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Watmaugh Road Bridge

Hopke Bridge

Watmaugh Road Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: April 8, 2013

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Watmaugh Road Over Sonoma Creek
Rural: Sonoma County, California: United States
Structure Type
Metal 12 Panel Rivet-Connected Polygonal Warren Through Truss, Fixed and Approach Spans: Concrete T-Beam, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1929 By Builder/Contractor: W. L. Proctor of Santa Rosa, California and Engineer/Design: E. A. Peugh of Santa Rosa, California

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
103 Feet (31.39 Meters)
Structure Length
170 Feet (51.82 Meters)
Roadway Width
22.3 Feet (6.8 Meters)
1 Main Span(s) and 2 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

This Bridge's Future Is At Risk!

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

This historic bridge is slated for demolition and replacement despite widespread support for preservation by local residents!

View Historical Reviews And Documentation Discussing The Bridge's History and Significance

View Documents Relating To The Development of the Bridge Replacement Project

This bridge is an attractive example of a polygonal Warren pony truss with a few unusual details. Most notable, the shape of the truss is unusual. This is because the end post of the bridge is extremely short in comparison to the overall truss. Even though the truss is fairly deep (tall) for a pony truss, the end post barely rises above the railing! Original lattice railings have been replaced from the truss, but original concrete fence railings remain on the concrete t-beam approach spans. Otherwise, the bridge appears to be largely unaltered, and thus the historic integrity is good.

The bridge had a plaque on it dated November 18, 1981, stating that it won an "Award of Merit" presented by the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation to the Committee to Save Watmaugh Bridge "For their efforts in preserving this historic structure." It is clear that at one time, everyone apparently recognized the historic significance of this bridge and the importance of preserving it.

Moving forward to the 21st Century, Sonoma County then proposed a project to demolish and replace this bridge. This caused quite an uproar among many local residents who recognized the beauty and history of the bridge. Numerous news articles were published that covered the substantial local effort to save the bridge from demolition and replacement. Sadly, these calls for preservation fell on deaf ears that were bent on a project to demolish and replace this bridge. Despite the substantial amount of official project development documentation that was produced by the county, much of which HistoricBridges.org has made available for download above, it still remains unclear why demolition and replacement was needed. The bridge has the appearance of the structure that could easily be rehabilitated for less than the cost of replacement. HistoricBridges.org was unable to find any deterioration that would make rehabilitation anything but easy and cost-effective. Perhaps engineers and government officials in warm, sunny, Sonoma County do not realize what goes on in other states. In the Midwest and Northeast, historic truss bridges like this are subjected to large amounts of severely corrosive deicing chemicals during the icy winters. Many historic truss bridges in these regions have severe section loss, particularly on the bottom chord. The Watmaugh Road Bridge displays very little of this type of deterioration. The point is that bridges far more deteriorated than the Watmaugh Road Bridge have been rehabilitated in a cost-effective manner. Furthermore, the technology exists to make a bridge like the Watmaugh Road Bridge seismically safe as well. Even if it meant replacing the substructure and the approach spans, the most significant portion of the bridge, the truss superstructure, could easily have been rehabilitated and placed on new bearings and substructure that would be more resistant against seismic activity.

Based on the documentation, the county appears to have made a big deal about the fact that someone decided that the bridge was not eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. A National Register of Historic Places designation does make a statement that a bridge has a particular type of historic significance, and it does have implications for any project that includes federal involvement, however a bridge does not have to be eligible or listed on the National Register of Historic Places to have historic value and be worth preserving. Regardless of the National Register the facts are clear. The bridge displayed construction techniques no longer used on modern bridges (truss design, rivets, built-up beams, etc), it had far more beauty than modern bridges, and it also had an unusual configuration of the top chord and end post (specifically, the end post being very short in relationship to the rest of the bridge). This is a bridge that could have and should have been preserved, especially given the community support the bridge had.


Photos and Videos: Watmaugh Road Bridge

Available Photo Galleries and Videos

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Bridge Photo-Documentation
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CarCam: Eastbound Crossing
Full Motion Video
Note: The downloadable high quality version of this video (available on the video page) is well worth the download since it offers excellent 1080 HD detail and is vastly more impressive than the compressed streaming video. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
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CarCam: Westbound Crossing
Full Motion Video
Note: The downloadable high quality version of this video (available on the video page) is well worth the download since it offers excellent 1080 HD detail and is vastly more impressive than the compressed streaming video. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.

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