Broad Street Bridge next on TDOT restoration list

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   After seeing the Elk Avenue Bridge restored to its former beauty, the Tennessee Department of Transportation plans a similar structural restoration of the Broad Street Bridge to begin within one year.
   "We are developing the bridge by the same designs," Ed Wasserman, director of TDOT's structures division in Nashville, said Friday. "We plan to do it in a very similar way to the other bridge."
   The Transportation Department oversaw restoration of the Elk Avenue Bridge, which was completed earlier this month. While declining to set specific dates of bidding the project or when work could begin, Wasserman said a contract to restore the Broad Street Bridge could be approved within six to 12 months.
   The department's Structure Inventory and Appraisal office maintains a complete computer inventory of the more than 19,000 bridges on public roads in the state of Tennessee. Unlike the severe structural deficiencies found in the Elk Avenue Bridge, the structural decline of the Broad Street Bridge was not as severe according to Wasserman.
   "The indications are that deterioration at this bridge is not as significant as at the (Elk Avenue) Bridge," he said.
   Funding for the project would come from the department's state bridge repair funds with no matching funds required by the city, he added. The Elk Avenue Bridge project was administered by TDOT with 80 percent of funding via the federal Bridge Replacement Program and the remaining 20 percent allocated by the city of Elizabethton.
   Elizabethton City Manager Charles Stahl said Friday he had been told informally by a local TDOT official the Broad Street Bridge would undergo renovations later this year. In a letter sent to the department's structure's division in August 2001, Stahl recommended restoring the concrete railing and lampposts on the bridge.
   "We asked TDOT then to look at the Broad Street Bridge because we felt it was in need of repair," he said.
   The Broad Street project may not be welcomed news for county motorists who were forced to detour around downtown for almost a year as contractors working on the Elk Avenue Bridge dealt with inclement weather and extended repair work. Initially scheduled for completion in November of 2003, contractors labored for 11 months with the project's cost going from the initial bid of $766,000 to more than $1.9 million.
   Stahl said it was his understanding the work would be done in stages with only two lanes of traffic on the Broad Street Bridge at once. Broad Street averages handling more than 31,000 vehicles per day according to TDOT's Average Daily Traffic report for 2003.
   Structural report of those bridges are updated every two years as new inspection data becomes available. Inspectors review a bridge's deck, the super-structure (beams holding deck) and sub-structure elements such as pylons and columns.
   The department's Bridge Repair section is responsible for the design and plans preparation of bridge repair projects on state maintained bridges. Repair projects are let to contract through the normal bid process and administered by the construction office. During the construction phase, the repair section assists the region construction personnel in construction inspection and in solving any problems that may arise.
   The state's bridges fall into two categories of on-system and off-system, which are classified for the purpose of distributing state and federal funds. The state's 7,000-plus on-system bridges are maintained, owned and operated by the state along the Interstate Highway System, the National Highway System and the State Route System. Off-system bridges found on roads owned, maintained and operated by local governments number over 11,000.