Sundial Bridge
A Balancing Act

Redding, CA

September 16, 2006

All across America, cities are trying their best to create attractions which will draw in crowds that will enhance the economy of the community. Of the dozens of cities and towns along the Sacramento River, the City of Redding was no different.  Back in 1995, the city fathers were exploring the development of the land in  the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, which runs on both sides of the river.  A footbridge bridge was needed to connect the planned Arboretum on the north bank with a planned museum on the south side,  and a search was ongoing to find just the right structure that would bring attention to the area.   John Mancasola vice-president of the McConnell foundation who was in charge  of the project had $3 million to build a bridge, but was having problems with

the dissention over which of two American design companies would get the contract.  In hopes of getting the project moving again, Mancasola contacted Spanish architect Saniago Calatrave in Switzerland.  The result was a bridge design that would stun the State, and give Redding the very attraction it had so desired.  Although the final cost would run over $23 million, it was still worth it according to Mancasola.  Of major concern during the planning stage was the river below.  The Federal government had sunk millions of dollars into protecting the salmon spawning grounds at Turtle Bay. The city needed a span that would not plunge concrete stanchions into the fish nursery.  The bridge is a balance of weight and counter weight of equal amounts.  At the south end of the bridge is a gigantic sun dial reaching 217 feet into the shadow on a time marker the air.  tilted 41 degrees away from the bridge floor.  The steel in the sundial weighs over 700 tons and would come crashing to the ground but for the 14 steel cables which run from various parts of the dial, to various points along the bridge.  With the weight of the dial and the weight of the bridge nearly equal, the entire structure became balanced.  The point of balance at the base of the dial, is a 1 foot diameter bearing.  The cables are asymmetrical, running down only one side of the bridge.  This is highly unusual for a suspension-type bridge.  It is truly an engineering feat to keep it from dropping on the non-cable side.  Adding to the spectacular appearance is the bridge flooring.  the 11:00 markerThe 700 feet of bridge deck is made up of 400 tons of steel holding up 2,245 opaque glass panels of 10 sq. feet each.  At night, lights from underneath illuminate the glass panels into a soft green glow.  The sundial, unfortunately fell short of a working time piece.  the height casts shadows far greater than the surrounding land would allow for a proper marking off of the hours.  However, between 11:00AM and 3:00PM you can find the white round stones displaying the number of each of those hours.  Accuracy, as with all sundials is met with varying amount of success, except on the summer solstice on June 21st. when it is quite accurate.  It is quite an experience to stand in the middle of the span and look out over the river knowing you are standing on glass. For engineering buffs this is a must,  for the rest of us it is a great place to visit for an afternoon.

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