Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Bridge On The River Fox

One of the all-time classic World War II movies is The Bridge On The River Kwai, a fictionalized account of British prisoners of war being forced to build a railroad bridge in the jungles of Burma.  Usually, such prisoners would do poor work or sabotage their projects to frustrate the Japanese--but in this case the ranking British officer--Lt Colonel Nicholson (played brilliantly by Alec Guinness) becomes obsessed with the idea of proving his intellectual and technological superiority over his Japanese captors that he demands his men build a "right, proper bridge".  He even attempts to derail an Allied effort to destroy the bridge--and a train passing over it carrying Japanese dignitaries and soldiers--in order to preserve his "monument to British superiority."

Little did we know that Oshkosh has its own version of Lt Colonel Nicholson in City Councillor Steve Herman.  Herman doesn't like the look of the new lift bridge the Canadian National Railroad built at the mouth of the Fox River.  Councillor Herman thinks the bridge looks "too rusty" and he wants it painted--so that it looks "right, proper" if you will--and so that it matches the rest of the riverfront "motif" that the City is trying to create.

An alert listener has brought to my attention a couple of things that Councillor Herman should have considered before going so public with his criticism of the bridge and his demand to have it painted.  First, designs for the rail bridge were available as early as February of 2012--and the renderings appear to capture the color of the eventual structure very accurately:

If Mr Herman had a problem with the color of the bridge, it would have been better to raise those concerns more than a year ago--as opposed to after 23-million dollars have been spent to put it in place.

Secondly, the new bridge is made out of COR-TEN Steel--otherwise known as "weathering steel"--and the "rusty" appearance is by design.  The alloy used in the beams develops a light layer of corrosion on the outside--which actually helps prevent further corrosion on the inside of the metal for decades.  It was developed for the sole purpose of NOT having to paint the steel over and over again to protect it from rust.  Furthermore, attempts to paint weathering steel have shown to actually INCREASE corrosion in the metal--as the protective patina never has a chance to develop. So if Lt Colonel Nicholson...I mean City Councilmember Herman wants to paint the bridge, he will actually be sabotaging its future stability and safety. 

Besides, it's just a bridge.  It's a piece of infrastructure designed to get a train from one side of the Fox River to the other safely and efficiently.  It's not a piece of modern art, nor is it a monument to the "vision" some people have for the Oshkosh Riverfront. 

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