An online subscription is required to view the most recent issue of the Blount Countian
on this website. To purchase an online subscription, please use our online order form.

2010-02-17 / News

Citizen concerns prompt covered bridge update

by Ron Gholson

Concerns expressed by citizens affected by the extended closing of Swann Bridge in Cleveland prompted a review of the status of structural and other repairs at all three of the county’s covered bridges.

County engineer Richard Spraggins said the schedule for reopening the bridges has slipped somewhat since his first estimate made last spring. He said it now looks like Swann Bridge will be the first to reopen early next year, having been given priority by the commission. Horton Mill Bridge would follow in mid-summer, and Easley by fall, if no unanticipated delays are encountered, he said.

The review came in the form of a report to the commission from the county engineer covering steps in the process since the repair project was initiated in 2008, following the receipt of two federal grants. All three bridges were closed last summer at the recommendation of the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) when it was determined that none of the structures could meet the 3-ton safety limit.

Once the recommendation was made, according to commissioners’ discussions, it was impossible not to close the bridges due to insurance, liability, and safety considerations generally.

Following is a summary of the county engineer’s report. County commissioners requested that it be communicated to the public to help explain the length of time required to complete the project.

•May 6, 2008. The county sent a letter to ALDOT requesting approval to select a consultant to perform the required structural analysis of bridges using federal funds.

•Aug. 13, 2008. ALDOT replied, authorizing to select a consultant.

•Sept. 25, 2008. An agreement between ALDOT and Blount County was signed by Gov. Riley to allow for the use of federal funds for the project.

•Sept. 30, 2008. Blount County submitted a request to approve engineering consultant TranSystems to perform the structural analysis of the bridges.

•Dec. 30, 2008. The county’s choice of TranSystems to perform the structural analysis was approved.

•Jan. 15, 2009. Blount County submitted a copy of the agreement executed between the county and TranSystems, requesting approval for the consultant to begin work.

•Jan. 28, 2009. Partial plans were submitted by the county to the ALDOT Bridge Bureau for review.

•Feb. 17, 2009. The Bridge Bureau replied with comments and instructions, forwarded to the county engineer.

•February, 2009. TranSystems began fieldwork for the structural analysis.

•May 26, 2009. County received preliminary report on structural analysis of Easley Bridge.

•May 28, 2009. Blount County submitted estimate #1 to ALDOT for payment to TranSystems for work performed to date. It was then discovered that no agreement had been executed to cover payment of the cost of the structural analysis. Consultant was notified to stop work until the Federal Highway Administration approved the consultant and the county and ALDOT signed the agreement for payment. Structural study on Swann Bridge had not been completed.

•June 5, 2009. Corresponded with ALDOT transmitting structural analysis for Easly Bridge and requesting requirements in order to remain in compliance with National Bridge Inspection Standards.

•June 8, 2009. Received preliminary report on structural analysis of Horton Mill Bridge.

•June 9, 2009. ALDOT replied recommending that all three bridges be closed until the bridge could be rated to meet 3- ton load capacity.

•Aug. 25, 2009. Gov. Riley signed the agreement to pay the consultant, and consultant was notified to continue structural analysis work on Swann Bridge.

•Dec. 16, 2009. Preliminary report on structural analysis of Swann Bridge was received.

•Feb. 17, 2010. County is awaiting comments from ALDOT on structural analyses of all three bridges, before proceeding with specific repairs to remedy structural deficiencies.

“Unfortunately, when you’re using federal money on a project, you have to meet all of their specifications and approval requirements. You are also forced to operate more or less on their schedule,” said county engineer Richard Spraggins.

Spraggins said the next steps in the project will be to incorporate findings from the structural analysis into plans for each bridge, specifying the quantity and size of materials needed, get approval on the plans, then make the structural repairs indicated. Folliowing structural remediation, nonstructural repairs to roofs, floors, walls, drainage and application of fire retardant can be done.

“I hope to have the plans completed and approved within 90 days. Then we can let bids for structural work later in the summer,” Spraggins said. He said other repairs on nonstructural elements would follow the structural work.

Return to top