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Landmark city bridge sails off for a facelift
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A barge carries a half of the body of Waibaidu Bridge yesterday, heading to the Shanghai Shipyard for a major renovation of the city's century-old landmark bridge. The second half of the span over Suzhou Creek will be moved today or tomorrow.

Half of Shanghai's century-old Waibaidu Bridge was moved out of position atop a barge yesterday morning, as hundreds of people gathered to watch.

The second half of the span over Suzhou Creek is to be moved out in the same manner today or tomorrow, after which the entire steel-truss bridge will undergo a major renovation in the Shanghai Shipyard.

It will be restored to its previous position by March 1 next year.

Part of the reason for the project is to make way for the construction of a huge two-level vehicle tunnel called the "Bund Passage" below the Bund, or Zhongshan Road E1, to alleviate ground traffic congestion.

"The project is going as well as we expected," Qin Kangde, a publicity official for the project, said yesterday.

After traffic was banned from the bridge last month, it was divided into two sections each weighing about 850 tons.

As the tide rose to the expected level about 11:30am yesterday, a 1,000-ton barge jacked-up the 52-meter southern half of the bridge, adjusted its position and slowly moved it out into the Huangpu River towards the shipyard.

Hundreds of residents and photographers came to see how the city's signature bridge could be moved safely. Some residents, particularly seniors, went to Huangpu Park as early as 5am to ensure a good position on the Bund platform.

Others went to the higher floors of neighboring buildings to get a panoramic view of the 30-minute process.

Some photographers even climbed the nearby vehicle-only Wusong Floodgate Bridge to capture the perfect shot of the historic moment.

Because of the crowding, police closed entrances to the platform to control the number of visitors.

"I wish good luck for the bridge and, hopefully, after the restoration it will be at least as strong as it used to be," said Pan Wenqing, a retiree who got up at 4am yesterday.

The two-span Waibaidu Bridge, also known as the Garden Bridge, was built in 1907 and is regarded as a heritage structure because of its architecture, landscaping and historical significance.

Since the 1940s, it has undergone four major repairs and reinforcements, including the most recent one in 1999. Despite its 100 years of use, the bridge recently passed a quality test which showed it would have been safe to use for at least 30 years even without this major facelift.

(Shanghai Daily April 7, 2008)


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