After more than five decades of exposure to the elements, one of the most popular landmarks within Hualien County’s Taroko National Park, the Changchun Bridge (長春橋), will be replaced later this year.
After the news was announced, people the length and breadth of the country organized groups through online media to revisit the site and reminisce about their memories of the distinctive iron bridge.
The bridge spans the access road leading to the Changchun Shrine (長春祠), which was built in memory of 225 workers who lost their lives during the construction of the Central Cross-Island Highway through Taroko Gorge and the Central Mountains.
With its scenic setting over the Liwu River (立霧溪) in Taroko National Park, the bridge has been a favorite destination for Taiwanese on school field trips or family outings for many years.
However, the more than 50-year-old iron truss bridge is in need of an overhaul with major repairs required to its rusty frame.
Taroko National Park Administration deputy director Chang Teng-wen (張登文) said the bridge was opened in 1960, with the completion of the Central Cross-Island Highway.
“The Changchun Bridge was built with riveted joints. This style and method of bridge construction is defunct now. The other famous one left in Taiwan is the Siluo Bridge (西螺大橋), which spans from Chang
hua to Yunlin County,” Chang said.
“Due to the aging of the bridge, some people have questioned its safety. Therefore it was decided to dismantle it and rebuild it, along with the nearby Chunhui Bridge (春暉橋),” he added, “Parts of the original design and structure will be preserved. Some of its steel iron frames will be saved to put in storage to document the history of the construction of the Central Cross-Island Highway.”
Work will be carried out on the Chunhui Bridge first, with dismantlement to begin later this month, while the Changchun Bridge work is planned for November.
People who have visited these landmark bridges before are returning for a final look to take pictures as their own personal mementos.
A visitor from Greater Kaohsiung, Chen Yu-ming (陳玉明), said he came with his wife on their honeymoon over 30 years ago.
“At that time, the Taroko National Park was not established yet. I still remember Changchun Bridge with its bright red color. It left a lasting impression on me. Now it is painted a milky-white color, and so is not so impressive compared to its original form. But revisiting with my wife, the bridge brought back fond memories for us,” Chen said.
A tour guide surnamed Wang (王) said that many older visitors from outlying counties and cities have been arriving in tourist groups after they heard the bridge would be torn down.
“They wanted to take pictures of the bridge to reminisce and trace past visits during their younger days. It was very moving to hear their stories,” he said.
Chang said that the overhaul of the two bridges will cost NT$40 million (US$1.34 million), funded through the Construction and Planning Agency of the Ministry of the Interior under a disaster-relief program set up after Typhoon Saola last year.
“The plan is to rebuild the two bridges, and restore them to their former glory. The new construction will utilize modern bridge-building methods. Thicker steel frames will be used as beam support,” he said.
“This will provide added bridge strength and weight-carrying capacity, enhancing its safety. A dedicated pedestrian pathway will be added. This would enable tourists to tour the walkways around the Changchun Shrine,” Chang added.