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Creative Crossings: innovative trail bridge and overpass designs

Showcased at the 2004 National Trails Symposium in Austin, Texas.

Coordinated by Jim Wood

Recent years have seen the construction of some strikingly beautiful and innovative trail bridge and overpass designs. American Trails provided a showcase for some of these bridges here on our website as well as a photo gallery at the National Trails Symposium.

photo: A rustic bridge on the Palmetto Trail
A rustic bridge on the Palmetto Trail

Palmetto Trail: South Carolina

This multi-use bridge is located along the Palmetto Trail located in Oconee State Park, South Carolina. The 20-foot long bridge was installed less than a mile from the Palmetto Trail's northern trailhead in Oconee State Park. Ramped sides provide cyclists with a smooth transition on and off the structure. Bumper rails were built on site from treated pine posts. Locust trees were used to integrate the bridge into the surrounding environment.

The Palmetto Trail, when completed, will be a 425-mile "Mountain to Sea" trail traversing South Carolina, and is intended as a multi-use path for bicyclists and hikers.

For more information contact Deno Contos at Appalachian Landscape Management at (864) 232-8896.

photo: Florida's Land Bridge over I-75
Florida's Land Bridge over I-75

The Land Bridge over I-75 in Florida

America's First Land Bridge connects the east and west sides of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, 110 mile conservation and recreation corridor that stretches across the state through rivers, floodplains, lakes, wetlands, ridges, and uplands.

The 52-foot wide, 200-foot long structure follows a natural ridge to minimize environmental impact. U-beams modified especially for the Land Bridge support the weight of fieldstone walls and tons of topsoil for irrigated planters landscaped with native vegetation.

photo: a land bridge


Federal transportation enhancements funded the $3.4 million project. The Land Bridge provides trails users and wildlife safe passage across Interstate 75.

The Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway is a state recreation and conservation area occupying much of the land formerly known as the Cross Florida Barge Canal. It traverses a wide variety of natural habitats such as rivers, floodplains, lakes, wetlands, ridges and uplands. Within this diverse habitat are many species of flora and fauna, found only in Florida. The greenway offers a growing number of recreational and interpretive opportunities and is a critical component of Florida's Statewide Greenways and Trails System.

photo: Aerial view of the proposed Ohio bridge
Aerial view of the proposed Ohio bridge

Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail Pedestrian Overpass Bridges: Cleveland, Ohio

In 1998 Cleveland Metroparks constructed the first five miles of an urban pedestrian/bicycle trail that will link downtown Cleveland with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. All but two major roadway crossings were grade separated at the time of construction. Subsequently, funding was secured to construct two 600 foot-long overpass bridges. At the request of the local communities to provide an unobtrusive structure, a unique design utilizing cable-stayed technology to lighten the steel structure and supports was developed.

The project is currently in bidding for construction in 2005. Estimated Cost is $3,200,000 Funding: Cleveland Metroparks $1,950,000 Federal Transportation Enhancement Funds $1,000,000 Clean Ohio Trail Funds $250,000 Design Consultants: ARCADIS FPS in cooperation with HNTB.

For more information contact: Richard J. Kerber, P.E., Director of Planning, Design and Natural Resources, Cleveland Metroparks, 4101 Fulton Parkway, Cleveland, Ohio 44144 (216) 635-3245 or

photo: a bridge in cleveland photo: a bridge in cleveland

photo: Redding's Sundial Bridge was designed by Santiago Calatrava
Redding's new bridge was designed by Santiago Calatrava

Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay: Redding, California

Bold vision, strong action and commitment were required for Redding's second international bridge. Several years ago a partnership was developed to create a unique bridge to physically and metaphorically link the Redding, California community to its multi-use trail, arboretum, museum and public open spaces along the Sacramento River.

The partners, The McConnell Foundation, Turtle Bay Exploration Park and the City of Redding invited world renown engineer, architect and artist Santiago Calatrava to refine this vision and bring it to fruition.

photo: Pedestrians on the Sundial Bridge

The Sundial Bridge is anything but an understatement, either in its breathtaking appearance or price tag which left many gasping for air. It was opened on July 4, 2004 at a cost of $24 million. Fortunately, the bulk of the funding came from the McConnell Foundation, with the State of California contributing $8 million and the City contributing $4 million.

photo: The lighted deck of the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay
The lighted deck of the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay

It celebrates human creativity and ingenuity, as well as a commitment to protecting its river setting. The glass and granite span evokes a sense of weightlessness and the translucent, non-skid decking provides for spectacular viewing at night.

In addition to being a functional work of art, the Sundial Bridge is a technical marvel as well. The cable-stayed structure has an inclined, 217-foot pylon constructed of 580 tons of steel. The deck is made up of 200 tons of glass and granite and is supported by more than 4,300 feet of cable. The structure is stabilized by a steel truss, and rests on a foundation of more than 115 tons of steel and 1,900 cubic yards of concrete.

The Sundial Bridge was Calatrava's first free-standing bridge in the United States. During its construction Calatrava has gained additional notoriety for his work at the Athens Olympics and PATH project at the World Trade Center site in New York City.

For more information contact Terry Hanson, Manager of Community Projects, City of Redding, 777 Cypress Avenue, Redding, CA 96001 (530) 225-4009 or;

photo: The concrete stress ribbon bridge spans 420 feet over the Sacramento River
The concrete stress ribbon bridge spans 420 feet over the Sacramento River

Concrete Stress Ribbon: Redding, California

Redding, California's first pedestrian bridge with international credentials, was a concrete stress ribbon structure completed in 1990. The first of its kind in North America, this unique structure was first built in The Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Germany. Adding to the bridge's international flavor was the utilization of Dr. Uri Straski of Bruno, Czech Republic and Charles Redfield of San Francisco as the design team. Both men have designed creative structures in many countries.

The City of Redding was looking for a structure that would not detract from the area's natural beauty or impact the federally listed salmon in the Sacramento River.

photo: the Sundial Bridge under construction

What we received was a bridge of unique appearance that seemed to defy our understanding of engineering principles. Its ability to blend into the river corridor and completely avoid impacts to the river's flood plain, earned several national and state awards for engineering and environmental sensitivity, as well as the gratitude of our community. The Stress Ribbon is a 13-foot wide 420-foot-long structure capable of carrying significant loads, yet has a very narrow profile, being only 16 inches deep. The bridge is supported by hundreds of steel cables hidden in the concrete deck and connected to several rock anchors drilled deep into solid bedrock. The bridge's slender profile drapes across the river canyon and seems to disappear from a distance. The aesthetics and function of the bridge were not its only triumph in understatement. The $650,000 price tag was a bargain, even in 1990 dollars.

For more information contact Terry Hanson, Manager of Community Projects, City of Redding, 777 Cypress Avenue, Redding, CA 96001 (530) 225-4009 or;

photo: The thousand-foot Seminole Trail bridge
The thousand-foot Seminole Trail bridge

Cross Seminole Trail I-4 Overpass: Seminole County, Florida

This distinctive cable-supported structure serves as a visual gateway to Seminole County for the thousands of motorists using the I-4 corridor.  The overpass complements the high-tech architectural style of the adjacent Colonial Business Center at Heathrow.  The overpass's structural system is a hybrid of a suspension bridge such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and a cable-stayed structure such as the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa. The overpass structure is unique to Central Florida.  A pair of concrete towers rise 90 feet above the ground on each side of the interstate.  Steel cables anchored near the tops of the towers will provide support to the bridge deck below.  The overpass is 14 feet wide with an overall length of 1003 feet with the main span of 373 feet over the Interstate.

photo: The Washington Street bridge combines street improvement with improved pedestrian access.
The Washington Street bridge combines street improvement with improved pedestrian access.

Washington Plaza Bridge: Golden, Colorado

As the old 58-foot bridge was inadequate to pass the 100-year flood waters of Clear Creek under the bridge, it was replaced with a new 120-foot bridge. The design includes three bridges with common substructures. The center prestressed concrete bridge is used only for vehicles. Two adjacent bridges straddle the center section and allow for through passage of pedestrians and bicyclists and also contains a plaza for passive activities.

Funding: City of Golden; Cost: $3.5 Million. For more information contact: Dan Hartman, City of Golden, Colorado (303) 384-8151 .


photo: New structure from Moosman Bridge in the planned Red Hawk development near Reno.
New structure from Moosman Bridge in the planned Red Hawk development near Reno.



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