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Million Dollar Bridge


Million Dollar Bridge

"Million Dollar Bridge" redirects here. For the bridge in Portland, Maine, see Million Dollar Bridge (Maine).
Miles Glacier Bridge
Miles Glacier Bridge prior to repairs. Today the far left span as seen in this photo has been lifted and put back into place.
Carries road bridge[1]
Crosses Copper River[1]
Locale Cordova, Alaska[1]
Design through Pennsylvania (Petit) truss bridge
Material steel and concrete[2]
Total length 1,550 feet (470 m)[2]
Number of spans 4[2]
Piers in water 3[2]
Construction begin 1909[1]
Construction end


Million Dollar Bridge
Damage done by the earthquake, with the temporary fixes performed to make the bridge usable
Miles Glacier Bridge
Location Valdez-Cordova Census Area, Alaska

60°40′24″N 144°44′36″W / 60.67333°N 144.74333°W / 60.67333; -144.74333Coordinates: 60°40′24″N 144°44′36″W / 60.67333°N 144.74333°W / 60.67333; -144.74333

Built 1910
Architect Katalla Corp.; et al.
Architectural style Other
Governing body State
NRHP Reference #


Added to NRHP March 31, 2000

The Miles Glacier Bridge, also known as the Million Dollar Bridge, was built in the early 1900s, across the Copper River fifty miles from Cordova in what is now the U.S. state of Alaska. It is a multiple-span Pennsylvania truss bridge which completed a 196-mile (315 km) railroad line for the Copper River and Northwestern Railway, built by J. P. Morgan and the Guggenheim family to haul copper from the old mining town of Kennicott, now located within the Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve, to the port of Cordova. It earned its nickname because of its $1.4 million cost, well recouped by the about $200 million worth of copper ore which was shipped as a result of its construction. Current access to the bridge is limited to jet boat travel up the Copper River or boat travel downriver from Chitina due to the erosion factors affecting the 339 bridge on the Copper River Highway.[4]


The Copper River and Northwestern Railway and associated bridges were built between 1906 and 1911 by Michael James Heney. This bridge was the most significant of the group. However, its use as a railroad bridge ended in 1938 when the Copper River and Northwestern Railway shut down.

Work to convert the old rail bed to a road began in the 1950s, and was completed in 1958. The overall work to complete a highway from Cordova to Chitina was halted when the bridge, and much of the highway under construction, was damaged by the 1964 Alaska earthquake. One of the bridge spans slipped off its foundation after the earthquake.

The bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.[5]


Temporary repairs, consisting of a rudimentary system of cables, I-beams, and planks, kept the bridge passable. The bridge was permanently repaired starting in 2004, and the repaired bridge was dedicated in August 2005. The controversial decision was made to repair it after a severe September 1995 flood caused the bridge to be impassable and also made an eventual washout of debris onto Childs Glacier inevitable. State engineers determined that it was less expensive to repair the bridge than it would be to remove it, or (in a worst-case scenario) clean up if the bridge completely collapsed into the river. Such a cleanup would have been required due to the Copper River salmon runs. The repairs cost $16 million in federal and $3 million in state tax dollars.[6]

Residents of Cordova are sharply split on the issue of finishing the highway to Chitina; the road open to automobiles ends just north of the bridge, and since 2011 much of the route back toward Cordova is inaccessible due to erosion around another bridge.


External links

  • 1911 newspaper article about the Kenicott-Cordova line
  • 1985 article from the Alaska Science Forum
  • 2002 article from the Alaska Science Forum
  • A panoramic image of the bridge, probably taken in the 1920s
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