The John Frost Bridge is an icon. It connects the districts north and south of the Lower Rhine, but also the people of Arnhem with ‘their’ city. Every reason for Rijkswaterstaat and the municipality to carry out the major maintenance together so that it can continue for many years to come.
‘Arnhem wouldn’t be Arnhem without the John Frost Bridge’says management adviser arv Boukje Overbeek from the municipality of Arnhem.
The Rhine Bridge
The John Frost Bridge has an illustrious past. The bridge was built between 1932 and 1935 as part of the Rijkswegenplan, a national project to improve Dutch roads. The bridge was given a slight arch construction so as not to dominate the low urban development.
Because it was customary for the Rijkswaterstaat to name a bridge after the river that ran under it, the bridge was named ‘Rijnbrug’. ‘I think the arches made of riveted steel are very impressive’says Overbeek. ‘But I also really like smaller details, such as the end of the fancy stairs with basalt lava.’
Symbol of resurrection and reconstruction
In the war that started shortly after opening, the bridge was blown up twice and repaired again. The first time, in 1940, the Dutch armed forces destroyed the bridge to stop the advance of the German occupiers. During the occupation, the bridge was again repaired by the Germans.
Shortly after its reopening, the bridge became the focus of heavy fighting in the final phase of Operation Market Garden in September 1944. Attempts to capture the bridge failed. The bridge turned out to be ‘a bridge too far’.
The bridge is world famous for its war history. It is a symbol of liberation and reconstruction.
In the years after the war, the bridge was again repaired and reopened in 1950. In 1978, the bridge got its current name, which refers to the British soldier who led the Battle of Arnhem.
Until now, war damage has always been visible. This will not be restored in the renovation that we are currently doing. Overbeek: ‘The bridge is world famous for its war history. It is a symbol of liberation and reconstruction.’
‘The war and the bridge have largely determined what the southern city center looks like today. Seen from that point of view, it is very strange to brush away the war damage.’ In contractor Mobilis Iris’ job description, it is therefore explicitly described as: ‘War damage should remain visible for cultural-historical reasons.’
There are still many elements on and around the bridge that remind us of the turbulent past. For example, there are various commemorative plaques commemorating the wartime, such as in the northern abutment and above the bicycle entrance on the north side of the bridge. Also on this side are 2 bunkers with bullet holes containing a monument to fallen soldiers.
A special detail of the bridge is the so-called false joint. This was used in the design of the bridge to be able to quickly and controlled blow up the bridge in wartime. During maintenance, this fake joint in the asphalt takes on a different color.
When the John Frost Bridge reopens to traffic in September, there will also be a sign explaining the historical significance of the false link.
During maintenance, the bridge will be painted where necessary. The bridge’s railings retain their striking burgundy colour: ‘Maroon Red’. This is also a reference to the war: it is the background color of the emblem of the British 1stSt Airborne Division, which landed near Arnhem in 1944 to take the bridge.
Ready for the memorial
In addition to painting parts of the bridge, contractor Mobilis Iris has repaired the concrete deck, asphalted and renewed the joint transitions in recent months.
As of 10 September 2022, the John Frost Bridge has been refurbished, open to traffic and ready for the annual commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem.