Friday, August 3, 2007

Spine of the City: Westfield's Great River Bridge

In the wake of the tragic, and, according to current information, avoidable, I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis August 1, more regular folks are starting to look around and question the integrity of the infrastructure that carries us about our everyday business. Until now, most of us took as a matter of course that the powers-that-be we hired or elected to be in charge of such things were making sure that everything was hunky-dory. It's a shame that it takes a catastrophe to wake up to the realization that everything has a shelf-life, from bread to bridges, though it is no new lesson that, without the proper care, the life-span of just about anything on this planet is dramatically altered.

The Great River Bridge Project in Westfield, Mass., couldn't have begun in a more timely fashion. The second bridge joining the north and south sides of the city that is currently under construction will allow upon its completion the ability to refurbish the existing up-river span, which is approaching its 70th year. The upgrade is definitely a necessity for the tired old bridge. Walking across it during busy traffic times, one gets the sensation of experiencing an earthquake, the constant shaking and deck movement caused by the vehicles crossing over undoubtedly a factor that must take its toll on the truss-style structure. I admittedly got a little nervous as a pedestrian once, when I noticed a large hole in the sidewalk on the northwest side of the bridge that I could actually look through and see to the ground below. Yikes. The last time I took a walk that way, the hole was patched.

Here are a few photos of the Great River Bridge.

Rust never sleeps. In service for seven decades, the bridge has certainly earned a face lift and lighter load.

Traffic on the bridge taken from the southwestern side. These photos were snapped shortly after this past Spring's flooding.

It appears that folks may be living under the bridge, a haphazard camp site complete with shopping cart, bedding and fire-ring in evidence on the southern bank of the river. You can see the shopping cart near the bridge pylon on the right. One can only imagine how it got down there, with no paved roads leading to that particular area.

She ain't pretty, but she sure beats a ferry...

For more on the Great River Bridge Project, check out the earlier EWM posts: Crossing Into the Future: The Great River Bridge Project Progresses, and Westfield Steps Forward.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care!

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denimadept said...

Where did you find that maker's plaque? I went around the superstructure yesterday and didn't see one.

Mark T. Alamed said...


The plaque is on the west-side of the bridge, on an upright walking towards the north-side from the bridge's center.

Unfortunately, some knucklehead with a spray-paint can "tagged" the plaque after I took the photo in the post.

Maybe the plaque was removed for the refurb? I'll have to make it a point to check it out next time I cross the river.

Nice photos, by the way. Very cool.