This bridge is extremely significant because it is an example of Wayne County's rare cantilevered concrete arch bridges. These unusual bridges defy attempts at classification, and have also been described as curved t-beam bridges instead of arch bridges, because the arch is actually formed of individual beams rather than a solid arch structure as is normally the case with closed spandrel arch bridges. Wayne County built a number of these bridges across the county, and several examples remain today. A cantilevered concrete arch does not function like a traditional arch. Traditional arch bridges require the arch to be a complete and connected arch to function. This arch bridge does not function in that way. Each half of each arch spans is a cantilever arm that is structurally independent from the other half of the arch in that span. These cantilever arms support a suspended span which is essentially a reinforced concrete slab in the center of the bridge. Looking closely at this bridge, two seams are visible on the side of the arch, marking where the cantilever arms end and the suspended span begins.
Information and Findings From Michigan Historic Bridge Inventory
A small canal runs between the mainland and Swan Island, which is located a the base of the Trenton Canal, near where the Detroit River flows into Lake Erie. Gibraltar Road is carried to Swan Island by a 50-foot concrete cantilevered T-beam bridge. The suspended center section is nine feet long. Two 5.5 foot sidewalks flank the 38-foot roadway. The concrete balustrade railing has urn-shaped spindles. The bottom of the span's ten T-beams are curved to suggest an arched structure, making the bridge an attractive focal point for the surrounding village. A marina is to the north.
When the county paved Gibralter Road in the early 1930s, it erected several new bridges along the route, including a reinforced-concrete cantilevered-arch span over a local canal. The 1931-1932 annual report of the Wayne County Road Commissioners noted that "this low sweeping arch bridge is in keeping with its surroundings and is one of the features which make Gibralter Road so attractive." Plans for the bridge (#403), prepared under the supervision of chief designer F. H. Chapin, are retained by the Wayne County Department of Public Works. This bridge is an excellent example of the attractive and creative designs developed by the Wayne County Road Commission.
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