Historic bridge showing decay

Photo by Kristen Luther
The historic covered bridge in Elizabethton shows signs of disrepair and aging. Elizabethton Director of Planning and Development, David Ornduff, said the city plans to paint and repair the bridge in the spring.

By Thomas Wilson
star staff

  Cosmetic restoration of Elizabethton's historic Covered Bridge will not occur until next year, according to city officials.
  City government's Director of Planning and Development, David Ornduff, said Monday the bridge will be painted in the spring.
  "The bridge has to be scraped," Ornduff said, "and scaffolding must be placed in the river to get to it. We also have to place a net down to keep paint chips from falling into the river."
  The bridge is showing its age since exterior paint is chipping and peeling from the lower portion of the structure that faces toward East Elk Avenue. The city owns the bridge.
  The bridge underwent a structural restoration effort earlier this year when Intech Contracting won a bid in February to repair it. The project initially included painting and the installation of new lighting fixtures.
  Ornduff said the bridge is structurally sound.
  Intech's total bid came in at $162,000 including painting and lighting costs of $45,000 and $37,000, respectively. The bridge restoration project was budgeted at $122,500, however, so the city opted to delay painting the bridge and accepted an optional bid of $113,300 that did not include painting or lighting costs. A grant totaling $98,000 administered through the Tennessee Department of Transportation provided most funding for the project with the remainder coming from the city.
  Orduff said the city plans to request inmate labor through the Carter County Work Camp for painting restoration of the bridge. He said the Elizabethton Electric System will install the lighting fixtures and the city will install mesh netting later.
  The Covered Bridge was built in the 1880s and has survived two devastating county floods of 1901 and 1998. Structurally, the bridge contains one span, a covered wooden Howe Truss that is 137 feet long. The bridge's total length is 154 feet. The bridge contains one traffic lane and a single walkway.
  After recommendations from a private engineering firm and TDOT, City Council voted earlier this year to keep the covered bridge closed to vehicle traffic. The bridge remains open to pedestrian traffic.
  In other developments, Orduff said he has submitted application to four separate funding agencies seeking money to repair the weir dam in the Doe River between the bridge and East Elk Avenue bridge. The dam collapsed earlier this year leaving a huge gap in the middle of the structure.
  "We do have a preliminary engineering report that recommends the dam be reconstructed in its entirety," Ornduff said.