Cline Avenue Bridge Implosion

(From left) INDOT engineer Jim Kaur, Matt Henke with Reith Riley Construction, and Mike Borzych with Borzych Construction, survey a section of the Cline Avenue bridge after it was demolished with explosives in East Chicago, Ind., early Saturday, February 12, 2011. The bridge was closed permanently in late 2009 after major corrosion was found on support cables within the bridge’s structure.

Over my years spent behind cameras, I’ve learned that there’s a few subjects not to be passed up. Photographing the president – or for that matter, a presidential candidate – in your hometown would certainly be one. Significant weather events, such as last week’s Snowpocalypse, would be right up there as well. Or, as was the case this past Saturday, any event where an explosion of any sort is going to predictably occur! Cameras or not, what 20-something year-old guy in their right mind wouldn’t want to watch something light up and collapse into a pile of rubble? After all, that’s just plain cool. Enter Cline Avenue:

I’ve been covering the Cline Avenue Bridge saga since early 2010, when Indiana State authorities announced that the bridge, just shy of 30 years old, would be closed permanently after significant corrosion was discovered on support cables within the bridge’s structure. While a firm replacement plan has yet to be drawn up, the work has already commenced in earnest to demolish the old structure.

This weekend’s implosion, headed by the famous Controlled Demolition, Inc. (if you’ve seen a building implosion on TV, chances are the Loizeaux family of CDI was involved), took down a 900 foot span of the former eastbound travel lanes. Why there was so much talk of the implosion taking out an “exit ramp”, I have no idea, as you can clearly see the markings on the demolished bridge deck that used to separate the three main lanes of traffic. The columns supporting what was actually the “exit ramp” for this stretch of the road are visible to the right of the workers in my lead image, the ramp obviously having been demolished well before Saturday’s event.

Also visible in my lead image is the sheer size of the amount (everything pictured) of Cline Avenue that must be demolished. I was told by an engineer on site that more implosions are likely to bring the spans, some in excess of 90′ tall, down safely. Obviously, implosions of those tall spans would certainly be the fun ones to document, but this weekend’s was fun as well. As I said earlier, predictable explosions are a must-shoot!


Video did a much better job of telling this part of the story. My favorite moment, especially visible in the slow motion clip in the second half of the video, is the detonation cord that is visible firing first along the ground below the bridge deck. Detonation cord is used as a super-fast fuse, effectively setting off the explosions in all the columns at the same time.

Here’s the view from my handheld 400mm f2.8 body. Other than the plume of dust shooting up from the crumbling column, along with the snow flying off the bridge deck, you can’t really tell a whole lot is going on here. Again, the video of this assignment is the clear winner in my book.

This is the same moment as seen from my remote camera, with a 70-200 f2.8 lens set to 175mm and firing in tandem with my handheld camera via a PocketWizard. The multitude of distracting foreground elements in this angle made it a no-go in my edit.

On the technical side, the implosion was difficult to photograph on a few fronts. Members of the media, along with contractors on site, were kept over a quarter mile away from the bridge span. We were given permission to shoot from a set of nearby railroad tracks, which gave a fairly straight and unobstructed, if not distant, view of the span. On the stills side, I’m glad I came prepared with my 400mm f2.8 telephoto lens for a close-up shot.

I also had a second stills body with a 70-200 f2.8 lens mounted to a tripod firing in tandem with my 400mm body via a PocketWizard. This angle turned out to be garbage, as the falling span didn’t look like much frozen in time. Video was certainly where it was at on this one, and for that, my trusty Panasonic HMC150 stepped up to the plate and rounded out my three camera coverage of the implosion.


Once the all-clear was given, media members and other observers were escorted onto the job site for a close up view of the carnage.

I’ve been watching implosion shows on The Discovery Channel featuring the Loizeaux family and Controlled Demolition Inc. since I was a teenager, so I can’t say I wasn’t slightly star-struck to meet one of their team members. After all, the Loizeaux team are the rock stars of implosions. Stacey Loizeaux (left) with Controlled Demolition, Inc., and Bob Zozula with general contractor J.B. Fay, check footage on their cameras from the explosive demolition of a section of the Cline Avenue Bridge.


Here’s a view of the entire span that was felled during the implosion. At right, you can see the spaghetti-like bundles of support cables that run through the bridge’s interior. Corrosion of these critical cables from water and road salt infiltration led to the permanent closure of the structure.

“It’s kind of sad to see it come down. We spent six years up here building this,” shared Jim Kaur (pictured above), an INDOT engineer who worked on the original construction of the Cline Avenue Bridge in the early 1980′s.

A cable anchor from a section of the Cline Avenue bridge rests on the ground following the implosion. The bridge was closed permanently in late 2009 after major corrosion was found on support cables, such as the ones pictured here, within the bridge’s structure.

INDOT engineer Kim Kaur inspects one of the cable anchors which support the bridge internally.

A section of the Cline Avenue bridge rests on the ground after it was demolished with explosives in East Chicago, Ind., early Saturday, February 12, 2011.

(From left) INDOT engineer Jim Kaur, Matt Henke with Reith Riley Construction, and Mike Borzych with Borzych Construction, survey the demolished section of the Cline Avenue Bridge.

Heavy equipment moves in just minutes after the implosion to begin clearing the demolished bridge span.

Altogether, documenting the implosion was a fun time, despite the 5am wake-up call and not being able to keep my INDOT issued safety vest and hard hat.

Posted in Photography, Photojournalism, Video Production by Guy Rhodes on February 14th, 2011.

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