Germany's explosive experts have set a new record after detonating a highway bridge in the northwest of the country. It was the highest bridge ever blown up in the country – and to make the demolition even more complex, the controlled detonation of the 70-metre-tall bridge happened right next to the new replacement structure that was opened less than two months ago.

The Rinsdorf viaduct bridge (left), and an explosive effect (right).12

Germany's Rinsdorf viaduct, a major bridge in the region which was 70 metres tall and spanned 500 metres, was destroyed with at least seven explosive charges in a controlled demolition on Sunday, February 6. It was a textbook example of how rigorous planning combined with modern engineering moves societal infrastructure forward, like clockwork. 

The blast sets a new record in Germany, which has never blown up a bridge so high before. 

The 55-year-old structure came crashing down at 11am local time. After demolition expert Michael Schneider gave the signal to detonate, the bridge's 16 pillars buckled and the road surface fell to the ground. "It was a picture-book blast," he said.

Clips of the demolition make the feat look easy, but it isn't. Extensive planning, precise placement of shaped explosives, and a larger backup plan, like an alternative route through the viaduct for Germany's autobahn, were required before anything went up in smoke.

When creative destruction goes like clockwork

This precise demolition was achieved with roughly 120kg of explosives, placed in at least seven positions on the bridge where structures were in a state of static equilibrium – points where gravity works to cancel out forces meeting head on.

By placing the explosives at these points demolitions experts could predict the force of the explosion and ensure the bridge landed neatly below its initial position.

“The Rinsdorf viaduct on Germany’s A45 autobahn was demolished on Sunday due to structural issues," explains CEO Adam Rossi of TotalShield. "The bridge was 55 years old and in need of repairs."


"The replacement bridge was inaugurated in December 2021 and no damage was done to it during the demolition of the first bridge," adds Rossi.

Indeed, as the old bridge falls away, the new bridge is revealed, without a single scratch from its predecessor. The bridge's end was meticulously organised to ensure the debris would fall into a prepared bed. A short distance away, a crowd had gathered to enjoy the show of a half-century-old bridge crashing down.

Similar bridge demolitions are due in the US

When something like this happens, it's a reason to celebrate. Germany is renowned for centuries of cutting-edge engineering, and its people aren't sacrosanct about creative destruction, as several reactions from locals attest.

"There was a lot of dust but it was soon Rinsdorf by the rain," says one person on Twitter to news of the demolition, pulling a loose pun.

"Shaped charges, good job," reads another Twitter reply, referencing how the explosives were shaped to achieve the perfect blast of energy, ensuring a clean-cut, and safe drop of the bridge.

While this demolition was executed perfectly, it is only the tip of sorely needed work throughout the most densely populated state in Germany – North Rhine-Westphalia. Roughly 60 viaducts in the state are due for replacements or critical repairs. A total of 15 are under construction or awaiting extensive work, and if too much time passes, there could be trouble.

In 2007, the Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that stretched across Saint Anthony Falls with eight broad lanes, collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring another 145. That bridge was completed in 1967, and supported 140,000 vehicles every day.

Bringing top-tier demolition home – while a design flaw was cited for the Mississippi River bridge collapse, every conventional structure shares a deeper flaw of conventional age and damage from use.

Last November, the administration of President Joe Biden passed a new infrastructure bill designed to rebuild roads, bridges, and more in the US. It seems likely at this point that we'll begin to see the same clockwork destruction of bridges a little closer to home, soon.