Essay

Discover the 5 Most Devastating Bridge Collapses in Alabama

The state of Alabama is traversed by thousands of miles of rivers and streams. Bridges facilitate faster traffic flow by carrying vehicles and people over a large number of the state’s bodies of water. Regretfully, Alabama has had a number of tragic bridge failures, including one of the worst in American history.

1. Florence Bridge

The Florence Bridge was built in the 1800s. According to the Old Railroad Bridge Company, it was severely damaged by tornadoes in 1850 and 1854 but was later reconstructed and made accessible to steam-powered railroad trains, horse-drawn carriages, and pedestrians.

During the Civil War, the bridge was destroyed once more when Confederate forces set it on fire. The Florence Bridge collapsed in 1892, maybe its most famous instance. That May, a steam locomotive caused a span of the bridge to collapse. A few months after the collapse, the Florence Bridge was partially opened to traffic, but many people died and were injured.

2. Big Bayou Canot Rail Incident

Most people agree that the Big Bayou Canot rail incident is the worst in Amtrak history. The History Channel claims that in 1993, a towboat struck a rail bridge near Mobile, Alabama, that was seven to twelve feet above the water. The tracks were thrown three feet out of alignment by the impact.

A short while later, a portion of the bridge collapsed into the water below after Amtrak’s Sunset Limited train derailed and struck the railroad’s displaced span. The train derailed as a result of the event, sending the first four cars and three locomotives into the sea. The catastrophe claimed the lives of 47 persons in total, while numerous others were injured.

3. I–65 Bridge

On I-65 in 2002, a catastrophic bridge collapse was just barely prevented. According to the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame, the braided intersection of Interstates 65 and 20/59 is known as “Malfunction Junction” in Alabama. A loaded fuel tanker collided with a pier supporting the southbound lanes directly above on January 5.

The steel girders of the bridge sagged up to eight feet as a result of the collision and the ensuing fire. Nevertheless, it is astounding that the bridge did not truly fall. This occurrence demonstrated the highest calibre of engineering, as the bridge was reportedly constructed with skill. Furthermore, the new bridge was finished weeks ahead of schedule in just 36 days.

4. Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge

Numerous significant Civil Rights Movement historical occurrences, including the Birmingham Campaign and the Selma to Montgomery March, took place in Alabama. There are numerous historic landmarks in the state. Regretfully, in 2005, one of these was destroyed.

The Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge, also called the Pea Ridge Covered Bridge, is situated in Lee County, Alabama, and was initially constructed in 1900 for pedestrian traffic. The bridge was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage several decades later.

Despite its diminutive size, the bridge played a significant role in the state’s history. It was the last surviving example of a historic covered bridge in Alabama’s southeast as of 2005. Unfortunately, strong winds that year brought down a tree on the bridge. Subsequently, the bridge fell into Wacoochee Creek later that day.

5. County Road 98

Fortunately, the last and most recent bridge collapse on our list was more of a hassle than a fatality. According to ABC 7 Eyewitness News, a bridge collapsed into Chatahospee Creek in March of 2023 as a result of intense rain and flooding. This required the closure of a section of County Road 98.

There was a “impassable travel advisory” issued by the Chambers County Commission. All highways and bridges “should be considered impassable until further notice,” they said. Fortunately, the collapse of the bridge did not result in any fatalities or injuries; nonetheless, video footage of the bridge collapsing was recorded.

Myles Welch stopped to have a look at the disintegrating bridge while he and his father were travelling about. He managed to record the final section of the road collapsing into the creek as the pavement began to fracture.

Highlights of the Most Devastating Bridge Collapses in Alabama:

Bridge Location Collapse Year
Florence Bridge Sheffield 1892
Big Bayou Canot Rail Incident Mobile 1993
I-65 Bridge Birmingham 2002
Salem-Shotwell Covered Bridge Opelika 2005
County Road 98 LaFayette 2023