Uncle Tim’s Pedestrian Bridge has been an historic and iconic landmark in the community of Wellfleet, Massachusetts since its original construction in 1783. First known as “The New Bridge,” Uncle Tim’s Bridge connects pedestrians from Hamblen Island to the town center, crossing over Duck Creek. In the 1800’s a local fisherman and a tour guide named Timothy E. Daniels (Uncle Tim) had a shop located directly across from the bridge, which is why the bridge bears his name to this day.
While originally constructed over two centuries ago, the wooden bridge was partially replaced in the 1970s. Over the ensuing decades, however, the bridge experienced severe decay and was in need of repair. The Town of Wellfleet selected Environmental Partners in 2003 to complete a structural inspection of the condition of the existing bridge. Several components in need of replacement were identified, and the presence of soft rot decay was noted in the piles, bents, and decking. In addition, the railing system was unstable and in poor condition, putting pedestrians at risk. Selective spot replacement of piles, stringers, decking, and hand rails was initially recommended. However, upon further discussions with the Town, including the Department of Public Works, Historical Commission, and the Conservation Commission, a complete replacement approach was adopted.
Over the course of several years, EP continued to work with local agencies, departments, and stakeholders to prepare design concepts that would ensure the bridge update was contextual and consistent with its historic appearance.
The design for the project was finalized in November 2007, after significant input and collaboration between EP and various town boards. To span the 300 foot wide Duck Creek with a mean tide variation of five feet, the new design called for replacement of 60 wooden piles with new Greenheart piles, ten feet on center. A new superstructure consisting of 5/4″x 6″decking planks supported by three 4″x10″ pressure treated stringers spanning between pile caps. New 4″x4″ railing posts and side and hand rails completed the deck. Deck posts were spaced at 7’6″ to match the previous spacing and fitted with kickers and a 15″ deck overhang.
Construction commenced after Labor Day in 2008 and was completed in a total of only six weeks. Work was carefully sequenced around tide cycles, and efforts were made to minimize impacts to the creek ecosystem and adjacent wetlands. Pile lengths varied from 16 feet to 37 feet, averaging approximately 30 feet in the center of the creek. Demolition and pile driving took approximately three weeks to complete while deck framing and finish work was completed in the additional three weeks.
EP prepared the design, plans, specifications, and permits for the project, coordinated the bidding process, and oversaw construction. For the work done to replace Uncle Tim’s Pedestrian Bridge, EP was awarded a Silver Award for outstanding professional excellence by the American Council of Engineering Companies in 2010. In addition, collaboration between the various town boards, DPW and contractor (Robert B. Our Co. Inc., Harwich) resulted in a successful project that the town can be proud of for many years. Uncle Tim’s Bridge will continue to draw visitors to Wellfleet all year round to enjoy spectacular views and unique walking and hiking trails near Duck Creek that lead to beaches along the harbor.