Officials with the Tennessee Department of Transportation performed a routine, annual inspection of both bridges last week. The inspections were part of a federally mandated program that calls for any bridge longer than 20 feet to be inspected every two years.
The last time both bridges were inspected was in March 2017.
“We look at everything. Anything you can see, we look at it,” said Adam Wallen, transportation project supervisor with TDOT. “There are certain areas of the bridge with stress concentrations. We might look at those a little closer. We also mark cracks and monitor the steel to make sure there’s no section loss or corrosion. It’s a very thorough inspection.”
Wallen, along with 16 other inspectors and maintenance workers, was looking at bridges in Sullivan County last week, including the two over the Holston River. Out of his Johnson City office, Wallen is responsible for inspecting bridges in Sullivan, Carter, Johnson, Washington and Unicoi counties.
Hammond Bridge was completed in 1930 and its sister bridge in the 1969-1970 time frame, Wallen said, noting that after inspections, Hammond is classified in “fair” shape, while the steel bridge is considered “good.”
“Hammond has age on it, but as far as anything to be a concern for motorists, it’s still in very good working order. The only concern is with the width of the lanes,” Wallen said. “Structurally, the arches are fine. (Hammond Bridge) was designed well and was actually overdesigned. At the time, they didn’t have as many restrictions, so they tended to build things more bulky and last longer than built today.”
Under the Improve Act, Tennessee has allocated nearly $12.9 million for repairs and upgrades to Hammond Bridge and $9.25 million for its sister steel bridge. The exact nature of the improvements, and when they will be made, is not known at this time, Wallen said.
“We’ll come through and any bad areas in the concrete will be addressed,” Wallen said. “We’re wanting to take the deck off Hammond and widen the lanes. There’s massive arches under there and they will easily support wider lanes.”