This London Bridge is staying up

Blog Entry October 13, 2011

Bill Wilson is the editorial director of ROADS & BRIDGES magazine and has been covering the industry since 1999. He has won seven Robert F. Boger Awards for editorial excellence, including three in 2011. He also was the creator of the Top 10, Contractor's Choice Awards and Recycling Awards platforms, as well as ROADS & BRIDGES Live.

Printer-friendly version

London Bridge sign, Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

London Bridge construction

Sundt team looking over London Bridge plans

It is getting more difficult to find World War II survivors, but you should be able to see this one for quite some time resting in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.

The London Bridge, which took on machine-gun fire from enemy warplanes during the seven-year conflict, was actually put up for sale in the late 1960s, and Robert McCulloch, who you could say is the founder of Lake Havasu City, and M.M. Sundt Heavy Construction Division were instrumental in bringing the famous span to the Arizona desert. Today, Lake Havasu City is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the opening of its very own London Bridge.

The five-span reinforced concrete bridge was built entirely on dry land using a technique called soffit fill. Sundt was one of the companies that pioneered soffit fill in the 1960s. As many of you already know, soffit fill involves building up a pile of earth so that the mound is as high as the bottom of the bridge to be constructed. Crews form and place a concrete waste slab on top of the mound, and then the entire bridge is built on top of it. When the bridge is finished, the dirt is excavated from beneath the structure.

McCulloch only bought 10,000 tons of granite that formed the original London Bridge, and most of the blocks were cut down to form a skin for the new span. The pier-footing design and use of soffit fill were cost-saving proposals Sundt made to McCulloch after the contractor won the bid to construct the bridge.

When the bridge structure was complete, Sundt received a separate contract to apply the facing stone, which had been match-marked so they could be placed in their original relative locations on the bridge. Each stone weighed between 1,000 to 8,000 lb, and Sundt also was contracted to construct a 1-mile-long channel that cuts across the peninsula to place a watercourse under the bridge.

The revived London Bridge and an adjacent English Village were dedicated in 1971, with the Lord Mayor of London in attendance. The ceremony closely matched the decor and menu of the original 1831 dedication.

The structure has certainly put Lake Havasu City on the map—and if you have time to kill in Arizona you should definitely highlight it as a must-see attraction on yours. 

Overlay Init