The Bridge to Nowhere

If you live in Ohio, you might be interested in checking this out.

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Interesting! Turns out there are quite a few:
Bridge to nowhere - Wikipedia

I remembered all the controversy about the plans for one in Alaska, $400 million, luckily it got cancelled.

Back in the early 60s the TVA spent years and countless millions building a bridge over a river in MS. In 1970s I went to MS to visit some relatives and on the way into town over that bridge noticed that a new bridge was being built right next to the new one that I was on and which had just been opened in the past few years.

I asked a cousin what that was all about and it turned out that in all of those years of design and construction no one had questioned whether or not the bridge was going to be tall enough to allow tug boats to go underneath. After it was completed THEN they decide it should have been taller.
So the new bridge adjacent to the open one was being constructed about 10 feet taller. My assumption was that once the new taller bridge was finished they would demolish the shorter one.

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Here in NH and MA we have a hard enough time getting the state to fix the bridges we have or build a bridge that is actually needed. I’ve seen bridges in NH and MA that are being supported by a telephone pole because the cross beam had rusted out. It was that way for YEARS before they finally replaced it. Not even sure the couple I saw near Rochester NH have ever been replaced.

Back in the '70s, Connecticut had a severe financial crisis, and they simply stopped all highway and bridge maintenance. The result was… really bad.

Their “solution” to prevent people from suing for vehicle damage was to post signs stating that anyone driving on those highways and bridges did so at their own risk. However, the print on those signs was more or less the size of a 16 font, and motorists would not be able to read them!

One day, while I was stuck in a traffic jam and was sitting on the passenger side of my friend’s car, I was actually able to read the micro-sized text of the legislation exempting CT from liability resulting from their crappy roads.

I have no idea whether their legislative gambit worked, but the existence of those signs was nothing short of bizarre.

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I remember those “road legally closed” signs. That was before I-95 collapsed in Norwalk and killed and injured quite a few. 50 years ago on the island of Jamaica they used to put up signs that said “You have been warned”. That’s all. What, if you kept going, the Prime Minister was going to give you a dope slap?

The collapse of the Mianus River Bridge…

June 28: Disaster on the I-95 Mianus River Bridge – Today in Connecticut History (

In MA maybe a decode ago now…Funny/Sad story.

One of the Cross beams on I-93 that expands the Merrimack river in Andover MA fell into the river. Not the main beam, but one of few hundred cross beams.

The head of Department of Transportation for MA came out with a public statement saying. “The public isn’t in any danger. There are very few boats that use that portion of the river so very unlikely someone will get hurt.”

I couldn’t believe he actually said it.

Then in NH about the same time frame…the head of the NH’s department of transportation that was in charge of bridges made the public statement - “People should give thanks every time they cross a bridge in NH that it didn’t collapse on them.”

Remember when the bridge over the Niantic river collapsed?

My favorite was the Silver Bridge in Ohio. Like the Minnesota I 35 bridge that collapsed there was no redundancy in the structures, so one failure and the bridge would come down. That was engineering back in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Seems kinda silly now for bridge design where now there are multiple redundancies in the designs.

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I think the same problem existed on the Genoa, Italy, bridge that collapsed in 2018.

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And, of course, there is the Tacoma Narrows bridge, almost brand new, that failed due to resonant amplification of the small vibrations from a brisk wind. The movies are a favorite in physics classes.


I was a cad person, heard a story of plans for a bridge that the draftsman forgot to turn on a layer, luckily someone notice something missing on the plans when they went to start construction.

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That’s why there are checks and reviews. Upper management HATES the review process, but they know (at least the good ones) it’s necessary. Some systems I’ve worked on - the final review process could take MONTHS…and well worth it. I have worked on systems where the review process was missed or shortened…and EVERY SINGLE TIME there were problems. Before I took this job as director of Software Development I told the VP of engineering and President that if they want to shorten or remove this vital final review process…then I walk. That was over 10 years ago. They understand it.

The state and federal Govt have a very hard time understanding this.


That video was shown to every sophomore engineering students attending my alma mater to drive home what can happen if you don’t consider ALL the issues in your design! :flushed:


Things can still happen. Remember one construction job we had to change the grading plans, the building came out a foot low. Architectural plans had t/f, to him meaning top of floor, construction company thought it meant top of foundation.

Of course they can…AND WILL…but the goal is to minimize those issues. And engineering team not following Best Practices is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

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A young (under 40) lady I know is a Structural Engineer specializing in bridges, working for an engineering firm. Pretty much everything from new construction and maintenance on everything from Bay Bridges, culvert bridges to the restoration of wooden covered bridges.

Lots of stories but if you want to be safe:

  1. Be sure your State hires outside Professional Engineers. (Screw the politicians, a business doesn’t want to be sued or have their license revoked)
  2. Pay the darned taxes - Maintenance costs money, nothing lasts forever and it takes money to maintain and replace these things, many of which are 50-60 years old now and were built when your grandpa’s Packard was still the cat’s pajamas.

Bottom Line is that we’ve been coasting on what our parents and grandparents (Eisenhower) built so if we want safe roads and bridges we’re going to have to pony up, pay our fair share and vote for higher taxes to pay for what we’ve been given.


Yes of course but the question always is what is necessary and what is C priority to deal with the latest fads in road and intersection design. We’re putting in an underground deer crossing so that the deer will not be hit crossing the road. Just hope they read the signs.

I majored in math as an undergraduate. My Differential Equations prof used the Tacoma Narrows bridge as an example when we studied 2nd order diffyq’s and resonance.