KINGSPORT - The Tennessee Department of Transportation recently inspected five deck truss bridges similar in construction to the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis last week. One such bridge was the Rotherwood Bridge on Netherland Inn Road.
TDOT officials were in the Model City on Friday inspecting the bridge in response to the Federal Highway Administration's mandate that all bridges similar in construction to the collapsed bridge be inspected immediately. As part of its normal inspection routine, TDOT inspected the Rotherwood Bridge three or four weeks ago.
City officials are awaiting the results of the inspection.
In a press release on the bridge inspection program, TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely said the integrity of Tennessee bridges is a top priority at TDOT.
The Rotherwood Bridge on Netherland Inn Road crosses the North Fork of the Holston River and is one of only two primary routes across the river into Kingsport from Hawkins County. The Rotherwood Bridge opened in 1937, replacing another bridge that collapsed after a heavy truck crossed it.
The bridge has been slated for replacement for more than five years, and according to Kingsport Public Works Director Ryan McReynolds, this work could start in the coming months.
During an annual inspection in early 2002, TDOT discovered structural problems with the bridge and ordered it closed. In response to this mandate, the city paid $500,000 to fix the bridge so it could be used until a new bridge is built.
TDOT plans to construct a new concrete girder-type bridge that would be an aesthetic match to the area. The new bridge will also be two lanes with much wider shoulders than the Rotherwood Bridge. Work will also include a minor relocation of Netherland Inn Road.
Once the project is complete, the old Rotherwood Bridge will remain intact and be used as a pedestrian bridge.
Preliminary work on the project has been completed - American Electric Power relocated its transmission and distribution lines from one side of the bridge to the other; environmental approvals and property acquisition have also been completed.
The project was slated to be bid back in the spring, but that step was held up while TDOT waited for one last permit, McReynolds said.
"Our understanding is what delayed it from the last bidding cycle was one permit had to be obtained ... a letter of no objection from the Tennessee Valley Authority," McReynolds said. "A request has been put in to TDOT to ask them when the next bidding cycle will come around.
"We're anxiously anticipating a (bid) letting soon. It appears from our side, everything is in place for the letting."
According to TDOT, there are 19,519 bridges on public roads in Tennessee; 1,202 (6.1 percent) are classified as structurally deficient, and 2,938 (15 percent) are classified as functionally obsolete.
Structurally deficient means components of the bridge may be damaged or deteriorated but not necessarily to a critical point where safety is an issue, TDOT stated in the press release.
McReynolds said none of the bridges operated by the city are rated poor. All are rated fair or good.