KINGSPORT — Repairs will begin in the next six months on the pedestrian suspension bridge at Riverfront Park, which has been closed for nearly a year due to safety concerns.
Built in the late 1970s, the suspension bridge is located at Riverfront Park and stretches across the Holston River to Long Island.
Public Works Director Ryan McReynolds said the bridge was locked in October 2007 after city staff, during a routine inspection, discovered structural problems with the bridge and declared it unsafe for pedestrian traffic.
“TDOT (Tennessee Department of Transportation) inspects the bridges over roadways every two years. To supplement that we inspect on the off years, all those bridges, plus our pedestrian-type bridges on a yearly basis,” McReynolds said. “Last year during that inspection there were some minor issues with the decking and some cabling issues that our internal inspector did not feel comfortable with, so he is generating a project to have those (fixed).
“So we closed (the bridge) to keep it from degrading any further.”
David Austin, facility maintenance manager for the city, said the repairs would fix the decking of the bridge and the upright cables.
“Over time, those cables need to be replaced,” Austin said, noting the bridge has been repaired at least once in the past.
McReynolds said the estimated cost to repair the bridge is just over $50,000 with the money coming out of the city’s minor bridge maintenance fund. McReynolds said the project should go out to bid in the next two months with work taking three to four months to complete.
As to why it’s taken so long to get the bridge repaired, McReynolds said the city was waiting to see if additional funds were needed for the Rotherwood Bridge project.
Blalock Construction has been working since January on replacing the Rotherwood Bridge — located on Netherland Inn Road — with a new, concrete girder-style bridge and realigning the road on both sides of the river to tie in with the new bridge.
“We were looking at if anything was going to fall out of the Netherland Inn replacement bridge project. This account would be what assisted in that funding,” McReynolds said. “We’re far enough along, everything is pretty clear-cut in that project, so we feel more comfortable releasing this money.
“But the bridge had to be closed because it would be unsafe at this time to continue to have people on the bridge.”