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At the time of the tragic collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in early August this summer, I had been considering doing a blog post about bridges since I had received pictures of several really unusual bridges in the days that preceded that disaster. After the disaster, I thought it best to wait a while. I hope enough time has gone by that my post on bridges will not cause undue discomfort. I've learned, though, that there are some people for whom the thought of bridges will *always* be uncomfortable, and some ever suffer from gephydrophobia, the fear of crossing bridges.

Today I'm going to share pictures and information about five interesting, real bridges. These are not hoaxes - I've checked them out on snopes.com

I'll start out with the oldest of the bridges featured in this post - the famous Y Bridge in Zanesville, Ohio. It's a Y-shaped bridge that spans the confluence of the Licking and Muskingum Rivers. It has been rebuilt numerous times since the 1850s and is currently the only Y bridge in the world. It is also the only bridge in the United States that you can cross and still be on the same side of the river that you started on! When being given directions, visitors are often struck by the oddity of the statement "Drive to the middle of the bridge and turn right." Amelia Earhart called Zanesville "the most recognizable city in the country," referring to the Y Bridge’s usefulness as a navigational aid to pilots.

Below is a picture of the Y Bridge...

Here's an aerial view from an old post card...

The next bridge, also in the USA, is the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel. It is a 4.6 miles long, four-lane bridge-tunnel composed of bridges, trestles, man-made islands, and tunnels where the James, Nansemond, and Elizabeth Rivers come together in the southeastern Virginia. It connects the cities of Newport News and Suffolk.

The next bridge is in Magdeburg, Germany. The Magdeburg Water Bridge or Wasserstrassenkreuz in German, completed in October 2003, connects two important German shipping canals, the Elbe-Havel Canal and the Mittellandkanal, which lead to the country’s industrial Ruhr Valley heartland. It actually crosses the Elbe River! The overall length is 3,012 feet (918 meters), of which 2,264 feet (690 meters) are over land and 748 feet (228 meters) are over water. This amazing piece of German engineering was first conceived in 1919 and construction began in the 1930s, but the completion was impossible until after the German Reunification in the early 1990s.

Here's a view from underneath....

The next bridge, another marvel in engineering, is located in southern France. The Millau Viaduct or Viaduc de Millau in French is a large cable-stayed road-bridge that spans the valley of the River Tarn. Designed by English architect Norman Foster and French bridge engineer Michel Virlogeux, it is the tallest vehicular bridge in the world, with one mast's summit at 1,125 feet (343 meters) - slightly taller than the Eiffel Tower and only 125 feet (38 meters) shorter than the Empire State Building. The viaduct is part of the A75-A71 autoroute axis from Paris to Béziers. It was formally dedicated on 14 December 2004.

Below is a picture when the bridge was under construction....

Below is an aerial view after completion....

The next bridge is a "pedestrian bridge" displayed at the London Design Festival. It is actually more a novelty than an actual bridge in use. Bridge by Michael Cross is a series of steps that rise out of the water as you walk across them, as if walking on water. On entering the exhibition the visitor is met by an empty expanse of water with one step at its edge. Stepping on the first step causes the next step to rise, and so on. Below are pictures from two different angles with two different "pedestrians." This puts new meaning into the expression "taking life one step at a time."

If you know of another interesting/ususual/bizarre bridge, feel free to post a link in the comments at the end of this blog post.

Thinking about bridges reminded me of a poem that Dr. Bob Jones Sr. used to love to quote to tell in part why he founded BJU. Each of us needs to be a bridge builder in life - this poem is a good reminder.

The Bridge Builder
by Will Allen Dromgoole

An old man travelling a lonely highway
Came at the evening cold and gray
To a chasm deep and wide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim
For the sullen stream had no fears for him
But he turned when he reached the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

Old man, cried a fellow pilgrim near
You are wasting your strength in building here.
Your journey will end with the ending day
And you will never again pass this way.
You have crossed the chasm deep and wide.
Why build you a bridge at eventide?

And the builder raised his old gray head
Good friend on the path I have come, he said
There follows after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.

This stream which has been as naught to me
To that fair haired boy may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.

A final twist to this already unusual blog post is the fact that the author of The Bridge Builder, Will Allen Dromgoole, was a woman. She was named Poet Laureate by the Poetry Society of the South in 1930.


"The best bridge between hope and despair is often a good night’s sleep." - anonymous

=^..^= =^..^=

I don't suffer from gephydrophobia, but I do suffer from xylophataquieopiaphobia, the fear of not pronouncing words correctly.

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23 Comments on “Bridges”

  1. #1 Kris Stephens
    on Sep 7th, 2007 at 7:54 am

    One small correction…

    “the famous Y Bridge in Zanesville, Ohio…is currently the only Y bridge in the world.” Should read “is currently the only Y bridge in the world *for automobiles*.”

    The city where I live, Midland, MI, has a Y bridge that is a pedestrian footbridge. It is affectionately called “The Tridge” here in Midland. Check it out here

  2. #2 Rob
    on Sep 7th, 2007 at 9:01 am

    Thanks, Kris, for the correction and the link. I hope we all learn some interesting stuff about bridges from this post. With over 3,500 unique visitors in over 60 countries in the world, there are surely others who can tell us of other neat bridges out there.

  3. #3 Tammy
    on Sep 7th, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Try reading this book-Bridges by Judith Dupre. She is a friend my Aunt Clarice and every so often email each other-I only met her once like 35 yers ago.


  4. #4 Katie
    on Sep 7th, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Seeing those pictures reminds me of a TV show I watch occasionally on the Discovery Channel. It’s called “Extreme Engineering” and it showcases the marvels of architectural engineering around the world.

    Oh and don’t get me started on phobias… 🙂 Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – Fear of long words

    I enjoy the blog. Thanks for writing it!

  5. #5 Susan
    on Sep 7th, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    One more phobia you might be interested in…

    Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia- Fear of long words

  6. #6 Jeff Hollon
    on Sep 7th, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Being relatively new to the great county of Ashtabula, I have learned that bridges have played a very important role in the history of the area. It is because of the failure of a vital “Howe-truss type” bridge which lead to what is now referred to as the “Ashtabula Horror” that a hospital was started. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashtabula_Horror . I now work in the hospital. One very interesting side light, Philip P. Bliss died in the train wreck of Ashtabula.
    We are also known for our many covered bridges, and have a whole tourism business built around the bridges. We have a festival here in October, (I think), and currently the county is building “The Second Longest Covered Bridge in the WORLD!!!” (We are only a few feet short of longest…you would think they would build up river a bit so that they can take the record. Go figure.)
    However, my favorite bridge crosses the Ashtabula river right here in town. It is just a plain cement structure, part of Rt. 20 through Ashtabula. However, this bridge has a name. It isn’t the Ashtabula bridge, or anything like that. This bridge is the “Reverend Dr. Sam Wells, Jr. Memorial Viaduct!” I LOVE saying this name, and being somewhat obsessive/compulsive, I say it everytime I cross the bridge. The unfortunate part is that my wife does not share my OCD and dislikes hearing the name. My saying it usually ends with her sticking her finger in my armpit, (I am VERY ticklish, and she knows it.), and I have to fight to breathe and control the car. So, I am now fairly certain that my life will end by me driving off the “Reverend Dr. Sam Wells, Jr. Memorial Viaduct”, gasping for breath and laughing hysterically!

  7. #7 Susan
    on Sep 7th, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Katie beat me to it! How about this one:

    Phobophobia: fear of phobias

  8. #8 Michael
    on Sep 7th, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    Thanks for posting that poem. I’ve heard recordings of Dr. Bob reciting that, I “heard” his voice again when reading through it today.

  9. #9 Deb
    on Sep 7th, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    What a neat informative post. I enjoyed it!

  10. #10 Robin
    on Sep 7th, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Looking at the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Tunnel Bridge brought all my agorophobic/claustrophobic/gephydrophobic senses to the ready! I could hardly breathe looking at that picture!!

    And a bridge you could add to your collection would be the Somerset Bridge in Bermuda. It is the smallest drawbridge in the world. We agorophobic/claustrophobic/gephydrophobics absolutely love it!

    Almost forgot to give the link for the Somerset Bridge in Bermuda. Here ’tis

  11. #11 Sandy
    on Sep 7th, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    I have been on the Monitor-Merrimac many times. That is my hometown…Hampton…Newport News. When they built it they had a contest for the naming of the bridge. I know that this is probably not a big deal but it was really neat to see a part of home today. :O) Thanks :O)

    By the way I do have gephydrophia but for some reason not on the Monitor-Merrimac…well most of the time. The bridge that really freaks me out the:


  12. #12 Tom Charles
    on Sep 7th, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    The newly opened Penobscot Narrows Bridge on Rt 1 in Maine is not all that special in size other than being too large (my opinion) for the span needed – if you get to a picture, note the relative size of old suspension bridge alongside. However, the west tower of the cable-stay structure includes an elevator whisking people over 400 feet up to a glassed-in observation deck, to enjoy one of the finest views one can imagine (assuming no acrophobia.)


  13. #13 Joe Kappel
    on Sep 8th, 2007 at 2:49 am

    Very interesting post about the bridges. Seeing the photos of the Y-bridge was seeing a bit of home. I was born and raised in Zanesville, Ohio. I was even the first person to “drive a car” on the bridge after it’s mid-1980’s reconstruction. My dad took me to the bridge, and I drove my Power Wheels jeep all over one side of it. No other “cars” were allowed on the bridge at that time 🙂

  14. #14 Andy
    on Sep 8th, 2007 at 5:03 am

    This commented posted by Rob for Andy. I’ve put in the picture that he could not post to the blog comments.

    Hey Rob,

    The picture wouldn’t go on a blog, so I have sent it in an attachment. The bridge is from my home state of Maine, Bailey Island to be more specific. The inscription says:

    “This 1,150 foot bridge is an exceptional engineering solution to meet unusual conditions and is the only one of its type in the world. Open split Maine granite cribwork permits free flow of swift tidal currents, boat traffic, withstands saltwater exposure and ice floes. Completed in 1928. Engineer L. N. Edwards.”

    It is very neat to see in person.

  15. #15 Elaine Carr
    on Sep 8th, 2007 at 5:05 am

    Thanks for “Bridges”.

    First I went to Dr. Bob, Jr’s book of poems, “Inspirational and Devotional Verse” to write in that the author of “Building the Bridge for Him” was a woman who received honor for her work.

    We’ve enjoyed traversing (on foot!) some of the covered bridges in southern Indiana with our daughter’s family, the Ken Stewart’s.

  16. #16 Tim McLaughlin
    on Sep 9th, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    “Bridgetown” is one of the monikers for Portland, Oregon (the others being “Stumptown”–for all the tree stumps still littering the mud streets of the infant city back in the 1860s–and “Little Beirut,” bestowed on us by Bush One when protesters hounded his brief and unpleasant visit). The two-plus miles of Willamette River that thread through the city’s center is crisscrossed by 8 bridges (there are more a couple miles further in each direction, too).

    Our two vertical-lift bridges are the most interesting to me. Especially the Steel Bridge, built in 1912 with a lower deck for trains and upper deck for cars, buses, and light rail (street cars and trolleys, in the old days). I believe it is the only bridge of its type still in operation in the country. The lower deck can be lifted up independently to allow moderately masted watercraft under, and then both decks can be hoisted way, way up to accommodate large ocean-going vessels. (Portland is a seaport, after all, despite being 100 miles inland. Love those navigable rivers.)

    Here’s a link to a pic of the Steel Bridge’s lower deck partially raised:

    …and a pic of both decks pancaked and raised nearly all the way up:

    Here’s why Bridgetown is Bridgetown:

    Finally, a gallery of each Willamette-crossing bridge in Portland–the variety of design still intrigues me:
    click here

  17. #17 Zina
    on Sep 11th, 2007 at 4:52 am

    We enjoyed the bridges post. We live about 3 hours from Magdeburg and can’t wait to go on the Wasserstrassenkanal there. Even my German in laws did not know of this engineering wonder. Thanks!

  18. #18 Matthew
    on Sep 11th, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    Here’s a rail version to add to the collection of Y-shaped bridges – http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=143725

    While the Lhasa Bridge may not be as structurally unique as some of the other bridges posted, the locomotives on the bridge are actually an American export to China, built by GE in Erie, PA! http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=189165

    Finally, I have to put a word in for the “City of Bridges.” 😉 This picture shows just a few of the many bridges in and around Pittsburgh. http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=192692 The Association for Bridge Construction and Design lists a few summary bridge statistics for Pittsburgh. http://abcdpittsburgh.org/FAQ2.htm

    Thank you–I’ve enjoyed the postings!

    Rob adds:
    Thanks for the links and the insights you’ve added to both the “why women live longer” post and this post about bridges, Matthew! I especially enjoyed all the links to sights about trains – my dad worked for Norfolk & Western Railroad all his adult life, which was quite short. Dad died of a massive heart attack when only 42 years old. He would have loved the pictures on those sites!

  19. #19 Melissa
    on Sep 13th, 2007 at 9:27 am

    This isn’t a bridge with amazing engineering or anything, but my sister and brother-in-law recently moved to Ketchikan, AK to work for a ministry there, and I was looking at the island though Google Earth. I noticed a bridge that appeared to just end in the middle of the ocean. I asked my sister, and it was just that–a bridge to nowhere! Apparently they were building a bridge to a more habitable island (much of the island is part of a national forrest and can’t be developed).

  20. #20 Glenna Kendall
    on Sep 13th, 2007 at 9:51 am

    I loved reading about the bridges.

    For the world’s longest bridge over ice covered waters, check out the bridge to Prince Edward Island. It was really fun to go there by ferry, but guess this is faster.


  21. #21 Ann
    on Sep 13th, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    The Chesapeake Bay Bridge mentioned above is my absolute favorite bridge to drive over. It is four miles long with a great view of the water. There have been times when I’ve been tempted to turn around and drive over it again…and of course, a third time to continue my trip. Problem is that the toll is too high for three trips across.

  22. #22 Faisal
    on Dec 29th, 2008 at 8:14 am

    This is a very interesting post with some good photographs. Personally I like the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel. It is a fantastic creation; in fact they all are. I also like the new idea of the “pedestrian bridge” displayed at the London Design Festival. If you want more stuff like this you may visit my site.

  23. #23 Rob
    on Dec 29th, 2008 at 8:30 am

    @Faisal – I’m glad you enjoyed this post. It was one of my favorites to put together. It looks like there’s some interesting stuff on your site. I’ll have to explore it more….