Floating Bridge Replacement

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We all know about London Rocks coming to the Globe Theater next season and Colossal Curl’s opening at Water Country USA in 2014, but that’s far from everything the park has on its plate over the off-season this year. In addition to those two at least moderately marketable projects, the park is also replacing the floating bridge between Heatherdowns and Rhinefeld, building a new dining area next to Il Teatro di San Marco, replacing the New France restrooms, and adding 500 new parking spaces to the Bavaria overflow lot. The first of those more minor changes, the floating bridge replacement, is what we’ll be focusing on in this post. Fortunately, because this is BGWFans, we’re not just going to tell you what’s in store- we’re going to show you what exactly the park is planning. Enjoy!

Because people who aren’t super familiar with the park may not all immediately know which bridge I’m talking about, I better start by pointing out the bridge. Below you can see a low-lying bridge that connects the area under Loch Ness Monster and the Rhine River Cruise docks. That’s the floating bridge I’m referencing.

Though I’m sure the structure has been repaired a few times through the years, as far as I know, the bridge’s design and construction have remained basically untouched since the park’s opening day. This will be changing next year, as the park has opted to replace the old floating bridge with a more standard, fixed design.

Now, if you’re like me, you probably find this news a bit disappointing. Personally, I feel that the floating bridge down there beside Loch Ness Monster and the Rhine River Cruise docks brings a very unique and charming element to the area. That said I can’t fault the park for making this decision because, unfortunately, there’s a very valid reason behind this change.

A few years back a second layer of guard rails was added to both sides of the current floating bridge in an effort to reduce its capacity. Why you ask? Well it seems that Americans are getting, well, too heavy for the current bridge to handle the full capacity it was originally designed to hold. Though the narrowed 8ft across walking surface (down from 12ft as it was originally designed) works, it’s clearly not optimal for capacity on busy days and it certainly doesn’t look all that great in its current state either.

With the weight concerns, the costs that would be associated with increasing its load-bearing capacity, and just the normal maintenance costs associated with keeping a floating bridge above water, I can’t really say this is a bad move on the park’s part. Am I still a bit disappointed? Sure, but I think this is a fairly unavoidable change at the end of the day.

Anyway, enough about my thoughts on it; I should probably give you what we know about it. First up, we have two very neat pictures of the current bridge. The first one shows the current walking surface with the restrictive guard rails on either side and the second shows the underside of the current floating bridge- a view I imagine very few people have ever actually seen. Also, one last note before you take a look at the pictures: These were pulled from the plans below and were originally located in the boxes that are now labeled “Image Removed.” Just something to keep in mind.

Next up, we have the plans for the current floating bridge. They should give you a unique look at the current structure of the bridge and a little insight into how it actually works. Why am I including previous blueprints you ask? Well mainly because they’ll provide a point of reference to show how different the new (non-floating) bridge actually is (don’t worry, we’ll get to its plans eventually, I promise!). Anyway, when looking at this blueprint (as well as the ones for the new bridge a bit further down), you’ll probably want to take a moment to hit the “View Full Size” link on the bottom right of the picture viewer. Without doing so, most, if not all of the text will likely be completely unreadable.

Now, finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: We’ve included the plans for the new, fixed position, wooden replacement bridge below. Enjoy!

As you can see from the plans above, the new bridge is very different than what we’re used to seeing down there. Everything from its shape all the way down to its lighting is completely new. The first change I’ll note is the alteration to the railing design. Currently the floating bridge uses a very simple, almost rustic looking, vertical and horizontal railing structure. As the first page of the plans above shows, the new railing uses a much more elaborate design that includes diagonal cross-beams vs. the horizontal ones the current bridge features.

Next up we have what is likely the most notable change aside from the fact that it no longer floats: The new design includes two diamond shaped observation areas along the bridge’s path. Hopefully these will give people who are taking pictures and whatnot a place to do so without blocking the main pathway and slowing the flow of guests through the area. It’s also worth noting that the shape and design of these observation areas is stunningly reminiscent of those which can be found along the San Marco-Oktoberfest bridge a little bit further down the Rhine River.

The last two changes I’ll mention are about the theming and lighting details along the bridge. First up, one of the main concerns people have had about the new bridge is whether or not it’ll retain the iconic flagpoles that the current bridge has featured for decades now. Well, I’m happy to report that yes, they’ll be back. If you look closely at the second page of plans above, you can clearly see the locations of the flagpoles specifically noted.

Secondly, the lights. As a continuation of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s effort to remove basically every last incandescent light from park property, the new bridge will be wired up with fancy new LED lights. It’s also worth noting that there are drastcially more lights on this new bridge than were found on the original floating bridge. Though that may kill the eerie feel that crossing the Heatherdowns-Rhinefeld has always provided, hopefully those bright new LEDs will reflect nicely off the Rhine River at night.

Anyway, if you have any thoughts about the new bridge, feel free to jump into the ParkFans Forum thread on the topic, here. Also, as mentioned at the start of this post, this is only one of a handful of notable yet unannounced changes coming to the park in 2014. Stay tuned for more news on this one and the rest of them as well!