Architecture

The Bridge That Wouldn’t Work Because of a Misplaced Remote Control

Admit it. We’re all guilty of setting the remote control somewhere and losing track of it. Even though the television is less than 10 feet away, we’ll hunt around for 15 minutes, looking for the remote, rather than manually change the channel on the TV.

As televisions become increasingly complicated, finding the remote becomes even more important. Some things cannot be done without the remote. In those cases, the prospect of permanently misplacing the handheld device is catastrophic.

Now imagine that you have misplaced the remote control for something significantly more important than your television. There is a lot more at stake than the prospect of missing Strictly Come Dancing. If you can’t find this remote, river traffic will come to a standstill.

Seán O’Casey Bridge, in pedestrian traffic mode. (Click image to expand)

The Seán O’Casey Bridge opened in 2005. Located in Dublin, Ireland, the bridge spans the River Liffey. Named for the Irish playwright Seán O’Casey (1880-1964) who lived in the area, its beautiful modern design enhances Dublin’s reputation for iconic bridges.

The 320-foot (97.6-meter) bridge consists of two 144-foot (44-meter) sections that swing open to allow tall boats to pass. Its movements were designed to be controlled through the use of a simple handheld remote control unit.

Seán O’Casey Bridge, opened for river traffic. (Click image to expand)

That was the plan, anyway, and it worked fine for about five years. Sometime around 2010, however, someone reached for the remote control to open the bridge, and it wasn’t there.

The bridge was constructed under the auspices of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. It moved its offices several times and had to admit, red-faced, that in one of the moves, the remote seems to have been misplaced.

Employees conducted a frantic search — much like the ones all of us have done. They looked under cushions, in drawers, on the shelves, and in unlikely places such as refrigerators and the laundry hamper. The missing device, described as being about the size of a 1990s-era mobile phone, was nowhere to be found.

Fortunately for pedestrians, the bridge was in its closed position, allowing easy foot and bicycle access between the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) and the City Quay. Unfortunately for boats and their crew, the innovative swing design was useless, since there was no alternate way to open the bridge for tall river traffic.

The moveable bridge remained unmovable for about four years. The remote control, technically referred to as a “remote radio handheld pendant key,” needed to be replaced, but budgetary restrictions kept that from happening. One of the people involved in the bridge’s operations explained that the remote control was a bit more complex than “a Sky box remote control.” The bridge’s operating system required multiple layers of security to prevent unauthorized access.

In 2014, for about €1,800 (US $2,043), a new remote was programmed to replace the lost one. Once again, the Seán O’Casey Bridge can live up to its original design, facilitating both pedestrian and boat traffic.

We hope the budget for the new remote included an additional €25 (US $29) for an Apple Air Tag. If that is too expensive, there is also the option of getting a simple remote control tether for less than €18 (US $20).


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