HistoricBridges.org places this bridge on the website to provide an example of a brand new truss bridge. In fact, this bridge was still being completed when visited in spring of 2005. It is interesting to take a look at a new truss bridge and see if it looks nice and how it compares to a historic truss bridge.
HistoricBridges.org is supportive of the construction of modern truss bridges as an aesthetic alternative to normal ugly modern bridges, but only in cases when a historic bridge is not demolished as part of the project.
What do historic truss bridges usually have that this one does not? First off, the clean and orderly appearance of a rivet than than the clunky and uneven appearance of a bolt are present on historic bridges. Old bridges were riveted and new bridges are bolted or have cheap looking welds. Another, even more important thing that is lacking on modern bridges is built-up beams, often including attractive v-lacing and lattice. V-lacing and lattice add to the intricacy of a truss bridge and also add an ornate appearance to the bridge. They keep the bridge from looking plain. V-lacing turns a steel i-beam into a decoration. Back when v-lacing was used, the decision was more of an economical one than a aesthetic one, but in today's world of plain concrete slabs, v-lacing is a thing of beauty. Historic bridges were often one-lane or narrow two-lane bridges, which gave them a tall appearance. Modern historic bridges when built will be two-lane and so they have a shorter appearance, resulting in a less dramatic bridge appearance.
A modern truss bridge is a million times better than building a concrete slab. Even a modern truss bridge is aesthetic, and creates a good climax as you pass over the river or canal in this case. However, HistoricBridges.org has been forced to condemn bridges such as this because they are often flaunted by state DOTs and other agency's as replicas of historic bridges (which they are not even remotely close to being), and tout them as acceptable substitutes to well-planned historic bridge preservation projects. This attitude is insulting to the numerous successful preservation historic bridge preservation projects that preservationists, engineers, historians, and craftsmen have worked hard to complete. Further, it diminishes the awareness of the general public to the importance of preserving existing historic bridges.
This bridge did indeed replace a historic truss bridge. Original lattice railings were salvaged and incorporated into this new bridge. The old Prospect Street Bridge had been closed to traffic due to deterioration a few years before the replacement was built. The current bridge sits on a slightly different alignment than the original bridge.
The Erie Canal is one of the most famous and historically significant canals in the United States. Aside from the widely recognized historical significance of the canal as a transportation facility itself, a lesser known fact is that the canal is historically significant for the bridges that have spanned the canal over the years. It was here on the Erie Canal where Squire Whipple found a place to successfully get his "Whipple Arch" bowstring truss bridges constructed in significant quantities in the mid-1800s. The success of his Whipple Arch bridges helped contribute to the nationwide transition from wooden bridges to metal bridges. The period of time from 1905-1918 where the Erie Canal was upgraded and widened to become part of the larger New York State Barge Canal was a time of change for the bridges of the canal. Between the process of widening and upgrading the canal, and the nationwide trend to build more substantial bridges in the early 20th Century, the previous generation of bridges (many undoubtedly those Whipple Arch bridges) were replaced by a series of new bridges. These bridges have proved to be very durable and thanks to a clear commitment to preservation on the part of New York State Department of Transportation and other agencies, the Erie Canal and the New York State Barge Canal system, particularly the western section from Lockport to Spencerport boasts one of the highest densities of historic bridges of any waterway in the country. The vast majority of bridges on this section are maintained in beautiful condition.
Although the new bridges from the early 20th Century took a variety of forms, two forms were by far the most common. In rural or spacious areas, a fixed double-intersection Warren through truss was used, with a dirt approach providing the modest elevation needed for a fixed bridge over the canal. Double-intersection Warren truss bridges are generally considered an uncommon truss type on a nationwide basis. In urban and less spacious areas, a vertical lift bridge was used. The vertical lift bridges are an unusual design. Instead of towers that rise above the bridge in a traditional vertical lift bridge and pull the truss span up using cables, these bridges have vertical endposts which extend below the deck and into the ground. When operated, these extended endposts (called the lifting frame) rise out of the ground. In an engineering sense, these unusual vertical lift bridges might be thought of as bedstead truss bridges. Another unique feature of these lift bridges are the stairways found at each end of the bridge on the sidewalks. These stairways allow pedestrians to continue to cross the bridge when the structure is in the raised position. These vertical lift bridges continue to operate for boats today, so observing these unique bridges remains possible.
Elsewhere, the New York State Barge Canal System boasts other types of historically significant bridges.
View National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the New York State Barge Canal (Alternate ZIP Version In Sections) - Note this impressive document contains modern color photos of the bridges, some from unique angles, historical photos showing bridge construction, and original plan sheets for some bridges too.
View a HistoricBridges.org photo gallery of the historical photos, modern photos, and original plans contained in the National Register Nomination. This photo gallery can also be found in the Fairport Bridge's page.
View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Index - Has a list of structures including bridges that were individually documented for HAER.
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