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THE NEW POLCEVERA BRIDGE:


BY STEPHANIE AURORA LEWIS, NCARB, LEED AP


“It was the most important bridge,” says civil engineering historian Tullia Lori during the NOVA special Why Bridges Collapse that aired on PBS on October 16, 2019. “It was the biggest and most beautiful, [the] most famous bridge [in Italy], absolutely.”


Genoa, Italy has captured the world’s attention over the past two years as a result of this beloved bridge’s collapse. Te new bridge, designed by Renzo Piano, is composed of 19 pylons that are each 30-stories tall with a bridge deck that resembles a great ship’s keel. Soon after the collapse, in an unthinkably bold move, Italy set out to construct the bridge in less than 18 months. Not only will they meet their courageous construction deadline, they have also created a beacon of hope for the world during the spread of Covid-19. Since the iconic 1867 Brooklyn Bridge, steel wire


rope has been an integral component of numerous famous bridges. During the Brooklyn Bridge construction, Roebling discovered that cheaper steel wire rope was delivered to the site, with a metal mixture


The first deck section was lifted to height on October 1, 2019


that was not sufficient to carry the weight of the bridge. Roebling figured out the error in time enough to double the amount of wire rope and to ensure that the correct metal specifications were met prior to completion. One hundred years later, arguably Italy’s most famous modern bridge, the Polcevera, is constructed with an unnoticed construction error also related to the steel wire rope that caused its collapse 52 years later. Many cities, such as Genoa, Italy, are known by their


bridges. Perhaps bridges become iconic figures within the cityscape because they heroically defy gravity, are heavily traversed, and are a critical component of city planning. So, when the Polcevera Bridge collapsed on August 14, 2018, it felt like the heart of their city was torn out without warning. Now, in the wake of the tragic consequences suffered by the country during the Covid-19 outbreak, the Italian government celebrates as the new Polcevera bridge is nearly completed. At night, the bridge bears the lights of red, white, and green boldly as encouragement for those who have grieved and struggled.


HOW COULD SUCH AˆN IMPORTANT BRIDGE SUDDENLY COLLAPSE? It was a rainy day on August 14, 2018, when at precisely 11:36 am, the Polcevera bridge began to oscillate and quickly collapse with an 800-foot section of the bridge carrying 4 lanes of traffic. Davide Capello, a survivor describes during the NOVA special, the collapse as something like “an explosion” when 100 cars fell at once. In the wreckage, 27 cars were horribly mangled, 43 people died, and 15 were injured. Capello continues


Photo courtesy of Pergenova 28 MAY–JUNE 2020 WIRE ROPE EXCHANGE


A Big Lift for Italy


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