Turn Your Aging Bridge into a Community Highlight

By Dan Sydow, PE

Nearly 40% of the United States’ 600,000 bridges are over 50 years old, so chances are your community has an aging structure in need of replacement. But you may be able to turn an unavoidable expense into a bonus for your community, and maybe even draw in tourists.

Your first priority is safety, of course – but once you’ve decided with your engineering consultant what type of bridge replacement is suitable, you can get a little more creative. (Your consultant should also be able to help you with permitting requirements. They may be complex, especially if the bridge affects wildlife or a sensitive environment, but an engineer with experience will be able to smooth the way for you.)

Would your community appreciate a fishing pier, or perhaps a launch for canoes and kayaks, or a trail system, or a nature viewing area? Taking advantage of a bridge’s height and natural link to water is a great way to add these types of attractions that draw visitors and improve your community. You can also join the many communities who invest in aesthetic treatments that make bridges attractive focal points instead of just simple crossings. See the photos below for inspiration for your next project. And for a more in-depth look at what such a project entails, check out our just-released edition of Trends.

Dan Sydow, PE, is a structural engineer based in our Eau Claire, Wisconsin, office. He was the project manager for the recently completed Eau Claire Grand Avenue Half Moon Lake Bridge and has also designed hundreds of bridge replacements or rehabilitations, working on structures in nearly all Wisconsin counties and in nine other states.

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