POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — A year ago, on the 52nd anniversary of the collapse of the Silver Bridge, the structure was recognized as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) with a ceremony and bronze plaque presentation at the site where the bridge once stood in downtown Point Pleasant, W.Va.
As previously reported, according to Robert Cagle III, PE, ASCE Region 4 director, who spoke at the dedication, at the time, the Silver Bridge joined only around 200 projects worldwide which had earned this “prominent designation” from the ASCE. It was only the third in West Virginia to earn the distinction, joining the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad & Shop Complex and the Wheeling Suspension Bridge.
“This elite group includes famous landmarks such as the Panama Canal, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hoover Dam and the Empire State Building,” Cagle said at the ceremony. “In this ongoing program, the ASCE History and Heritage Committee nominates historically significant civil engineering projects for recognition…. ASCE is proud to recognize the Silver Bridge as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Completed in 1928, the historic bridge was, as you know, given its name for its color. It served as a link between West Virginia and Ohio, carrying U.S. Route 35 over the Ohio River but it was its tragic collapse on Dec. 15, 1967 that marked its significance in the history of civil engineering. That devastating event emphasized the importance of inspection to public highway safety, ultimately leading to the creation of the National Bridge Inspection Standards (NBIS).
“As civil engineers we take great pride in designing and constructing structures and sites that become legacies of our communities. However, we also overcome adversity. While the history of the Silver Bridge is regrettable and saddening, it taught us important engineering lessons…it paved the way for ongoing improvement in our profession. Most importantly, it serves as a solemn reminder of the significant responsibilities civil engineers have to ensure the public’s safety.”
Also at last year’s ceremony were representatives from the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) and Ohio Department of Transportation, as well.
According to a news release from WVDOH, earlier this month, its staff remembered the lives of 46 people who were killed in the December 15, 1967, collapse of the Silver Bridge.
“The first time I was ever in Point Pleasant was on a family vacation,” said Tracy Brown, P.E., state bridge engineer for West Virginia. “My dad told me ‘this is where the Silver Bridge fell, and we lost people we loved.’ It made a huge impact on me that that could happen. At the West Virginia Division of Highways, every time we train new bridge inspectors, we talk about the Silver Bridge. It is the reason we do what we do. If you’re related to the bridge industry in some way in your career, it’s not just a career or a job. It’s a mission you’re on to keep this from ever happening again.”
According to the news release, throughout the year, in every type of weather and condition, West Virginia Division of Highways bridge inspectors are at work on 6,958 bridges across the state. Every bridge, from the smallest bridge crossing a creek to landmark structures such as the New River Gorge Bridge, is inspected on a schedule, and bridge safety inspectors evaluate each member to ensure the bridges continue to be able to carry their design loads.
“Our bridges are safe,” said Brown. “When we have to post a load rating on a bridge or close a bridge to traffic, we hate it as much as the public does, but we know that the heart of what we do is to keep people safe every time they cross one of our bridges. Our families cross these bridges too, and we know that even when it’s not our family, it’s someone’s family. We won’t let anyone’s family cross a bridge that we wouldn’t let our family cross.”
The National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark plaque was dedicated at Sixth and Main streets in Point Pleasant, in sight of a remembrance mural by artist Jesse Corlis that depicts the bridge. West Virginia Division of Highways crews placed a portion of the original bridge deck beneath the plaque.
“The Silver Bridge is always in the forefront of our minds and it’s our job to make sure no one ever has to go through what those families went through,” said Brown.
Some information for this article submitted by WVDOH.