Along the vast and desolate desert stretch of Route 66 between Newberry Springs and Needles, there are many bridges that the Road crosses over. In fact, there are more bridges located along this stretch of the Road than the entire stretch of Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica!
Scenes of some of the many wooden desert bridges:
This portion of Route 66 is quite vulnerable because it is no longer a major thoroughfare. Many bridges along this portion are in disrepair and in desperate need of refurbishing or replacement. Some of these bridges were built around 1905 and most were built before the Route 66 designation in 1926. All of these bridges are very old.
Adding to the factor is that these bridges are made of wood. This wood has been out in the dry desert heat for almost 100 years. Naturally, wood deteriorates and becomes weaker from the dry air. These bridges were not intended to last this long.
All of these bridges are under the road repair jurisdiction of the County of San Bernardino. This is the largest county in the contiguous United States and has a limited budget for the repair of thousands of miles or rural roads. To the County, Route 66 is just another one of those rural roads.
One of the aspects of the Corridor Management Plan, currently under development by the California Historic Route 66 Association and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is to obtain funding for the repair and on-going upkeep of these bridges. If this plan is successful in designating this portion of Route 66 into a National Scenic Byway, then hopefully some of these bridges will be around for future generations.
The recent passage and creation of the Mojave Trails National Monument in 2016 may help accelerate the funding for the overall cause of preserving these bridges. Now, it is a race against government planning and Mother Nature’s relentless power to erode those things exposed to her spell…