Watch a perfectly executed bridge explosion in Germany

It left nothing but the new bridge behind.
Brad Bergan
The Rinsdorf viaduct bridge (left), and an explosive effect (right).1, 2

What goes up, must come down.

Germany's Rinsdorf viaduct, a major bridge in the region, was destroyed with at least seven explosive charges in a controlled demolition on Sunday, February 6. It was a textbook example of how rigorous planning combined with modern engineering moves societal infrastructure forward, like clockwork.

Clips of the demolition make the feat look easy, but it isn't. Extensive planning, precise placement of shaped explosives, and a larger backup plan, like an alternative route through the viaduct for Germany's autobahn, were required before anything went up in smoke.

When creative destruction goes like clockwork

This precise demolition was achieved with roughly 265 pounds (120 kg) of explosives, placed in at least seven positions on the bridge where structures were in a state of static equilibrium — points where gravity works to cancel out forces meeting head-on. By placing the explosives at these points demolitions experts could predict the force of the explosion and ensure the bridge landed neatly below its initial position.

The Rinsdorf viaduct was 55 years old, and its age was beginning to show — which could lead to dangerous driving conditions for Germany's A45 autobahn (which is a high-speed highway that crisscrosses the nation).

"The Rinsdorf viaduct on Germany’s A45 autobahn was demolished on Sunday due to structural issues," explained CEO Adam Rossi of TotalShield, in an emailed statement to IE. "The bridge was 55 years old and in need of repairs."

"The replacement bridge was inaugurated in December 2021 and no damage was done to it during the demolition of the first bridge," adds Rossi.

Indeed, as the old bridge falls away, the new bridge is revealed, without a single scratch from its predecessor. The bridge's end was meticulously organized to ensure the debris would fall into a prepared bed. A short distance away, a crowd had gathered to enjoy the show of a half-century-old bridge crashing down.

Similar bridge demolitions are due in the US

When something like this happens, it's a reason to celebrate. Germany is renowned for centuries of cutting-edge engineering, and its people aren't sacrosanct about creative destruction, as several reactions from locals attest.

"There was a lot of dust but it was soon Rinsdorf by the rain," commented one person on Twitter to news of the demolition, pulling a loose pun.

"Shaped charges, good job," reads another Twitter reply, referencing how the explosives were shaped to achieve the perfect blast of energy, ensuring a clean-cut, and safe drop of the bridge.

While this demolition was executed perfectly, it's only the tip of sorely needed work throughout the most densely populated state in Germany — called North Rhine-Westphalia. Roughly 60 viaducts in the state are due for replacements or critical repairs. As of writing, 15 are under construction or awaiting extensive work, and if too much time passes, there could be trouble. In 2007, the Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that stretched across Saint Anthony Falls with eight broad lanes, collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring another 145. That bridge was completed in 1967, and supported 140,000 vehicles every day.

Bringing top-tier demolition home — While a design flaw was cited for the Mississippi River bridge collapse, every conventional structure shares a deeper flaw of conventional age and damage from use.

Last November, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden passed a new infrastructure bill designed to rebuild roads, bridges, and more in the U.S. It seems likely at this point that we'll begin to see the same clockwork destruction of bridges a little closer to home, soon.

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