The 52nd Anniversary of The Peace River Bridge Collapse - An Engineer's Aspect


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Friday, October 16, 2009

The 52nd Anniversary of The Peace River Bridge Collapse

October 16, 1957--Taylor, British Columbia, Canada: The Peace River Bridge Collapse.

The Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California, Thursday, October 17, 1957.

BEFORE COLLAPSE--This is the 2,200-foot Alaska Highway suspension bridge at Taylor, B.C., as it looked before it fell into the river, cutting off the highway.

INTO THE WATER--The twisted section of the Alaska Highway bridge rests in the Peace River after it pulled loose from its land anchor and collapsed. Crumbling foundation material was blamed for the span collapse.


Support of Giant Structure Crumbles; Loss Set at $4,000,000; 3,000 Watch as Section Falls

TAYLOR, B.C., Oct. 17--(AP)--Left without support when the shale crumbled beneath a 25,000-ton anchor block, the north span of the $4,000,000, 2,200-foot Alaska Highway suspension bridge crashed into the Peace River yesterday.

No one was injured and 3,000 persons watched as the 405-foot section buckled and dropped with a tremendous roar, seven hours after engineers had noted the northern anchor was sinking.

The collapse cut the main highway into Alaska but traffic--amounting to some 200 to 300 vehicles a day--was quickly rerouted to a small ferry 10 miles down stream.

The bridge is 600 miles north of Vancouver, B.C., and 40 miles northwest of Dawson Creek, B.C., starting point of the highway.

It was feared the center span of the bridge also would give way as its only support were two 100-foot cable towers. Engineers said the structure was sagging and might come down "pretty soon."

The breakup severed telegraph and telephone lines into the Yukon but new lines were being strung today.

The bridge, largest of 133 on the northern road, was built in 1942 by the United States Army when it constructed the then militarily vital Alaska Highway.

The structure has given trouble before. A 200-foot section washed out in 1942 and weakened piers had to be repaired in 1948.

The north anchorage is set in shale topped by shifting clay and some sand. A similar foundation has caused considerable trouble for the Pacific Great Eastern Railway line several miles up the river.