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College Avenue Bridge

College Avenue Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: April 10, 2010

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
College Avenue Over Railroad (Canadian Pacific)
Windsor: Essex County, Ontario: Canada
Structure Type
Concrete T-Beam, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1927 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
42.0 Feet (12.8 Meters)
Structure Length
100.0 Feet (30.5 Meters)
Roadway Width
48 Feet (14.63 Meters)
3 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge no longer exists!

This bridge's superstructure was demolished and replaced, with the replacement bridge reusing some portions of the substructure!

The College Avenue Bridge is a beautiful, handsomely decorated t-beam bridge. T-beam bridges were a common bridge type, particularly between 1915-1935 for a wide variety of total bridge lengths, and small to medium individual span lengths. Small, single span examples are far more common among surviving examples than larger, multi-span span  examples such as the College Avenue Bridge. As a result the College Avenue Bridge is historically and technologically noteworthy as a t-beam with both relatively large span length and large total length. The size of the beams is not uniform throughout the width of the bridge. For example, in the central span over the railroad tracks, the beams in the center of the deck are deeper than those toward the edge of the deck. However, the outermost beam is the deepest beam of all and it acts as a functional part of the superstructure, but also as a decorative facade beam. This beam has an arch design at the corners that connects it to the substructure (piers and abutments) and it also features additional architectural treatment in the form of inset rectangular panels. Sidewalk cantilevers are also mounted to these outer beams. Railings on the bridge are located on the sidewalks and they consist of a simple but attractive balustrade-like design that consists of a series of uniformly cast panels and posts. The concrete panels located between concrete posts contain vertically oriented, narrow oval-shaped cutouts that form a design reminiscent of a balustrade. The bridge is seated on solid concrete piers and concrete abutments. The substructure also features an inset panel design. The bridge is 67 Feet (20.4 meters) wide.

The College Avenue Bridge is one of only three known bridges with any heritage value in the City of Windsor including the Ambassador Bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge was not maintained over the years nor did it ever receive a comprehensive rehabilitation. Although originally a heavy, well-built bridge, the neglect has taken a devastating toll. The structure today exhibits severe structural deterioration. The sidewalk decks have failed completely in some areas, with holes in the deck visible. Cracking, efflorescence, and spalling is both widespread and severe throughout the superstructure. Some of the beams have lost nearly all the concrete on the bottom of the beam, exposing impressive, large bundles of rebar that provide tensile strength to the beams. As a bridge which shows no evidence of any major repair or rehabilitation, the bridge is unaltered from its original design, and as such its historic integrity is relatively good. However the deterioration has reduced some of the historic integrity of the bridge by destroying some of the fabric of the bridge, resulting in the loss or defacement of some of the architectural elements, notably some of the inset rectangles on the beams

The College Avenue Bridge is a beautiful heritage bridge that deserved so much more than the neglect and subsequent condemnation it has received. Preservation of the bridge at this point, with the deterioration so severe and widespread, would be extremely difficult, but if the city of Windsor were willing to undertake it, would benefit the most important heritage bridge entirely within Windsor city limits. Sadly, the bridge is an important example of why preservation of heritage bridges is something to consider sooner rather than later. The longer a bridge with minor or isolated deterioration goes without repair, the more serious and widespread the deterioration will become, and the more expensive and difficult preservation will be. Further, a more deteriorated bridge is more difficult to preserve in a way that maintains the historic integrity of the bridge, because a deteriorated bridge may require the destruction or replacement of large quantities of original bridge material.

Although it would not have heritage value, it might be possible to replicate some of the architectural features of the heritage bridge into a replacement bridge. However, if these details do not accurately replicate the original design this effort would not be worthwhile since inaccurate replications would not honor the heritage bridge in any manner. Currently, the city is considering construction of a temporary bridge to reopen the road until a permanent structure can be built.


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