Historic Bridge Safety Issues
Is there a way to maintain both a historic bridge and also maintain the safety of the public that uses the bridge? I believe there almost always is. In fact, historic bridges may be a great way to actually increase the safety of out roads. This article explores the possibilities.
One Lane Bridges
People may be concerned with the problems associated with a one lane bridge, most likely collisions of some sort. I believe the best way to solve this problem is to place some sort of traffic control at both ends of the bridge. On rural bridges, a simple stop sign at both ends would be a good idea. This would make people stop the car and actually look to see if anyone is already coming across. Placing stop signs on both sides of a historic bridge would also increase the overall safety of the road by helping to slow traffic down. One-lane bridges that are particularly long or busy can be fitted with a stoplight that will give traffic turns to go, much like a flagman on a highway construction project.
Building a second bridge next to a narrow historic bridge to form a two-lane bridge couplet is a great way to widen roads and retain the historic bridge for traffic use. I am sure that road engineers might at first frown on the idea, saying that the danger of cars crashing into the couplet makes it a bad idea. I disagree with such an argument. There are many places on expressways, particularly off ramps and also on places where a two lane road widens into a divided highway where there is a danger of some idiot not following the curve and crashing. That is what new jersey barriers are useful for. Put barriers up and place those water barrels in front to absorb the possible crash of a car.
Similar to the above issue, highway engineers may also be concerned with the sudden curves and blind spots that often occur with the way a historic bridge crosses a river. Back in the old days, the shortest way across a river was chosen, even if it meant curving the road a bit. These days engineers like to eliminate those curves to supposedly make our roads safer. But are we really doing that? I think that leaving curves on a road might not be such a bad idea. Don't curves slow people down? Slower traffic is safer traffic, and so leaving curves in place actually should increase safety on out roads. Someone who argues that cars are more likely to be in an accident on a curve should consider the following. Straight roads are just as dangerous. Long, straight roads tend to take less thought on the part of the driver to navigate. This means that the drivers mind may be more likely to stray from the road, which is a generally bad thing. Perhaps their mind may stray so much that they end up driving across a busy intersection without stopping in time. Besides, I would rather see a driver learn his or her lesson by running their car off the road on a curve than by getting broadsided and possibly killed when that go across an intersection.
Heavy Vehicle Access and Emergency Vehicle Access
Consider the fact that the restoration of a truss bridge, one of the most historic and also generally the weakest of historic bridges can be restored to support 20 tons. This is sufficient to allow school buses and ambulances over the bridge. 20 tons may not be enough to allow industrial traffic like gravel trucks and semi across, but this should not be much of a problem, since most historic bridges are not on state trunk lines or truck routes. Most historic bridges are located on rural or quiet roads, where such traffic, for the most part, has no business being. Many people who live on a residential road with a historic bridge may be happy with the idea that any noisy heavy-weight truck that tries to take a shortcut may be unable to make it all the way down the road!