This Rotting Siberian Bridge Is One of the World’s Sketchiest River Crossings
Despite its condition, the Vitim River Bridge is a popular crossing point for locals and adventurers alike.
Dilapidated bridges have been making headlines lately. First, there was the massive crack in a vital Interstate bridge over the Mississippi River that nobody seemed to notice for years, and most recently a dump truck managed to crash into a bridge over I-16 and shift it nearly six feet. But then, there's this sketchy bridge in Russia that's simply on another level.
Crossing the Vitim Rivier in Siberia is the aptly named Vitim River Bridge, a disused railroad crossing built in the early 1980s that's now used by automobiles and motorcycles. With a drivable surface made of railroad ties and reportedly not much more than six feet wide, it's a sketchy drive, to say the least.
The bridge was originally built in 1982 for trains traveling on the Baikal-Amur Mainline. It was apparently abandoned due to poor construction techniques which left it unable to cope with the river's current in the spring, and chunks of ice in the winter. Another railway bridge was built roughly a quarter-mile up-river to replace it, and the original bridge's life as a light-vehicle crossing began.
The structure, also known as the Kuandinsky Bridge, was never designed for this, of course. The wood surface is constantly rotting away due to the Siberian weather and it's slick in the winter thanks to snow and ice. It's still used with relative frequency though, with some crossing it as part of a long adventure, and others crossing regularly out of necessity.
As far as we can tell, the bridge is barely maintained. Videos of the crossing spanning back to 2009 show the surface in much better condition than it has been lately. In fact, the bridge is likely hardly passable as of 2021.
Back in May 2018, a video was posted to the Vitim River Bridge Club Facebook group showing one of the bridge supports being washed away by the current. There is now a very long unsupported span in the bridge. Despite this, people still cross it with motorcycles, cars, and even heavier vehicles.
Members of the Vitim River Bridge Club Facebook group seem to think the piece of roadway won't be fixed, and they're probably right. The state of infrastructure in Siberia is extremely poor. There are simply no roads from the outside world to some of the largest cities in the expansive region, with journeys to some of them by anything but sea or air becoming incredibly treacherous, as we learned last year.
When the bridge does eventually collapse, it almost certainly won't be replaced. If you want to make an attempt at a crossing, it would be best to figure that out soon. You should probably take something light, as well; definitely not the Hummer EV. One more heavy vehicle—or more likely one more especially bad winter—may be all it takes to finish off the Vitim River Bridge for good.
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