Monday, July 20, 2009

How Do Those Things Get Built?

When I worked as a bridge engineer, I enjoyed figuring out how to lay out steel and concrete in order to carry a roadway and the vehicles that use it. But frankly, most of the projects I worked on were pretty boring: straight-line highway overpasses, culverts, and lots of inspection work (all in the winter, of course). But maybe if I had gotten the chance to work on the Hoover Dam Bypass, I'd still be in the bridge business. This is the type of project that inspires engineers - figuring out how to build the seemingly impossible. Not only is the bridge design itself an amazing achievement, but its construction is a huge undertaking, requiring its own form of engineering.

Check out the project history and its photos. It's a fascinating read, even if you're not a geeky engineer like me.

The main arches are being built from two opposite cliffs, meeting in the middle. Arch segments are held in place with cables strung from incredibly tall towers. Imagine donning a hard hat each morning to work on these enormous objects - not for anyone with a fear of heights.

This photo shows the scale of this project: the humongous Hoover Dam in the center, with the under-construction bridge to the left:

Here's another view, showing the near-completed arches. Looks like string art.

When the bridge is finished, the cables and towers will be taken down, and we'll be left with this (artist's conception), which almost makes it look easy to build:

I hope to get out West someday to see it...

Try this: Find Hoover Dam in Google Earth, and find the bridge tower supports. Then try the new "historical imagery" feature, to can go back in time and see that these supports are recent. Very cool.

Anyone can design anything in 3D!

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ViolaMaths said...

Wow, these are stunning pictures and great ideas & comments to go with them. I'm going to enjoy your blog. Thanks for finding me on Twitter!

Bonnie Roskes said...

Thanks, I liked your twitter bio. I'm a musician too (violin).