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Refurbished bridge set to float back to its historic place

REPAIR and restoration work on Shanghai's century-old Waibaidu Bridge is nearly complete, and the iconic span will soon be shipped back and installed at its original site.

The headquarters for the project said yesterday it will exploit high tides at the end of this month to place the 900-ton, 100-meter-long superstructure on its supports across the Suzhou Creek.

"Putting the bridge back will be much more difficult than removing it from the site 10 months ago," Mao Anji, a director at the project headquarters, told Shanghai Daily.

The Waibaidu span ?? designed by Britain's Howarth Erskine Ltd ?? was China's first bridge to be built completely of steel when it was erected in 1907.

The renovated bridge will be shipped in two components on two consecutive days by barge. Project operators will adjust the position of the barge using water pressure and sandbags as they maneuver each of the spans onto its support pillars.

The exact timing will be set after further observation of tidal trends, Mao said.

When the transfer does begin, police will be out in force along the creek to handle the large crowds expected to witness the event.

The bridge superstructure will be carried from the Minsheng Road Dock in Pudong, where the repairs and restoration took place, near dawn on the appointed day. The barge will sail down the Huangpu River to the Suzhou Creek and wait for the tide to reach its highest point, engineers said.

The refurbished bridge will be placed on concrete piles that are both wider and laid more deeply than the original 800 wooden ones, the engineers said.

After it is back in place, the bridge will have a safe lifespan of at least 50 years.

About 63,000 steel rivets have been replaced, 40 percent of the total. Dozens of older craftsmen were recruited from two remote factories outside Shanghai to make rivets that looked like the originals and to hammer them into place. It is a skill that is dying out in China and overseas, engineers said.

The riveters will work at the creek site for several days to connect the two bridge sections. Other workers will follow up to pave the roadway and sidewalks and install the wiring and lighting systems. The bridge is expected to reopen to traffic in April.

It was removed last April. The developers of a major Bund traffic relocation project needed the span out of the way so they could complete preliminary work on a vehicle tunnel that will channel surface traffic out of the riverfront area. The removal was also a chance to replace rusted and aging structural parts of the bridge.


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