With a short-term closure of the Salzbachtal Bridge, the police completely surprised motorists on Friday afternoon in rush hour traffic and triggered long traffic jams on the A66 and the side streets around Wiesbaden.

The reason was a "sagging" of the bridge, which had to be checked, it was initially said.

A specialist should take a close look at the bridge that stands between the Wiesbaden-Biebrich and Wiesbaden-Mainzer Straße junctions. 

Oliver Bock

Correspondent for the Rhein-Main-Zeitung for the Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis and for Wiesbaden.

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    According to Stephan Hodes, spokesman for the motorway company, the difficulties arose from the south bridge, which was shortly after the demolition, and not from the north bridge, which has long been used for all traffic.

    Apparently, concrete parts of the ailing south bridge fell onto the federal highway B263 (Mainzer Straße) below, which was also blocked by the police.

    Train traffic on the route between the main train station and Wiesbaden-Ost was also interrupted.

    Whether the "sagging" affects both halves of the bridge initially remained open. 

    Agreement only in April

    At the beginning of the year, the new federal autobahn GmbH took over responsibility for the A66 and thus also the construction of the Salzbachtal bridge built in 1963. In April - after months of downtime - an agreement was announced with the private working group of construction companies in the dispute over the appropriate demolition method for the south bridge.

    This demolition is currently being prepared and should begin in the fall. Until the new four-lane building opens in 2024, the north bridge, which has been reinforced after a construction accident, has to accommodate all traffic between Frankfurt and Wiesbaden in just three lanes. The demolition of the south bridge should be finished in June next year. For this purpose, a kind of "demolition table" will be erected under the old building, which will move under the bridge from west to east and prevent fragments from falling into the depths.  

    A construction accident triggered headlines beyond the region in January 2019. In the process, “tendons” of the 300 meter long, northern reinforced concrete bridge, which were important for the statics, were damaged. As a result, commuters only had one lane in each direction on each half of the bridge until November 2019. The result was traffic chaos around Wiesbaden. An evidence preservation procedure to clarify the causes in a court-proof manner has not yet been concluded. Only after extensive reinforcement was the bridge ready to accept traffic in both directions on its three lanes.

    Originally, both bridges had to be replaced by new buildings by 2025. In the spring, there was cautious talk of the summer of 2026. Static problems with the north bridge were not expected, however. When asked, the experts left no doubt that this northern half could hold out for another five years: "We are on the safe side," it said, referring to the "stringent monitoring" of the structure. Now the south bridge seems to crumble prematurely.