, the only bridge charged pedestrians a toll, which was so aggravating to residents of Manchester that they voted to dissolve their city government in return for a promise of a toll-free bridge.

The ruined railroad bridge burned for the first time during the Civil War; the Confederates destroyed it–the night they drove old Dixie down–in anticipation of the fall of Richmond. It was rebuilt after the war but burned again in 1882.

railroad   bridge   Virginia   Richmond   ruins   highway   James River   (Image credit: Aaron Dryden)  

The Venetian Connection

Jan 31, 2013

This 1880s-era bridge connecting the Allegheny County courthouse with the jail in downtown Pittsburgh is a fair replica of the seventeenth-century Bridge of Sighs in Venice, which connected the prison with the interrogation chambers in the doge's palace.

In Pittsburgh as in Venice, prisoners being escorted across the bridge were said to catch a final glimpse of life on the outside before disappearing into the labyrinths of judicial inquistion and disposition. In both cities, too, the bridges and buildings survive to this day; the courthouse building at right in this picture is still an active courthouse, though the jail building at left now houses the county Family Services agency.

Modern-day photos, however, reveal an oddity: the bridge now appears to loom much higher above the street than it did back in 1903, when the picture above was taken. An urban-improvement project known as the Hump Cut, completed in 1913, flattened out major downtown streets in Pittsburgh, lowering Fifth Avenue here by several feet.

Pennsylvania   streetscape   Pittsburgh   Venice   bridge   1903   courthouse   jail   (Image credit: Detroit Publishing via Shorpy)  

Over the Troubled Bridge

Feb 11, 2013

Throughout the winter of 2012, Indonesian schoolchildren went to and from school every day via this damaged suspension bridge, which lost one of its pillars during a flood in January.

"Oh no," thought Djakarta-based photographer, Beawhirta, when he came across this scene. "These could not be children who wanted to go to school. It was more like an acrobatic show, with the collapsed bridge as an apparatus and without any safety device at all. They walked slowly, sometimes screaming as their shoes slipped. Suddenly the rain came."

Even in the rain, all the children made it safely across the Ciberang River, at least on the day of the photo shoot. About three months after the photo gained wide attention in Indonesia, the bridge was repaired.

children   bridge   river   Indonesia   danger   (Image credit: Beawhirta, h/t: K Maldre)  

Drone's Eye View

Nov 7, 2014

All the cool kidz nowadays–all the cool kidz who have a little too much money–or is too much money one of the requirements for cool kidz status?–anyways, what they're playing with these days is the latest and greatest in technology for drone photography.

Little plastic remote-controlled flying saucers carry cameras aloft and point the lenses back down at us. Sometimes the things crash–for example, onto the balcony of an apartment on a high floor of a New York skyscraper–but sometimes they capture astonishing views of life here on the surface of earth.

To get the shot above, Greg McCary flew a drone up over the hills and rivers of Bartow County, Georgia, northwest of Atlanta. Below, Mauricio Lima's venture into drone photography attracted the attention of a wary neighbor.

birdseye view   railroad   train   bridge   Bartow County   drone   Cartersville   trestle   Mauricio Lima)   (Image credits: Greg McCary