The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)this week held an event to educate the public about the condition of bridges across the state, and the rigid inspection process designed to ensure the safety of the bridges for the motoring public.
"The tragedy in Minneapolis certainly brings the issue of bridge safety to the forefront," said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. "We want to assure everyone that the integrity of our bridges is a top priority at TDOT and we will continue to look for any improvements that could be made to our Bridge Program."
Tennessee's inventory of bridges includes five deck truss bridges, which are similar in construction to the bridge which collapsed in Minneapolis. TDOT will immediately inspect the five deck truss bridges. The bridges are located at:
Jefferson County - I-40 over the French Broad River (this bridge is slated for replacement)
Carter County - State Route 67 over the Watauga River
DeKalb County - State Route 56 over the Caney Fork River (Hurricane Bridge)
Sullivan County - Netherland Inn Bridge (this bridge is slated for replacement)
Knox County - Gay Street Bridge over the Tennessee River
There are 19,519 bridges on public roads in the state of Tennessee. These bridges fall into two categories for the purpose of distributing state and federal funds. On-system bridges are those maintained, owned and operated by the state. They are found on the Interstate System, the National Highway System and the State Route System and include 8,114 bridges. There are 11,405 off-system bridges on roads owned, maintained and operated by local governments.
While the department does track deficiencies in bridges this by no means indicates a safety issue with the bridges. The term "Structurally Deficient" means that components of the bridge may be damaged or deteriorated, but not necessarily to a critical point where safety is an issue. Based on inspection and evaluation of bridges, TDOT will determine whether the bridge should be posted with a weight limit or should ultimately be closed, thus ensuring the safety of motorists.
"We have 17 bridge inspection teams who work diligently to ensure that each bridge across the state is inspected at least every two years," added TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges. "If there is any indication of a serious issue with a bridge, it is closed immediately."
Tennessee has been working to improve the conditions of its bridges for the last two decades. From 1982 until 2005, TDOT dedicated more than $1.5 billion to its Bridge Program. Approximately $100 million will be placed toward bridge programs this fiscal year. Annually, approximately $6.5 Million is dedicated to TDOT's Bridge Inspection Program.
Commissioner Nicely added, "We want to assure the public that we are confident the bridges in Tennessee are safe and are working to ensure that they remain safe into the future."