A Bridge Made Of Aircraft Carriers Will Make [William Gibson] Proud

If you’ve ever visited the Puget Sound (the area in and around Seattle, Washington) one thing becomes clear very quickly; It’s not easy to get around when there’s water everywhere. Perhaps that’s why Washington State operates the largest ferry system in all of the U.S., carrying about 23 million passengers each year. It’s not uncommon here to drive (or walk) onto a ferry for a nice boat ride before getting to wherever you need to be.

Another thing the Puget Sound has is naval ship yards. The U.S. Navy has a strong presence here. It’s where many submarines and aircraft carriers come for regular maintenance, as well as decommissioned ships that are stripped of their top secrets parts and nuclear bits. At any given time there can be four or five “slightly used, previously owned” massive aircraft carriers that are that are considered to be in the “reserve fleet” (that is, they can be brought back into service in the case of war.) But usually after a few years pass, and a new carriers are built, the Pentagon will send the floating air field to be dismantled.

Well, someone put two and two together and came up with the idea to use them as a floating bridge – and it’s an interesting hack indeed. Currently the State of Washington is studying the idea, but hasn’t made any firm plans just yet. They have their eye set on a span of water that would need 2-3 aircraft carriers to cover, and that is near the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The massive size and over hangs of the ships will still allow for tidal moment, and for local sail boats and pleasure craft to pass between. The hope is that it will be both a traffic solution, and a tourist attraction; not to mention preserving 50 year old ships, that are in many cases, are part of naval history.

We’re not sure if such an idea is practical or not, but our inner Top Gun “Maverick” would love to see such a hack pulled off. And it’s really hard not to make the association with some of the locales imagined in [William Gibson’s] epic work. Will we see the should-be-science-fiction bridge become real? Ooooh how we hope so!

[via dailymail.co.uk]

70 thoughts on “A Bridge Made Of Aircraft Carriers Will Make [William Gibson] Proud

  1. The price of maintenance would be orders of magnitudes over the whole price of a real bridge.
    Would cost millions once the first cracks appear in the hulls.

    Why not use a sea of plastic bottles instead ……

    1. Came here to say *exactly* that about maintenance costs. That being said, storing these ships “on the dry” and using them as a disaster recovery bridge is on another sheet. Then again, I guess in these situations using a set of smaller ferries will probably be much more flexible, and for the price of scrap metal of a couple of aircraft carriers, you can probably buy a lot of capable medium-sized ferries.

      *sigh* I tend to diss this kind of article, and I’m starting to feel bad about it… There’s just too many ideas of the type “wouldn’t it be awesome if …” that turn into “having had two minutes of thought about it, probably not”.

      I’d like to see actual *editing*, you know. Like an editor that decides whether something is much higher in quality than the average buzzfeed article, just because it says “hack”.

          1. Correct. On a weekday, it’s jammed packed, Some 20,000(?) ship yard worker trying to get home all at once. Also, this is more of a.) a test, and b.) a tourist attraction.

    2. As it turns out – very little cost – only a fesh coat of paint. It’s all in the study. These are solid build ships. They don’t “crack” over time(it’s an air-craft carrier!). I’ll add to the post the RMS Queen Mary. Sitting in the Long Beach harbor that is now a floating hotel/restaurant. If you’re ever in the LA area, I highly suggest taking the time to walk her decks. It’s outstanding how well built ships were back then. And you’ll get a sense of history. My 2 cents.

      1. As for the Queen Mary, the tours are nice and the museum in the stern is interesting. They’ve welded in the area around one of the props and opened it up into the ship so you can see how big the screws are. I wouldn’t recommend that you stay on the Queen Mary, I’ve stayed in nicer Motel 6’s.

        1. Good point Jeff. Yes – the rooms are tiny, and musky smelling. I never stayed there, but just roaming the ship. So… I wouldn’t recommend staying there. But, if you happen to be in the area, seeing how much attention to detail,and craftsmanship is worth it. The grand ball room for example. The decks…it’s all very romantic. You won’t see that on a modern cruise ship.

    3. Yeah.. this is really silly to the point of being beyond stupid.. The really bad part being.. Governments typically do really stupid stuff, so as dumb as this may be, odds are there is an even more stupid politician who might put the wheels into motion.. After all.. There is currently a sitting member of congress who think Islands run a risk of flipping over in the water if too many people get on one side… no joke..

      1. It is stupid places, but traditional bridges offer a unique challenge in the sound. The long spans with extremely deep water makes bridge building difficult and expensive. Floating bridges are the current solution in the area, and have been since the 60s.

    4. You are ignoring the n geography of the sound. Extremely steep shores and uneven rocky bottoms prevent traditional footings for most of the area. The solution thus far HAS been floating bridges. SR520 is a floating bridge that used to open to allow Boeing aircrafts on barges to pass by. I90 is also a floating bridge. The carriers would probably be fitted with a sacrificial anti rust system. 2 carriers would be anchored permanently n the 3rd would be moved with a tug, the power plants would all be scrapped.

      Floating bridge are actually so much cheaper to build here than traditional bridges that the maintenance cost difference is not a major factor.

    1. My guess is the port is downstream or further out to sea than this inlet or sound. This doesn’t make any strategic sense anyway they would be an easy target all grouped together like that. Aircraft carriers are doomed regardless too many eggs in one basket and too easy to hit from long distance with modern weaponry might as well get some use a a bridge before they end up on the ocean floor.

      1. You mean the same modern weaponry that could put a conventional bridge on the ocean floor? Any reason why a conventional bridge would be less of a target than any floating bridge? Bridges will be targeted by an enemy regardless of their conduction. My guess is that the ships will retain water tight compartments and any machinery to pump ballast to maintain an even keel.

  2. What the maps don’t show in this article is that the aircraft carrier “bridge” bridges the end of Sinclair Inlet. This “bridge” would eliminate about 3 miles of the drive distance between Port Orchard and Bremerton as compared to driving around the head of the inlet.

    The aircraft carrier decks are about 90′ above the water, meaning a lot of land would need to be available on each end to accommodate the elevation change – which it’s not.

    There is one other tiny problem with this plan…the navy flat out told the people proposing this idea that no aircraft carriers are available for it.

    1. why not put one and one together and skip the enormous maintenance costs from preventing cracks in the hulls by putting holes in the walls and let the carriers sink about 85′?

      1. These ships werent made to be sunk. You can’t just cut a hole in a battle ship and expect it to sink. Also there would be all sorts of environmental factors to consider.

        Nope, just isn’t going to work

          1. Except these carriers are based on ones that survived actual combat, including torpedoes, bombs, and hits from actual warships. It’s not exactly the same as saying “lol, it’s unsinkable” about a passenger ship that’s never even been tested.

            Incidentally, you could read about the construction of these things if you actually, y’know, cared.

  3. This is a ridiculous idea.

    I’m all for recycling things without having to deconstruct them, but this is honestly impractical and extremely expensive. There’s no guarantee this will work, but the number one question is: is it absolutely necessary? If there was a lot more incentive you’d find several examples of crazy stupid hacks to make things work. I agree with the above commenter that suggested a bridge made out of plastic bottles. Those things are just sitting around doing nothing, and served a one time only use.

    1. Did you notice how the writeup talks about the overhang on the carriers allowing other smaller vessels as well as the tidal water (and marine life) to pass them?
      And can you imagine how many bottles it would take to make a real full size stable bridge anyway? One that can carry hundreds of cars and trucks without bobbing and throwing the cars off when there is some wind.
      It is however possible I suppose, by making bottle arches and whatnot. And not more daft than the carrier idea.
      But the bottle arches would need assistance from putting an actual road surface on them too, and it might not be cost-effective compared to a proper bridge.

  4. I read an article a few weeks back that talked about how they used to sink old ships in Stockholm to form the foundations for new bridges back in the 1700s I think. Interesting approach.

  5. Ok first plastic bottles not going to work, unless it is added to concrete, to lighten it up, question how many psi do you think
    a gallon jug will hold up to? (before the cap starts to leak) Also plastic fatigues too, it will crack also…
    Now that island of plastic in the pacific ocean is not under load so that is no example…
    Now laundry bottles will probably last longer being thicker more robust but will crack under stress at some point also, again if used as fill for concrete pontoons .Not sure if it will work for fill ether too problematic…
    One more thing they sunk an air craft carrier for reef building,

    “in 2004, the Navy gave Oriskany to Florida, which sank her for use as an artificial reef. In 2007, The Times of London listed her as one of the best shipwrecks for scuba-divers in the world.”
    The linky, http://news.usni.org/2014/08/18/sunk-sold-scraped-saved-fate-americas-aircraft-carriers

    So yes they can be sunk…


    1. Agree on the bottles except for half liter Mountain Dew. Nearly indestructible. Do the dry ice and water or LN2. Most of the time the caps don’t even break first. HUGE bang when they blow. I lost several of the big ceiling tiles in a classroom once when I didn’t do it in two layers of heavy cardboard box. But yes, they degrade and there are better things to mix with concrete.

      Structural engineers must have studied this. I wonder what is best? Seattle’s floating bridges are just big concrete barges (with a few compartment I think) strung together – but in the lakes. The Hood Canal floating bridge is the same in salt.

    2. It’s not as if a continuous supply of plastic bottles is not available. Fill them with urethane foam and keep a steady supply to make up the losses. Yeah – it’s a terrible ecological approach, but it’s not as if it can’t work.

      In fact there is no island of plastic in any ocean. Instead there is an area where there is a slight concentration of tiny plastic particles; to be sure it represents what would be a mountain of plastic were the plastic on land, but the bulk of the material is submerged, floating in the upper 20 or more feet of ocean in an area of hundreds to thousands of square miles.

      1. Yeah but then you may as well just fill some concrete with urethane foam. There’s an eccentric who built his own island out of floating plastic bottles, netted up and tied together. He got a lot of volunteers to come fix it up with him, and it has vegetation and a house on it now. I could cope with that. Long-term, if he gets into any trouble, just net up a load more bottles and release the whole bag underneath the existing island. Get a diver to tie them together.

        Probably not practical for anything heavy-duty or reliable, but the price is right. He’s tethered it in a few places, depending on what the local government thinks. It is a fantastic hack to get your own private island, with location and weather as you choose.

  6. Those reserve fleet are already an Environmental disaster in the making… The paint in most of old ships are filled with Lead, and the navy just leating those ships there with minimal care to be rotten…

    Another thing to consider is corrosion, usually every 20/25 years every Bridge/storage tank should be repainted to slow-down corrosion, and when i say repainted, i mean not just spray a new coat on top of the old paint, no the old coating-system has to be completed removed to the bare metal (usualy by Sand-blasting) and a new Coating System is applied.

    I think is worth contact NACE and SSPC to see what they think of that…

    1. “Another thing to consider is corrosion, usually every 20/25 years every Bridge/storage tank should be repainted to slow-down corrosion, and when i say repainted, i mean not just spray a new coat on top of the old paint, no the old coating-system has to be completed removed to the bare metal (usualy by Sand-blasting) and a new Coating System is applied.”

      They’ve been doing that to the highway bridges here in Mass. (winter salt, you know) and, depending on the contractor they hire for a particular bridge, it either looks nice again, or looks nice for a year, and then the coating starts flaking off, exposing big rusty patches of bare metal.

      I think maybe some of the contractors don’t have a lot of experience doing this.

    2. Where the looming “environmental disaster in the making” due to lead paint is concerned, there are procedures for this, because the Navy isn’t stupid, and is bound by federal law. Any paint to be removed has to be tested, and if it’s leaded it has to be sequestered so it doesn’t end up in the water table, or in the air. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CC0QFjACahUKEwjr95PHmuzGAhWFmYAKHWeHDVw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.med.navy.mil%2Fsites%2Fnmcp%2FPartnerships%2FIndHyg%2FDocuments%2FPAINT_REMOVAL_PROCEDURES_generic.doc&ei=tjiuVevEN4WzggTnjrbgBQ&usg=AFQjCNGOPjQyM6D5ykKIZXJ8VY_AOta6ww&sig2=JDnStvUppaTqtZRW2aPbmA&bvm=bv.98197061,d.eXY but even if this were not the case, you could dump hundreds of thousands of gallons of leaded paint into Puget Sound without measurably increasing the lead concentration in the water. Keep in mind, there’s not a lot of lead in leaded anti-fouling paint to begin with, it’s already very dilute (and obviously, going into 29 trillion gallons of water would make it a lot more so), whereas something like 14 million pounds of of pollution enters the Puget Sound annually just due to runoff.

  7. Stupid idea for so many reasons. You need to keep the hull serviced, unlike a stone or concrete base. Putting that much metal across the flow of the river is going to be very disruptive to the entire system and generate erosion.

    1. If they’re keeping the ships around anyway, and paying for them, then why not put them to a use? A sensible government would scrap them, but that’s apparently not happening. Erosion etc doesn’t matter, if they fail, scrap ’em. I think if the cost of keeping them servicable, to whatever level, became too much, it would force their hand to do it. In the meantime you get maybe 10 years of a free bridge. And by that time, there’ll be endless more piles of militaria.

      1. Probably not erosion of the hull. Maybe Dan meant the erosion of Sinclair Inlet floorbed. But looking at the region a bit more zoomed out, I guess there is not much currentflow to speak of.

    1. You do realize that people, regardless of where they came from need to drink, eat and dispose of waste?
      A stripped out aircraft carrier seems like a terrible choice of asylum (unless there is to be an “accident” that involves sinking with it’s occupants still onboard), a simple tent-based refugee camp can do the same job with a fraction of the running costs…

      1. I think AKA was joking about sinking it. Unfortunately there’s plenty of governments probably got a few guys working on plans for that now. Immigration by sea is being made into a big problem by the European governments. Appealing to the base instincts of those on the other side of the bell curve, blaming those dirty foreign people for taking all our money and jobs, while the elite hop out of the window with the silverware / TV / furniture / carpets etc.

      2. I’d guess the nuclear bits are removed as part of the mothballing. Like it says up in the article. How they actually move the damn things, I’ve no idea, probably tug boats.

        While it seems like a good idea, I don’t think a Naval ship, designed to be staffed by trained and disciplined sailors, is the best place to host oppressed civilians. Far too many knobs and valves that bring disaster when kids mess with them. Which they would! Plus the whole nuclear thing, would be a good start for someone wanting to steal fissile isotopes. Many refugees come from countries where their own countrymen are murdering them. It would be utterly easy to sneak in a dozen spies.

        For the money and safety issues involved in making a ship safe, you’d be better off with tents. Or just letting the people into the country to live like human beings, FFS.

        1. My suggestion was tongue-in-cheek of course, but it’s a fact that a carrier hosts an awful lot of people who need to be comfortable for a long time on sea. And even without a working nuclear reactor it would at least have all the equipment and facilities and of course the reactor is meant to sail and run a full functional ship that is moving, so the power requirements for one anchored and not needing any military equipment running would be significantly less and you could even feed it power from the shore through a fat cable. So although I said it jokingly it’s not even that impossible.
          As for ‘nuclear secrets’ theoretical argument, my theoretical reply would be to just weld the reactor compartment shut and to monitor it.

          But all this analysis is perhaps a bit overboard (pardon the pun) for what basically is a joke.

    2. An aircraft carrier is actually about the size of the island of Nauru, but in international waters you can get away with starving refugees to death. The law is the “captain’s call” on a vessel in open water. Also I need somewhere to put on the ol’ budgie smugglers and get my tan back after this recent snow. We can use the anti-air cannons to keep the Rainbow Warrior out of our way too. Can Australia have them, pretty please?

  8. Love the articles on hackaday . Unfortunately most of the time the comments are more ‘cynic a day’ then anything else.

    We spend (or lose depending on how you look at it) millions to scrap these ships in the first place. The last one was sold for a penny to the scrapyard. The metal value alone goes into the millions.

    These ships are maintanable just as any other floating structure is. We manage entire fleets of older ships, and museum ships that stay afloat as long as they are kept properly.

    Seattle already has floating bridges that were purpose built as such. They have maintenance needs as well. So its not an unfamiliar concept.

  9. Mystixia,

    Yes, it’s very true that the comments on Hack-A-Day tend to be harsh and out of line.

    However, in this case, I don’t think you’ve looked at a map to understand how ludicrous this idea is. This “bridge” is about a mile from the end of Sinclair Inlet. As a bridge, it would cut a mile or two off the commute between Bremerton and Port Orchard. Many people in Port Orchard do work in the naval shipyard in Bremerton but this bridge would be of any utility at all to possibly a few thousand cars a day; if there was any toll what-so-ever on it, the use would drop to a handful of tourists.

    Nearly $100k was proposed for a feasibility study (I don’t know if it was approved), while the roads around here have pot holes that could swallow a Volkswagon. On either end of this “bridge”, the necessary land to achieve the required elevation change is nonexistent. On one end, there’s a steep embankment, already subject to landslides that can’t feasibly be cut back to provide room, and on the other, the area required is occupied by a waste water treatment plant. So it’s just not practical, the navy will not provide any ships now; these ships are scheduled to remain in the mothball fleet until new carriers are built. Even at that time, the navy says they would not be available for this project.

    You might make the argument that these ships are historic and would be a tourist attraction. USS Turner Joy, of Vietnam-era fame, is a floating museum on the Bremerton waterfront. A barely-getting-by museum.

    This is a foolish proposal, with even the requested amount to study the proposal better spent elsewhere.

  10. They navy isn’t going to give up any ships for this. The cost to re-engineer these to be a road surface to thousands of cars a day at highway speeds is undoable at any reasonable cost. The guy who thought of this pretty much got laughed at by the navy. Sure you can land airplanes on these, but planes that are built for it, that are low on fuel, have dumped their munitions, etc etc. In other words the planes landing are way lighter than the planes taking off. And even during full on flight ops. during a time of war, the duty cycle of these things isn’t great compared to the down time to maintain them. So expecting to park three of these and have a highway going along them is just plain nuts. You’d have to have 6 ships at least, 3 active, three under repair and have to switch them out. It would be cheaper and better just to build a real bridge…

  11. In rough seas you will have cars sliding all over and people getting sick in the cars, which will undoubtedly lead to accidents. The average driver can’t even handle driving distraction-free, let alone driving while puking or gawking at the carriers. You will have people getting out of their cars to explore the carriers, too. Chinese tourists would be stopping in the middle to take pictures. I am sure they would weld doors, but how long will that last before a thrill seeker with a torch wants in? Then the hobos will get in.

    There are just too many negatives to list. I am all for recycling, but this is a bit silly. If they are not going to be used, scrap them for the steel and copper wiring.

  12. Maintenance! The Navy and the contractors that prey on it do not build low maintenance things. It doesn’t matter if it is a multirole fighter jet or an elevator it will be designed to take a one person job and make it impossible to do without six. If they really want to make a floating bridge bring in the Japanese company that built the floating airport.

    As stated above, they’d be better off salvaging the steel to build a series of high-speed low-cost ferries.

  13. LOL in appears Washington state is pioneer when it come to civilian floating bridges.

    I suppose this can’t be true because according to one commenter who informed us that “..Governments typically do really stupid stuff..” Shees understatements are as far off the mark as statements that government is the answer to everything. Why do people still cling to them?

    1. Good grief how did “such statements” become understatements? I recall correcting a misspelled such manually, not using a spell check suggestion. I guess some Gremlin wants me to become Hackaday contributor ;) .

  14. Since everything classified has been removed, they should be sold to China for scrap as payment for part of our huge national debt to them. We sell scrap to China all the time. They have an enormous demand for steel.

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