Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Bridge Definition:

A structure which spans an obstruction and which affords passage to people or things.

Related Terms: Wharf

Traditionally, as Justice Kilkenny of the United States District Court wrote in Oregon Transfer Company:

"A bridge on a road is part of the road itself and this is without regard to the bridge's length or cost. A bridge is nothing more than that part of a road which crosses a stream."

In 1996, in Newberry, Justice Thomas of the Supreme Court of Wyoming accepted these words as a legal definition of bridge:

"A structure erected over a depression or an obstacle to travel (as a river, chasm, roadway, or railroad) carrying a continuous pathway or roadway (as for pedestrians, automobiles, or trains)."

But consider CIC Insurance Ltd v Barwon Region Water Authority, in which Justice Ormiston of the Victoria Supreme Court, Court of Appeal (Australia) wrote:

"[T]he word bridges ... requires no more than that such structures should provide a means of passage in one form or another. Passage of water can appropriately be effectuated by canals and tunnels.

"Likewise that can be said of bridges, wherever they allow for the passage of water, or piped water, from one place to another.


"In truth what physically characterizes a bridge is that which enables it to be identified as such, not what passes over a bridge from time to time. As long as the structure has been built to cross over a river, a ravine, a road or a railway, etc. then it is of little consequence whether people, vehicles, water or commodities are afforded passage by the bridge; it is sufficient that the structure itself crosses from one side of a river etc. to the other. "


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