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Examining the old "New Bridge" of Salem, NJ

When I’m not on the clock helping to build or maintain the latest generation of bridges in the New York metro area, you can typically find me out and about documenting our nation’s many great bridge structures from coast to coast. While I’ve had the thrill of seeing all of this country’s greatest engineering achievements in-person over the last ten years of travel, it’s also true that some of my personal favorite discoveries are the ones well off the beaten path and far away from the established list of “Greatest Hits” everyone in road/bridge enthusiasm tends to want to talk about.

Built in 1905 by the New Jersey Bridge Company of Manasquan, NJ, this charming little steel swing bridge is located along New Bridge Road (County Route 623) as it spans Alloway Creek in rural Salem County, NJ not far from the northern reaches of the Delaware Bay. (The name “Alloway” is derived from the name of a local Native American chief in colonial times, known as “Allowas”.) It was built as a center-bearing swing bridge containing a turntable located centrally beneath the main truss superstructure that enabled this part of the bridge to rotate 90 degrees to allow the passage of boat traffic. This moveable component of the structure was man-powered – a bridge tender would use a hand crank that through a small-diameter hole in the deck would turn the gears located beneath the deck in the central turntable, thus enabling the bridge to swing in the desired direction. This old-fashioned method can still be found in-use today in many locations, including (but not limited to) on some of the moveable railroad bridges on the Northeast Corridor. (The bridges on the Susquehanna and Hackensack Rivers come to mind.) At this location, there is no evidence that this bridge was ever “moved” for boat traffic at any time in the last 50 years.


A general view at roadway level, looking southward

Altogether, this bridge has a total length about 150 ft; the two halves of the central swing superstructure each measure about 50 ft apiece. The bridge’s wooden road deck is only 14 ft wide, meaning it has never been capable of handling two-way vehicle traffic. (It should be said that traffic counts in this part of the state hardly ever came close to making this an inadequate arrangement.) Decorative finials once adorned the four top corners of the central swing span truss above the turntable; none of them remain standing with the structure – the last of which was lost sometime in the last 10 years based on recent photography. There may also have been a typical builders plaque located somewhere on the structure; there is no photographic evidence of such a piece existing on the structure in the last 20 years. There is also no definitive answer to the question of what this bridge’s actual name was. It may have been known simply as “New Bridge” due to the name of the road it carries, or it may have been called something else entirely. I choose to leave that question unresolved and hope that future research will be able to provide a more definitive answer.

A general view looking northeasterly at the structure as a whole

This bridge has been closed to all traffic since 1991 when it was determined that the structure had deteriorated to the point where the continued maintenance of traffic on the roadway was no longer desirable. In the 30 years since that full closure, this bridge has sat idly and quietly awaiting either a new lease on life or its potential ultimate demise at the hands of the wrecking ball. Either way, neither Salem County nor any other entity appears to be in a hurry to do anything about the current situation, although there are current talks & rumors of a new bridge being built here to replace the existing one should it be torn down.

As a lover & admirer of bridges going way back to my childhood, I had heard about this particular one for many years (from sources such as our own Doug Kerr and also Steve Alpert of the great road-related website “alpsroads.net”), but I (for whatever reason) never remembered or thought to travel out this way to find this little-known bridge in this little-known corner of the Garden State. It’s the hope of this author that this bridge will continue to stand for many years to come due to its historical significance and engineering landmark status and will someday be reopened to traffic of some kind, whether that be as a pedestrian/bicycle-only facility or some other context-sensitive variation & use to be determined. I hope you enjoy the pictures that follow; this mix of ground-level and aerial shots were taken in November 2021 and show a deteriorating structure that has not yet lost all of its charm. I will gladly add this one to my own “Greatest Hits” collection as a result of this unexpectedly fruitful visit.

The above photos show various ground-level points of view of the existing structure, both on a macro/overall scale and also from a micro/smaller-scale perspective. Click on each image to see a larger version.


The above photos show various aerial points of view of the existing structure, courtesy of a DJI quadcopter drone. Click on each image to see a larger version.

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Comments

Unknown said…
Very nice read and great pics too! I remember this bridge well, I drove across this bridge many many times alot of memories we also fished and did a little crabbing there as well....I enjoyed reading your article and looking at all your pics thank for sharing with us.
Barbara Bradway

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