Monday, August 11, 2008

More Bridge Stuff

(An excellent aerial photo, looking Eastward, of the big construction project, '59. The low bridge to the North was what the new bridge replaced, and was torn down upon completion of the new span. How much the city has changed.)

Construction of the new College Avenue bridge here in Appleton is finally underway. The roadway was closed off officially this morning, and, after some prep work, including the demolition of a small office building underneath the bridge on the East bank, the deck itself will go under the wrecking ball next week. I talked to the project foreman, who said that some dynamite might be used on the pillars. That'll get the neighborhood's attention.

Our local paper, the Appleton Post-Crescent, is carrying the story, of course. And they have a neat collection of pictures from the building of the existing bridge in 1959 (I had thought 1952, alas, in error). So I thought it might be fun to take some then-and-now photos. Several others in their collection no longer lend themselves to present-day copies (at least not without a cherry picker) as the approaches are quite overgrown. But I got the ones I could, and here are the results. The original photos all come from the construction of 1959, and the color ones from today, 8/11/08, for a glimpse of the beginning and the end. Thus spans an almost 50 year service life.

I love this last one--one of those I can't duplicate without some equipment. The railings were originally a steel lattice and were upgraded to taller concrete at some point. The original looks much more graceful, I think.

Only one house was removed for the bridge project in '59, though it came from a row of stately old homes. It sounds like there was a pretty nasty battle to determine where the original span should go, as it would naturally transform the neighborhoods through which it passed.

I'll try to get construction photos as the project progresses. The build is expected to take 14-16 months.


In other news, the residential / retail development planned for the land beneath this bridge is rumored to be in financial peril. The launch date has been pushed back a couple times, and the talk is that considerable additional investment is needed to get the project off the ground. In that the site is basically an abandoned industrial superfund site at the moment, I hope they find a way to make the project go; it would be good for the city, and especially for those of us on the river. Stay tuned (both of you!).


Malaise Inc said...

Somewhat off topic, but I love old photographs. I think I realized this while watching Ken Burn's WWII documentary. He liberally used old photographs of street scenes from the several towns the documentary focused on. I liked to ponder those photographs, for as long as they were on the screen. The sight of people crossing streets, standing in front of a store, or watching a parade, made me smile. It was, at it's core, a forgettable moment in the lives of the people and town, but yet it was immortalized forever in that photograph. A trip to the store for milk and bread became history.

As I continue my slide into my 40s, comfortably (and anonymously) settled in the great middle class, I find it strangely comforting that history is not necessarily reserved for great persons. And it reminds me that all of us, each in our own way, contribute to history. I think what drives me to persevere through personal turmoil is the idea that doing so makes a positive contribution to history, even if no one knows it.

More on topic, I love watching things being built. I suppose it is why I was drawn to working in manufacturing and why, after several years, of moving lines and closing factories, I am in something of an existential funk.

Whoa. Heavy stuff there. Sorry.

wunelle said...

Boy, I'm with you there on all counts.

I've developed a love of old photography--black & white especially--that's almost a fetish. I have a bunch of books I've collected of urban photos from the 1880s thru the 1950s or so, and I can stare at those pictures for hours.

And, also like you, I love photos that chronicle a project taking shape--like the building of the Chrysler Building in NYC, or the Hoover Dam. You gotta tear me away!

I also took note of how Ken Burns moved around the old Civil War photos to make the period seem alive. I love that documentary, though the photos are not exactly of my fetish type.

I thought about converting my present-day photos to black & white, but decided against it. Maybe I should try it and see!

Dzesika said...

Very cool pictures. And I think I prefer them in colour ... :)

Why is the bridge being torn down?

wunelle said...

The bridge itself is 50 years old, and (as I understand it) a sister span somewhere in WI has shown alarming signs of degradation. There are also areas on this bridge that show 50 years of hard use, though I don't know how ominously.

Additionally, it's a two-lane bridge connecting the two sides of Appleton's busiest street, which is all four-lane except for the bridge. So it's a bottleneck.

I guess those two things = new bridge, even to the tune of $16m.

I've decided to try and get a photo of the bridge every day from my dock for the duration of the build. Maybe I'll put up a post--or series--which shows the progress!

CyberKitten said...

There is definitely something about bridges... Maybe its their symbolism? Or maybe quite a few of them are pretty awesome pieces of civil engineering. I've certainly been impressed by many bridges I've seen all over the world.

shrimplate said...

It's interesting that the bridge is curved. Was that done to slow traffic, reduce vibration, and extend the life of the bridge?

Will the new bridge be of the straight-line-of-traffic type, or also curved?