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Ambassador Bridge owner proposes temporary floating bridge for emergencies
Posted 7/28/2010 9:40 PM EDT on crainsdetroit.com
Love or loathe him, you have to give Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun credit: He and his lieutenants certainly are creative.
The latest burst of ingenuity is a proposal unveiled Wednesday to create a temporary floating bridge system that could be deployed across the Detroit River in any emergency that shuts down the Ambassador Bridge.
Officials from Moroun's Detroit International Bridge Co. compared it to the temporary bridges used by the U.S. military to span rivers in war zones -- think of Elliott Gould's paratrooper character demanding a British Bailey bridge to replace a Dutch span blown to bits by the Nazis during the movie "A Bridge Too Far." Something like that.
The scheme also neatly deflates (at least in the minds of its backers) one of the primary justifications for the $5.3 billion competing public bridge proposed for about 2 miles away from the Ambassador Bridge: Redundancy in case of disaster or terrorist attack.
Now, the threat of terror attack -- ostensibly by al Qaeda frogmen planting underwater demolition charges, or some such thing, because the post-9/11 border security apparatus should *certainly* be able to sniff out a massive truckload of explosives, right? -- has always seemed a bit of a stretch as a justification because one would assume terrorists would know enough to take out both bridges. They managed to topple both World Trade Center towers and level a chunk of the Pentagon using amateur pilots aiming for much larger targets than bridges. Any combat pilot can tell you the immense difficulty of taking out bridges despite the best technology and experience.
Moroun's plan to build a new permanent span immediately adjacent to the 81-year-old bridge he bought in 1979 has been dismissed by critics as not effectively redundant because both spans could be taken out at once by accidents or maniacal madmen.
Natural disaster, on the other hand, is a more serious consideration. Heavy black smoke from an industrial fire in Windsor not too long ago shut down the Ambassador Bridge for several hours. That was heaven-sent for those who oppose Moroun's second span proposal and instead favor the public bridge idea.
But now the Ambassador Bridge company says its temporary bridge could be erected quickly, in days, anywhere in the country where disaster strikes and halts bridge traffic. The span would be stored in pieces on land when not in use.
On the other hand, the proposed public bridge wouldn't have been shut down by the fire/smoke because it was upwind. Hence, no need of a pontoon bridge.
The idea for the Bridge-on-Demand system was made by DIBC President Dan Stamper on Wednesday at the Northern Border Security Conference hosted by something called the Michigan Security Network at the Hyatt Regency Dearborn.
The bridge company, in a statement Wednesday evening, said it is contracting Livonia-based bridge engineers American Consulting Professionals Inc. to design the temporary bridge.
The Ambassador Bridge span is 1,850 feet long. The longest military pontoon bridge ever constructed (if the Wikipedia is to be believed) was 2,034 feet by the U.S. Army across the Sava River between Bosnia and Croatia in 2005 (link).
U.S. military floating bridges are designed to handle the M1A2 Abrams tank, which weigh in at 135,200 lbs each -- far more than any full tractor-trailer.
Here are some links to information about temporary bridges, both floating and elevated:
~ Pontoon/floating bridge history here.
~ Bailey bridge history here.
~ Bailey Bridge corporate site here.
~ Federal Highway Administration site on temporary bridges here.
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