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Tucson, Arizona

Diamondback Bridge

In Tucson a giant metal snake helps pedestrians cross a busy highway 

Tucson, Arizona, is a city with a devotion to public art, having spent millions on various projects around the city over the past couple of decades, but possibly the most monumental of these projects is the Diamondback Bridge which was constructed in the surprisingly accurate image of a giant rattlesnake. 

Built in 2002, the bridge was designed by a local artist who wanted to incorporate the local wildlife into his city project. The bridge, while abstract, is also quite biologically accurate. On one end the entrance to the bridge is shaped like the snake’s gaping maw, the long fangs presented as support beams below sinister reptilian eyes. The bridge itself is covered by a metal mesh which forms the snake’s body which is painted in the exact hues and gradient of a real rattlesnake. In addition, cars passing beneath the span can see the accurately spaced segments of the beast displayed on the belly. Coming out the… other… end of the snake, there is a tall statue shaped like a tail rattle that juts 30 feet out of the ground, also sculpted and painted biologically correct.  Finally (as if this particular serpentine lily needed any gilding), if you walk in just the right place when exiting the bridge, you’ll receive a loud and startling “goodbye” rattle from hidden speakers.

When the bridge was first built it was met with a certain amount of backlash from locals who felt it was garish and cheesy, but the artist’s vision won out and the bridge remains to this day. Unfortunately, the maintenance budget for the bridge is not quite what it should be and the snake looks like its it may need to grow a new skin, peeling paint and cracked concrete signaling its age. Regardless of its wear, though, there is still something novel about strolling cavalierly into the belly of a metal monster.

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