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  • Eric Jaffe
  • Tue April 21 2015
  • Posted Apr 21, 2015
Top engineer Ted Zoli says the era of shared-use structures has arrived.

A decade ago, it was unusual to design a bridge with space for pedestrians or cyclists, says Ted Zoli, National Bridge Chief Engineer for the architecture and civil engineering firm HNTB. Today it's unusual not to give these modes spaceā€”or, in some cases, the entire structure. Even bridges that seem primarily suited for vehicle traffic must include what Zoli calls, in the parlance of engineers, "shared-use path facilities"; the new Tappan Zee Bridge will have one, he points out, as will a bridge HNTB is designing on I-95.

The experience of curvature drives the majesty of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge in Council Bluffs


Zoli describes a pedestrian bridge as "fundamentally a different facility" than a vehicular one. Oddly enough, the distinction has little to do with the weight each must bear; that's generally the same in both cases, he says. Rather, the difference comes down to three design approaches: connectivity (how to get people up and down), aspiration (pedestrian bridges should be iconic, wayfinding landmarks unto themselves), and curvature (there's far less need for straightness).

The experience of curvature drives the majesty of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, a 3,000-foot, S-shaped structure for walkers and cyclists that snakes between Omaha, Nebraska, and Council Bluffs, Iowa, over the Missouri River. The challenge here was finding a way to introduce curvature without blowing the budget out of the water (so to speak). Zoli met the task by using railing with no frills instead of a flashy finish, and engineering structural pieces that appear curved from afar but are actually straight at the individual level.

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