US-25 is often associated with the historic Dixie Highway, however in this area, the Dixie Highway follows US-25W to the west of this bridge. This bridge carries US-25E which is a different roadway.
The J. M. Walters Bridge is an extremely unusual design of cantilever truss bridge. The overall design is traditional, a relatively small cantilever truss composed of a suspended span connected to anchor arms by cantilever arms on each side of the suspended span. The arms form towers over two piers on either side of the suspended span. However despite this traditional overall design, the bridge has a bizarre appearance. This is largely due to the relatively lightweight and simplistic design of the cantilever. Most cantilevers, especially the larger ones, have a complex truss system with top (and sometimes bottom) chords that change angles at nearly every panel, often giving the bridge the appearance of having curves. The J. M. Walters Bridge however lacks this complex series of angles, giving the bridge a more more "clunky" appearance that most cantilever truss bridges. Instead, the simple design of the cantilever has anchor arms that essentially have the appearance of a Pratt through truss resting on a pier at one end and connected to the cantilever tower at the other end by a couple straight beams. However a close look at this Pratt-truss-like portion of the anchor arm reveals that the diagonals do not follow a true Pratt truss since this "span" is not symmetrical around its center. The cantilever arms connect to the suspended span in an equally simple manner, essentially a couple straight beams. The suspended span itself is perhaps the most complex part of the truss, being a Pennsylvania through truss.
This unique cantilever truss is supplemented by a very long series of concrete approach spans. Both the approach spans and the main truss appear to retain excellent historic integrity including original lattice railings on the cantilever truss and original balustrade railings on the approach spans. This bridge is historically significant as an extremely unusual design of cantilever truss, perhaps one of the only examples of a cantilever that was designed to be so simple. Technologically, it is significant for being a creative design for a cantilever truss. It is possible that the simple design was an attempt to reduce the cost of the bridge.
The river this bridge crosses also acts as a reservoir for a dam in this area. As a result, the level of the water can vary drastically with changes in climate. During a drought period, the water level is so low that most of the approach spans cross over dry land, while during wet periods the water level is high enough that nearly all the approach spans span water and the water submerges the majority of the piers at the center of the bridge. Thanks to several visits to the bridge by photographer Dave Michaels, HistoricBridges.org features photos of the bridge during these different conditions. The photos of the bridge during the drought conditions are particularly valuable because the low water level reveals the complex design of the approach span piers, most of which is hidden from view when the water level is higher.
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