The bridge too tough to die - an appreciation

By Doug Nick / ADOT Communications

Getting older can be tough. We can probably all agree on that, no matter what generation you might belong to.

Just recently, ADOT experienced something that proves not only the challenges of aging, but the resiliency of things that have more than a little patina of time.

Take, for example, the Pinto Creek bridge on US 60 a bit west of Globe-Miami. 

For the past few years, ADOT has been building a new bridge for that span. It hasn’t been without its challenges, especially as the project neared completion. 

There was a devastating wildfire that literally reached the edge of the project site. Then, as if in a cosmic comedy, the 2021 monsoon rains decided to pick the Globe area to be especially drenched. That resulted in Pinto Creek doing what creeks in these parts are meant to do - carry a whole lot of water in a very short period of time. Fortunately, the damage was limited and easily repaired.

Finally, in September the new bridge and roadway approaches were opened for motorists and the old bridge was prepared to meet its end. 

This was not without some regret. The Pinto Creek design was well-loved by ADOT and many residents of the nearby communities. It was one of many projects planned and supervised by Ralph Hoffman, the state bridge engineer from 1923 to 1954.  He also designed the Navajo Bridge over Marble Canyon, which is near what is now Lake Powell, and the 1931 portion of the Mill Avenue Bridge in Tempe, among many others. His is an enduring and important legacy.  

Now, the existing bridge was completed in 1949, making it a product of the “Greatest Generation;'' you know, the people who endured the Great Depression, battled polio and fought and won World War II? Is it any wonder they built the original Pinto Creek bridge to last? 

Sadly, what could not be foreseen were vast increases in traffic numbers and the behemoth commercial vehicles that would use the road in the 21st century. While safe, the old beauty had to go. It wasn't designed for these times and the date for its demolition was set.  

Then, as if to mock us all, the bridge had one final act to prove its metal, er, mettle. As charges were installed at key points and then detonated on the appointed day, the earth shook and thunderous peals rang out. 

But the bridge did not fall. 

You have to admire the grit of the people who designed and built that structure, and if it had a soul, you’d have to say it wouldn’t give up without a fight. Yep, in 1949 maybe everything was just a bit tougher. 

In the end, more explosives solved the problem, and the bridge finally succumbed to reality; sad, unrelenting reality. 

But it fought for, and got, one more day of existence. And that’s worth a little cheer for the bridge too tough to die.