“I sincerely hope so,” Eisenbeisz said. “I sincerely hope that I’m around for the 100th-year dedication of this bridge in another 50 years.” A Dedication Long Overdue The dedication was two years overdue. Wheels were in motion for a 2020 dedication until the pandemic canceled all plans, travel and otherwise. The bridge’s merits were brought forth to the ASCE Alaska Section by Nottingham, who unfortunately didn’t live long enough to see the dedication come to fruition; Nottingham died March 6, 2022. “I’m happy to be here to bring this recognition on his behalf,” said David Gamez, PE, the event’s emcee and a past president of the ASCE Alaska Section. The ceremony was held beneath the bridge’s composite steel reinforced concrete superstructure, between the substructure’s piers on the east side of the bridge. While the traffic busied itself at its usual pace over - head, the O’Connell Bridge Dock gently creaked and swayed in the background, rolling with the ocean waves. It was a gorgeous day – 60s, sunny, a light breeze. The roughly two dozen folding chairs set up for the event didn’t come close to accommodating the attendance, which numbered around 50 people. Over the crowd’s right shoulder was Crescent Bay; to our left Castle Hill. It was fitting that the ceremony took place in the shadow of the Baranof Castle State Historic Site, the national historic landmark where Russian Alaska was formally handed over to the U.S. in 1867. Gamez was ticking off a number of the challenges the bridge design team faced in successfully completing this project – the high seismicity, climatic conditions, the technology at hand, and the bridge’s proximity to Castle Hill not the least among them. “In my opinion, it didn’t hurt Castle Hill,” Stedman said. “It’s just part of the community. The bridge blends in very well; the designers did an excellent job.” In the fall of 2021, the federal government ushered in a new era of infrastructure investment with the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastruc - ture Law, which represents the largest such commitment of dollars to rebuilding roads and bridges in the nation’s history. The windfall for Bridging the Gap: The Future of Bridge Construction A Complicated Matrix That Calls for Innovation By Dan Straub
The bridge is a bit of an enigma. Approach it from Japonski Island in the west, and the bridge presents itself as an imposing figure in front of its Sitka Harbor and Mount Verstovia backdrop. It’s one of the first things you see, a striking landmark welcoming you to Sitka. Approach it from Baranof Island in the east, and the bridge humbly defers to Castle Hill and Sitka’s rich history, content to rest in the shadows. The road slowly climbs and winds its way out of town, as the bridge thanks you for coming. It’s a hard phenomenon to explain, even for the locals. “A couple things come to mind when I think of this bridge: one of them is obvious, and one of them is not necessarily so obvious,” said Mayor Eisenbeisz, who spoke last with impromptu remarks. “The obvious one is that this bridge is in just about everybody’s pictures. It’s in one or more drawings that you’ve done in the past. This bridge really is a landmark to Sitka, and Sitkans really do gather around the image of this bridge. So, I want to thank the people who spent the time designing it and thinking of the aesthetics of this, as well, because it does blend in so well with our community. In fact, it’s a focal point on our new city seal, which was recently redesigned. So, that’s how important this bridge is to Sitkans, whether or not they think about it every day. “Which is my other less obvious point. I don’t know how many times a day you drive across this bridge, but you just really don’t think about it. It’s just there. It just happens to be there – you drive to the hospital, you drive to the airport, you drive to the harbor, whatever your business on the other side of the island, you just cross the bridge. No big deal.” An enigma. “I’m going to think about that a little bit more every time I drive across this bridge now,” he said, “what a convenience and what an asset it really is to Sitka.”
communities large and small comes at a time when a paradigm shift is occurring in the construction industry, and the shift promises to have ripple effects on the future of bridge construction. From Florida to California, urbanization and the growing societal emphasis on sustainable travel have led to an increase in train devel- opment. High-speed rails between cities and light rail systems within major cities are expanding networks at rapid rates. The transportation methods common in Europe and Asia are entering the North American market, bringing the need for new bridges and tunnels to connect trav- elers across varying terrains. Combine the passenger rail developments with highway bridge replacements and widenings across the United States, and the result is hundreds of miles of bridge structures to build each year.
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