Facts That Figure: Bridges

Facts That Figure: Bridges

By C.G. Hoffman

What do you do when you want to get from Point A to Point B, but there is a river in between? You build a bridge of course!

The earliest known constructed bridge is the Arkadiko Bridge in Greece, and is still in use today by locals and their farm animals. It is said to be over 3,000 years old, and was originally built for Mycenaean soldiers and their chariots.

London Bridge is sometimes referred to as the largest antique in the world. It has been rebuilt countless times, starting with a crude, wooden version in Roman times. The first stone version was built in 1176, and shops and even houses were built over it. It was destroyed many times over by fire and other calamities. The nursery rhyme “London Bridge is falling down…” was quite true to life, as it fell in 1281, 1309, 1425, 1437 and then again in the Great Fire of London!

The city of Venice, built over a network of canals, is famous for its bridges. The city is navigable by foot through a network of dozens of bridges. Today there are over 391 bridges in Venice, crossing over 177 canals.

One of the most iconic landmarks of New York City is the Brooklyn Bridge, considered an engineering marvel when it was completed in 1883. It was the longest bridge of its kind at the time, and New Yorkers were skeptical about its safety. The famous PT Barnum of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, reassured nervous New Yorkers by marching 21 elephants and 17 camels across the length of the bridge. (They all made it across safely!)

Arguably the scariest bridge in the world, and also one of the most dangerous, the Hussaini bridge stretches across a deep gorge and a raging river between sky scraping cliffs in the Hunza Valley in Pakistan. The poorly maintained bridge is constructed of rope and wood planks, with quite a few of the planks missing. It is the only way the villagers have of getting to the other side, although it attracts quite a few daredevil tourists.

The Bridge to Nowhere is a multimillion dollar project in Alaska that ended up… nowhere! Government members planned, plotted, hemmed and hawed about the importance of the project, linking the mainland to Gravina Island. A road was even built for access to the bridge, to the tune of $25 million dollars. The bridge was never built, and now Alaska can also boast of a Road to Nowhere, with the empty road leading to the empty site where the bridge was supposed to be.

Bridges can also serve as borders and entry-points between countries. The Peace Bridge connects Buffalo, New York and Fort Erie, Ontario and handles almost five million vehicles crossings per year.

In their quest to build the biggest, boldest and now, scariest, China has built a glass bridge suspended 3,870 feet above sea level. Visitors are supposed to wear special fabric booties over their shoes, and guards are stationed at either end in case they’re needed to escort panic-stricken visitors who cling to the sides and refuse to continue.

One more scary fact: One out of four U.S. bridges are considered to be structurally deficient. According to federal standards, bridges need to be inspected, at minimum, every two years, with older bridges needing closer supervision. Local administrations would need to invest $20.5 billion annually in order to repair the nation’s bridges in the next 12 years.

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