Plans change. I gamble when I choose to mull over a thought and allow it to percolate in my mind. Sometimes the delay results in a better article. Other times, ideas not acted upon decisively will be overtaken by events.
Loyal reader "Rhodent" and I were communicating by email about a potential offshoot of "NOT as the Crow Flies." The contest would have focused on the greatest time or distance differences between walking and driving to a common point, where walking would have provided a distinct advantage. Ariel Dybner posted a comment just as we were structuring the query.
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Ariel found a location in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the "one-way twisty Rich Mountain Road out of Cades Cove." The drive would last 1 hour and 23 minutes. The walk would take 21 seconds. Checkmate. Abundant kudos to Ariel, and well played, and for being prescient enough to claim victory before we ever began. Now it’s back to the drawing board for 12MC though.
I decided to keep the pedestrians and ditch the automobiles. Where are places that motorized vehicles cannot go? Trails, certainly, although I’m on a bridge fixation at the moment. I’ll focus on some impressive pedestrian-only bridges, also commonly known as footbridges.
IMPRESSIVE PEDESTRIAN BRIDGES
Notice that I didn’t use the title "longest" pedestrian bridges. Longest is surprisingly subjective and it abuts several definitional issues that I’m choosing to deflect. If one simply must put a fence around the topic then I guess Guinness World Records would be suitable: "On 3 October 2009, the 2.06-km (6,767-ft, or 1.28-mile) Poughkeepsie Bridge (also known as the Walkway Over the Hudson State National Park) in New York, USA, was re-opened to the public as the world’s longest pedestrian bridge. Hornibrook Bridge across Bramble Bay in Queensland, Australia, was longer but demolition started in the summer of 2010."
Let’s go there.
Walkway Over the Hudson; Poughkeepsie, New York, USA
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Guinness mentioned the salient points. I’ll fill in some of the details.
Walkway Over the Hudson began service as a railroad bridge spanning between Poughkeepsie and Lloyd in New York, crossing the Hudson River to connect with the larger rail network. Originally it carried a less romantic name, the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge. It opened to rail traffic in 1889, served as a major corridor for passengers and freight, and closed after a fire in 1974. I’m not sure how a steel and iron truss bridge catches fire. I’ll assume there were wooden elements — perhaps track ties that kept the rails at a proper gauge — and offer the civil engineering historians in the audience an opportunity to ponder likely scenarios. It caught fire. It closed.
The bridge stood as a decaying hulk, a metaphor trapped in a post-industrial world, until a group of citizens reinvented it as a pedestrian park. They formed the nonprofit Walkway Over the Hudson to secure public and private funding for an adequate restoration. The bridge reopened in 2009 as the linear Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, a dizzying 212 feet (65 m) above the Hudson River.
Walnut Street Bridge; Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
SOURCE: Flickr by fdtate via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
Check a search engine for the longest pedestrian bridges and the Walnut Street Bridge (map) will land near the top of the results. It spans 2,376 feet (724 m) with a deck 100 feet (30 m) above the Tennessee River. That’s quite impressive although it’s nowhere near the magnitude of the Walkway Over the Hudson.
A website with the creative name East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism describes the history:
The Walnut Street Bridge is Tennessee’s oldest non-military highway bridge still in use today, restored and revitalized as a pedestrian bridge and linear park. In only a generation, The Bridge has become the centerpiece, and a vital connector of Chattanooga’s riverfront renaissance… Since 1978, when it was closed to traffic for safety reasons after serving Chattanooga for 87 years, the Walnut Street Bridge sat disabled, deteriorating, dormant, and yet another reminder of the city’s decaying downtown. By the late 1980s, the city had taken steps to demolish the downtrodden bridge, but lacked the funding.
Geotourism. I might have to steal that term.
A private organization, The Parks Foundation stepped-in and saved the structure. The 1890 relic reopened as a pedestrian-only bridge in 1993. The deck was changed from asphalt to wood planking in 2010, and added to the charm. Where would we be without private nonprofit groups and foundations to rescue our historic landmarks?
Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge; Omaha, Nebraska – Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA
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Aficionados of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge remark that it’s the longest footbridge that spans between two states. One must find superlatives where one can find them, I suppose. Even so it spans 3,000 feet (914 m) across the Missouri River with a deck of 60 feet (18 m), and that’s mighty impressive.
There are two points that intrigue me. First, this is a modern bridge (opened 2008) designed specifically as a footbridge. It is only fifteen feet wide which is sufficient clearance for legs and bicycles. It will never carry motorized vehicles. In that sense it reminds me of the Sundial Bridge although it’s more than four times longer. Second, the builders constructed a marker on the state line so that visitors can show-off when they’re standing in two states at the same time.
There’s a third element and I have mixed feelings about it. The walkway was built with Federal dollars so it’s a shining example of an earmark, or should one prefer a more derogatory term, pork. They named it for the Senator who secured the funding. I’m not pointing a finger at him personally because all politicians regardless of affiliation do the same thing.(1) I’ll simply note that this bridge cost on the order of $20 million footed by taxpayers living primarily outside of Nebraska and Iowa. I’d contrast that with the DIY approach used by nonprofits and foundations mentioned previously. It’s a beautiful structure that probably adds to the ambiance of the waterfront, maybe leading to economic growth and new tax revenues, so maybe it all works out in the end? Maybe.
SkyTrail; Outlook, Saskatchewan, Canada
SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license
SkyTrail "Canada’s Longest Pedestrian Bridge" (map) represents another claim on the continuum of Internet glory. It began as a railway trestle, 3,000 feet (914 m) long and 150 feet (46 m) above the South Saskatchewan River. The first Canadian Pacific Railway trains rumbled over in 1912 and continued to use it until 1987. It was converted to pedestrian use in 2003 and forms a part of the Trans-Canada Trail.
I like the name of the town, Outlook. The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan explains, "the railway named the location Outlook for its spectacular vantage over the river valley." I need to walk that bridge someday.
Hornibrook Bridge (R.I.P.), Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
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I’m not even going to comment on the unusual name of the bridge. It reminds me of the old joke about the similarity between cheap beer and a canoe.
Once it was considered the longest pedestrian bridge in the world, longer even than the Walkway Over the Hudson. While it existed, it spanned 8,806 feet (1.67 miles, 2.684 kilometres) across Bramble Bay, a solid couple thousand feet longer than the current claimant. Hornibrook Bridge was razed recently so that’s all moot now. It had been a popular attraction for fitness and fishing from its 1979 closure to automotive traffic to its demolition. Alas, no more.
Pedestrians were offered a convenient alternative and it always lacked a certain dramatic visual impact anyway, so that may have lessened the blow. The Houghton Highway runs immediately to the east and a second bridge was added to the highway in 2010. It included a protected pedestrian lane separated from vehicular traffic by a concrete barrier.
Google Street View coverage features an interesting period during the timeline, January 2010 (view). Catch it while it lasts, it’s destined to be overwritten someday. Currently, as of the publication of this article, it shows Hornibrook prior to its demolition plus the new Houghton Highway lanes (the Ted Smout Memorial Bridge) under construction and nearly completed. It’s easy to see why Brisbane added the new bridge — Street View shows two-way traffic on a three lane bridge, without any lane barriers to separate traffic coming at opposite directions and only an overhead crossbar with green and red lights to prevent head-on collisions.
Smout is amazingly close to Smoot. It must be a bridge thing.
(1)Even 12MC’s possible secret admirer does that. Go back to the article that started it all if you’re unfamiliar with this long-running 12MC gag.
Roads. I’ve been thinking about roads a lot lately. I’m not sure how that morphed into a search for the road with the most lanes, but that’s where it ended this evening.
San Diego, California, USA
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Lots of other people have wondered the same thing, apparently. That allowed me to cherry-pick various lists and collections for many of the better examples. The king of the Interstates appeared to be a stretch of I-5 near San Diego, California, between I-805 and California Highway 56. I counted 21 lanes, including through lanes, local lanes, and exit lanes. I would be more impressed if all of the lanes traveling in a single direction weren’t separated by a barrier. Then it would be a massive 10 or 11 lanes across that one could slalom amongst unfettered.
I’ve driven through here before. I think that anyone who’s experienced this stretch or any of the others mentioned elsewhere below in person deserves a special badge of honor for courage or maybe foolishness — definitely some kind of badge.
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
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Atlanta’s "Downtown Connector," a concurrency of Interstates 75 and 85 has many fewer lanes, a mere 15. Why would I feature that? Because these are pure, contiguous lanes without separation into feeder lanes, exit lanes, or local lanes. It’s one big mass of roadway in either direction without obstruction. I’ll note, since someone is bound to mention it, that the inside lanes are painted with white diamonds. Those are High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes, in this case HOV-2, restricting automobile traffic to those with two or more occupants to encourage carpooling. Nonetheless, no physical barrier separates the HOV lanes from the regular lanes. Presumably if a driver had a passenger or if someone was riding a motorcycle, or if someone simply wanted to take his or her chances with the law, every single lane would be accessible.
The Federal Highway Administration considers this Atlanta location to have the most lanes available in the United States. They don’t count extraneous factors that lead to larger numbers like the San Diego example. I guess it depends on one’s tolerance. Is it acceptable to count all of the lanes if they’re separated into distinct traffic streams, or must they all be accessible to every vehicle going in a common direction?
I’ve driven this one, too. Another badge? I need to collect them all up-front because I’ve not driven the others.
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
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Some may say Mississauga, I’ll say Greater Toronto Area, specifically within the vicinity of Toronto Pearson International Airport. This beastly little stretch of Highway 401, the MacDonald-Cartier Freeway just south of the airport, seems to have 20-ish lanes depending on how one counts them.
SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
A few miles further east on 401 with only 17 lanes, but you get the point.
This area includes a variety of different lane types. I can see express lanes in the middle, another set of lanes that are handling traffic arriving from or destined to other highways, and a couple of exit lanes.
Greater Manchester, England
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It’s not only the North Americans that can dream up these nightmarish occurrences. The United Kingdom seems proficient too. Manchester was mentioned frequently by people online so I took a closer look on Google Maps. I’m not sure I found the absolute best example there although I found a reasonably good one, with 17-ish lanes on the Manchester Ring Motorway. I’m not really happy with this example because of the obvious gaps between traffic streams (does the width of the separations matter?). Maybe someone can find a better one.
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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There’s something for everybody on 12MC today. Australia gets in on the action with Sydney’s Warringah Freeway. I counted 18 or 19 lanes. It’s hard to tell. This freeway also includes lanes marked with red pavement, at least a couple of which were reserved for buses, which was a twist I hadn’t noticed on the other examples.
São Paulo, Brazil
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Finally, I turned my attention to South America. The best example I could find was in São Paulo, Brazil on the Vinte e Três de Maio (May 23rd Highway). The date refers to the beginning of the Paulista War (aka the Constitutionalist Revolution), an uprising sparked by the shooting of five student protestors on May 23, 1932. This marked São Paulo standing up for itself. It is memorialized today on various roads and civic structures including this one.
I’ve been thinking about towns submerged by reservoirs. I don’t know why that suddenly came to mind or why it fascinated me without prompting. It’s one of those things.
This is also a topic that interests many other people apparently. They’ve written all sorts of definitive lists of underwater ghost towns. I won’t replicate those definitive works. One can review them later if interested. It’s a surprisingly common phenomenon. People need water. Towns are flooded. I’ll simply provide a few examples spread across the globe that I’ve explored via satellite.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first, an instance of scale so incredibly audacious that it cannot escape unmentioned.
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It’s difficult to even conceive of a situation where nearly 1.25 million people had to relocate. That happened in the years leading up to 2008 because of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtzee River in China. To put that in perspective, that’s like compelling everyone in Rhode Island or everyone within the city limits of Birmingham, England, or everyone in Adelaide, Australia to pack up and move to a new home.
SOURCE: Valley_Guy on Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
I’ve been impressed by Old Adaminaby in New South Wales, Australia which was submerged below the waters of Lake Eucumbene in 1957. The town moved nearby to higher ground before the waters inundated lower-lying areas (map). The only remnants left behind were a few ruins that rise above the waters periodically during protracted droughts.
The Internet believes that the most significant example in the United States involved four towns in Massachusetts submerged by the Quabbin Reservoir (map). I base that solely on the fact that this seemed to be the most common result whenever I consulted the major search engines. Four towns that had been around since the late Eighteen or early Nineteenth Century (Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott) were all flooded behind the Winsor Dam and Goodnough Dike by 1939.
Bluffton, Texas rises again
merindab on Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
I’m more partial to Bluffton, Texas, though. Like the example from Australia, the original Bluffton townsite rose from the dead during a recent drought. Ordinarily it rested beneath the placid waters of Lake Buchanan, a reservoir along the Colorado River of Texas, where its been submerged since the late 1930′s (map).
I guess I’m a sucker for those towns that are drowned, only to claw their way back into the visible world in zombie-like fashion when waters recede. I could probably write an entire article based entirely on submerged towns that have reappeared because of recent droughts. There are several others in the United States that I found with minimal searching: Monument City, Indiana (included news video); Corydon, Pennsylvania; and Los Arboles, New Mexico all rose from their watery graves, along with townsites in many other parts of the world.
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Let’s feature an example from Russia because loyal reader "January First-of-May" hails from there and has had to endure so may articles on 12MC focused on just about every location other than Russia. Here you go, January First-of-May. This one’s for you.
Mologa in the Yaroslavl Oblast was flooded in the 1940′s as a result of the creation of the Rybinsk Reservoir at the confluence of Mologa and Volga Rivers. Allegedly 130,000 people lived in Mologa and had to be relocated, while about three hundred residents refused to leave and drowned. Joseph Stalin didn’t mess around.
Oddly enough, Google Maps actually labeled the ghost town. Even thought its underwater. Even though it hasn’t existed since the 1940′s.
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I haven’t forgotten about the United Kingdom either. There are plenty of examples in the UK, too. How about Ladybower Reservoir in Derbyshire? The little English villages of Ashopton, Derwent Woodlands Church and Derwent Hall all found themselves on the wrong side of the dam and succumbed to the waves in 1944. In Wales, Capel Celyn disappeared too, thanks to the Llyn Celyn Reservoir (map).
The list goes on and on.