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Steel Bridges 1838-1940: The Stories They Could Tell

Parul Dubey on October 6, 2020 - in Bridges, News, Technology

CHICAGO – A new interactive timeline from the National Steel Bridge Alliance provides a new way to look at some of the more than 25,000 steel bridges that opened between 1838 and 1938 and are still in service in the U.S.

Bringing the awesome longevity of steel bridges to life, the timeline reveals that:

  • The word “dinosaur” is younger than the oldest steel bridge that’s still in service in the U.S.
  • More than 50 steel bridges that people still cross every day were open when Henry Bessemer developed his eponymous converter.
  • More than 170 American steel bridges that are still in use were open when Antonin Gaudi started the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona. More than 175,000 will be in service when construction ends in 2026.
  • More than 300 currently operating steel bridges were open to traffic when the first reinforced concrete bridge debuted.
  • More than 13,500 steel bridges that are still in use today were open during a bizarre “cod-napping” incident that involved Harvard students and the Massachusetts state government.

The timeline allows bridge enthusiasts to virtually stand on, under, or near some of the most striking bridges in the country–while also experiencing noteworthy moments in American and global history through the window of fascinating archival material, short explanatory movies, great performances, and even a 3D rendering of a game-changing engineering marvel.

“It’s astonishing just how much scientific innovation and cultural development took place in the century following the construction of the oldest American steel bridge that’s still in service today,” said NSBA Director of Market Development Brandon Chavel, PE, PhD. “The historical perspective really underscores the tremendous lifespan of steel bridges.”

“This was going to be a straightforward, standard white paper,” added NSBA Director of Market Development Jeff Carlson, PE. “We rapidly found that the story of America’s oldest active steel bridges is far too dynamic. We needed a way to tell this story that is as innovative and engaging as the bridges themselves.”

The NSBA Century of Steel Bridges timeline is available at aisc.org/nsba/timeline.

About the American Institute of Steel Construction

The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a non-partisan, not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, market development, and advocacy. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information.

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