A man with glasses and a beard wears a brown suit and tie in front of a neutral grey backgroundMichael J. Cuddy, P.E. is a Principal/Senior Vice President with TranSystems working out of their Philadelphia office. He has been with the firm (or its predecessor Lichtenstein Consulting Engineers, Inc) for over 38 years and is responsible for many of its major bridge design, rehabilitation, and inspection programs; particularly those involving historic bridges and complex structural systems.

Mike’s special areas of expertise are the analysis and sympathetic rehabilitation of metal trusses, concrete arches, and masonry arches. He has been the project manager on such notable rehabilitation projects as the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, the oldest existing suspension bridge with a span greater than 1,000′ and the University Avenue bascule bridge, designed by noted Philadelphia architect Philip Cret. Of the 10 oldest bridges in America as identified by AASHTO, Mike and his staff in Philadelphia have rehabilitated six of them.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he is a registered professional engineer and is noted for his innovative and practical approach to the evaluation and rehabilitation of historic bridges. He has presented extensively on innovative rehabilitation techniques for historic structures, aesthetic bridge design, designing new bridges in historic districts, and cost estimating for rehabilitation projects.

Mike is one of our three new board members! We’ve asked each of them to provide a valentine to a special place in Pennsylvania.

A view of the one-lane Peevy Road bridge with traffic signs on either side of the bridge entrance and in the distance, an old brick building. The area has lots of trees and appears to be fairly rural.
The Peevy Road Bridge in context.

Tribute to a Bridge

I have had the honor of working on a great many beloved bridges over my career, so when approached to write a “Love Letter” to that special type of structure, I was initially at a loss. Instead of recounting my enchantment with a great monumental structure (Brooklyn Bridge) or the oldest bridge of a particular type (Frankford Avenue Bridge – built 1699), I selected a local treasure that may not be known to many but has an immense amount of charm –– a truly beautiful bridge that has won my heart.

Located at a T-intersection of the west side of Water Street north of East Greenville in Montgomery County, PA; the Peevy Road bridge carries one lane of traffic of a quiet two-lane county road over the Perkiomen Creek. The setting marks the transition from Montgomery County’s agrarian past, with an 1891 mill and farm complex that includes a well- preserved and architecturally significant house and water-powered mill and race system on the west side of the bridge. The change to manufacturing is represented by the two large manufacturing plants (Knoll Furniture and Brown Publishing) located on campuses on the east side of Water Street.

If you're standing at the entrance to the truss bridge, you can see the decorative metalwork on the sides and overhead

For many reasons, the 1880 pin connected thru truss bridge ranks as one of the exceptionally significant extant metal truss bridges in the Commonwealth. It stands as the oldest Pratt thru truss bridge in vehicular service and was built during the era of experimentation when the metal truss bridge technology was developing. The bridge’s unusual details, like the built-up I-section for the primary compression members and the “flat-bar” lower chord, reflect innovative thinking on the part of the designer and fabricator, David H. Morrison. He established the Columbia Bridge Works Company at Dayton, OH in 1852 and was well known for his bowstring truss bridge designs. Starting in the late 1870s, he spearheaded the transition away from bowstrings to the Pratt thru truss design.

The Peevy Road bridge represents an important step in the standardization of details of the historically important Pratt truss design. Morrison understood the potential of I beams, which given the technology of the day were built up using channels and preferred them for primary compression members. His wide, “flat-bar” lower chord, which he believed added stiffness and reduced vibration from heavy live loads, was also new for the times. Remarkably, both details along with extremely choice cast iron decorative work (portal brace beam, cast iron knee braces, makers plaque, and upper chord end caps) and other early details, like the upper lateral bracing and the hip hanger lower panel point connection, remain for all to observe and appreciate today.

This view of the upper portion of the bridge reveals the date 1880 in one of the cast iron features.

I am always amazed at the detailing of this bridge and the ingenuity needed to make these advances. The bridge geek in me appreciates the following features on this bridge: The upper chords and inclined end posts are comprised of built-up sections using three channels to create an I shape. The verticals are toe-out channels connected by cast rectangle packing blocks to create a form that has the stiffness of a hollow cylinder, like the patented Phoenix column but using less material. The diagonals and counters are forged loop eyebars. There are no upper panel point pins for the interior panels; the diagonals are connected thru the upper chord web using upset ends and nuts. The “flat bar” lower chords have bolted-to-splice lap joints and are punched to pick up the lower panel point pin.