Monday, September 26, 2011

Who's good and kind and has bridges named after them?

Cross the Raritan River on Route 1 northbound, and you'll see a sign commemorating the Morris Goodkind Bridge you're traveling atop.

Cross the Raritan River on Route 1 southbound, and you'll see a sign commemorating the Donald Goodkind Bridge you're traveling atop.

I've been taking this route occasionally for my entire adult life, and it's only recently that I discovered the difference. Sure, I'd noticed that the two directions are carried on different spans, with the southbound bridge being several years newer than the northbound, but I never gave the name much thought. I knew the Morris Goodkind name, but I guess I assumed it covered both directions, and I assumed he was a notable New Jerseyan from colonial times. Discovering the Donald connection got me curious. I don't know of many colonial Donalds.

So who are these Goodkind guys, and why do they get bridges named after them? The answer is quite simple, actually: they were both engineers with the New Jersey Department of Transportation and responsible for the design of the bridges that now bear their names.

The older bridge, built in 1929, is much more graceful: concrete with arches beneath and commemorative plaques embedded at either end. I've never been able to read them because they're against the left-most lane and impossible to get to with your life intact; in more recent years they've also been sprayed with graffiti. There's a war memorial at the southern end, largely unreadable at highway speed. Originally called College Bridge, the span was named after the elder Goodkind in 1969, just one of his many accolades. He'd won a medal for excellence in bridge design from the American Society of Civil Engineers for the bridge's design and eventually became chief bridge engineer for the state highway department. The Pulaski Skyway is just one of the spans built under his leadership. Interestingly, he'd begun his career in subway design in New York City.

According to the Encyclopedia of New Jersey, Morris believed that bridges were monuments to structural elegance and that unless a bridge was beautiful, the engineer had not given all that was expected of him. It's a shame that his son didn't (or perhaps couldn't) design the newer bridge consistent with that goal. A garden-variety highway bridge of steel and concrete, the southbound span was built in 1974 and named after Donald in 2004. Maybe engineering standards at the time favored that kind of design, or maybe it was more cost effective, but wow ... not really all that impressive-looking. The body of his work, however, warrants recognition. Like his father, Donald also made notable contributions to the state's roads and engineering discipline. He was also a trustee of the New Jersey Institute of Technology and co-founder of the state Consulting Engineers Council.

You have to admit, there's a nice little symmetry to the father-son bridges. They show the tenor of their times, and they certainly get the job done.

2 comments:

  1. The reason my uncle Donald's bridge is so "plain" looking, especially in comparison to his father's was as an intentional design aspect. He wanted to do his best to alleviate the growing traffic problems without detracting from the splendor of the original bridge.

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  2. Thank you for the additional information, Eric -- it makes perfect sense.

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