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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mayor Sells Bridge Down the Moscow River

There are many ways to deal with unwanted bridges - some blow them up, some sell them to be rebuilt elsewhere, like London Bridge in Arizona. But Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov decided to float his unwanted bridge a mile down the river and turn it into a retail paradise.

The bridge in question is Andreyevsky Bridge, spanning the Moscow River from Frunzensky Val to Sparrow Hills, near the Russian Academy of Sciences building. The railway bridge was built in 1905 and got its name from nearby Andreyevsky Monastery.

The moving engineers plan to have the 1,700 tons of metal moving by 10:30 a.m. Saturday, in time for a visit by Luzhkov. The plans were rearranged after the mayor decided to watch the show in the morning rather than at the initially planned 12:30 p.m.

Engineers flooded the holds of barges to make them ride low in the water and slid them under the bridge. The water will be pumped out of the barges, and as they rise in the water they will lift the bridge.

So far, the bridge, once a favorite spot for local youth and romantic couples, has been detached from the river banks, and the pumps were already running Thursday.

The total floating time is expected to be between three and four hours, said Dmitry Karslyan, deputy executive director of Mostotryad-18, the construction firm responsible for the move.

During this time, the bridge will travel about 1,500 meters down the river, he said. Bad weather could slow things down.

"By now there are already three barges, with a total 5,000 tons displacement, pulled under the bridge and attached to it. They were sunk before being fixed to the bridge and today we have started to pump water from them," Karslyan said.

The bridge will be propelled by six tugboats - three behind to push and three in front, facing backward to ensure the correct speed and to slow the bridge down when it completes its journey. The bridge will dock at 1st Frunzenskaya Ulitsa, where holding pillars have already been built.

Karslyan said that there will also be a series of anchor-like fixtures along the route for the bridge to help keep it on course - and to halt its considerable momentum if need be. "And if it hits a shoal we'll just pull it off and continue," Karslyan said with a laugh.

The city intends to turn the bridge into a pedestrian walkway across the river to Gorky Park. Three extra arches will be added to the bridge because the river is wider there.

"It will be all closed with special glass and turned into a recreation and shopping area," Karslyan said. The mayor wants it done by the first weekend in September, he said.

Karslyan, who has been building bridges since Soviet times, said that he could not recall a case when an old bridge was moved. "But in the construction of new bridges, it is a known technology to ship the spans," he said.

In 1968, the city of London agreed to sell London Bridge to a U.S. businessman for $2.6 million. It was dismantled, moved to Arizona and reassembled in 1971, at a cost of $7 million.

The Andreyevsky Bridge relocation is part of Luzhkov's project to build the so-called Third Ring road between the Garden Ring and the outermost Moscow Ring Road.

The new ring, designed to relieve traffic congestion, will follow Moscow's ring railway, of which Andreyevsky most was a part. A new railway bridge will be built at the site, but 22 meters closer to the city center. The bridge for cars will be built next to it.

The Andreyevsky Bridge is old, and since plans called for it to be moved anyway, it was decided to build a new one.

Luzhkov ordered a section of the Third Ring, between Krasnaya Presnya in the west and Sparrow Hills in the southwest, to be finished by the year 2000. Parts of the new ring can be seen by Luzhniki Stadium.

The notion of moving objects of grand scale around Moscow was, however, not Luzhkov's invention. In the late 1930's, some of the buildings on Tverskaya Ulitsa were moved aside when the street was widened.

In the late 1970s, the building at 18 Tverskaya Ulitsa, near Pushkin Square (better known as home to TGI Friday's and part of Kodak Cinema World) stood closer to the square, blocking the brand-new Izvestiya newspaper office.The decision was made to knock down the pretty, modern building.

However, by lucky chance, somebody remembered that Maria Ulyanova, a younger sister of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin, had worked in the building as a secretary at Pravda newspaper in 1920s. It was decided that it would be politically incorrect to demolish a building of such historical significance, and so it was moved along the road.