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China's 1st steel bridge passes test
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The Waibaidu Bridge over the Suzhou Creek is 100 years old today and still in good condition, local engineering officials said yesterday.

They also said the city government is to improve the inspection and maintenance of local bridges and will build four new ones over the Suzhou Creek.

"We will have safety inspections on the Waibaidu Bridge every week," Shang Guoping, a senior engineer of Shanghai Engineering Administrative Bureau, said at a seminar yesterday marking the bridge's 100th anniversary.

He said the current Waibaidu bridge was built in 1907 and designed to last for 50 years.

However, due to its good quality and good maintenance, the bridge has been proved a "bridge in good condition" in a recent safety inspection, Shang said.

Officials didn't say when the city planned to fortify the bridge. Some engineers previously announced the bridge would be reinforced because the construction on a nearby tunnel could affect it.

Some experts of Tongji University estimate that the bridge will operate safely for at least another 30 years.

As one of the best preserved symbols of Shanghai, the 104-meter-long and 18-meter-wide steel truss bridge is still a main means of crossing the river for pedestrians and about 27,000 vehicles every day.

It has two spans and was the first steel bridge in China. It lasted 40 years without any problems but since the 1940s it has undergone four major repairs and reinforcement, the latest one in 1999.

The Waibaidu bridge, also known as the Garden Bridge, is listed as a heritage construction.

The word "baidu" means "free ferry" - a name noting the toll Chinese people had to pay to use an earlier bridge built in 1856 by a British businessman.

Also at yesterday's seminar, officials of the engineering bureau announced improved maintenance of all 33 bridges across the Suzhou Creek.

(Shanghai Daily December 29, 2007)

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