Construction on the new Holmes Creek Road Bridge over Fall Creek could begin by the end of September but the work may not be completed until next May.
Kyle Hazel, Civil Engineer of Professional Engineering Services in Sparta updated the Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen on the project during Monday night’s regular monthly city council meeting.
“The bridge is severely corroded. It has very low clearance to the water. You can’t even walk upright under this bridge. With those steel beams being that close (three or four feet) to a wet environment because there is always flow present there is never any drying of the beams which creates a perfect storm for a corrosive environment,” said Hazel.
Since the bridge was ordered closed by the Tennessee Department of Transportation last October, Hazel said work has been done to get a design plan for the new bridge approved by TDOT and to meet requirements by other agencies. Most of these hurdles have now been cleared and the project is almost ready to be advertised for bids. Hazel said a bid opening could come as early as mid-August.
“Of course the closing of the bridge prompted the design for the replacement of the bridge. When we were hired to provide our services to the city we knew there would be four hurdles to overcome. We needed the design plan approved by TDOT. We had to get permitted through the Corps of Engineers and TDEC. We had to work with the property owners to acquire any necessary rights of ways and temporary easements. And we have to work with the local utility companies if any utilities happen to be in conflict with the project,” said Hazel.
“We are close to having all the approvals. We do have the approved plans. We do have the permits. We do have the rights of ways. They have been submitted to TDOT. They have to give their blessing that we acquired those (rights of ways) in accordance with federal laws. And we have made contact with the local utilities. All of those ducks are lined up as soon as we receive the letter (from TDOT),” Hazel continued.
“They did attach one extra requirement that we did not anticipate for this project when we started it. And that was our plans were approved contingent upon us performing an asbestos survey on the bridge. I have touched base with the company that is performing that service for us. They did the survey about a week and a half ago. They have received the lab results back and there is no contaminant down there. Nothing hazardous or any kind of asbestos containing materials. We’re clear on that,” he added.
“Whenever we do receive TDOT’s approval for the right of way acquisition I’ll be contacting (city officials) to say we’re ready to go. We can prepare an advertisement for the newspaper. I anticipate that will be in a week or two. Sometime this month. Then we will set a bid date. We need a few weeks to advertise the project to give contractors an opportunity to pick up plans and prepare their bids. I’m anticipating we’ll have a bid opening probably by mid-August. From there, once the bids are received upon your approval we will submit that information to TDOT. A contract will then be prepared between TDOT and the City of Smithville. Once signed, the contract will be sent to Nashville for final processing which takes from four to six weeks after the bid is awarded. That would put us at the end of September. That’s when you can expect construction to begin,” said Hazel.
The contractor will then likely have from 150 to 210 days to have the bridge completed depending upon the severity of the winter. “They will not be able to get it all finished before winter time. So if we get a bid in the middle of August and get somebody down there to work by the end of September then we’ll have October, November, and December. It would be hard to get much done in January and February because they are really slow months but work would pick up in March and April. I’d say May of next year (completion date),” Hazel added.
The bridge, at the bottom of town hill behind Love-Cantrell Funeral Home, has been closed since October 30.
The state forced the City of Smithville to close the bridge due to a Tennessee Department of Transportation Evaluation Report which detailed various bridge deficiencies making it potentially unsafe.
The project is being funded under the state's 1990 Bridge Grant Program. The Tennessee Department of Transportation is to pay for 98% of the costs to replace the bridge. The local matching portion is to be 2%.