The Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Gerald Nicely, has written a letter to County Mayor Mike Foster concerning the possible future replacement or rehabilitation of Sligo Bridge.
Foster made available copies of the letter to the local news media Thursday morning.
In the letter, Nicely states that " As I promised in our meeting in Chairman Phillip Pinion's office on May 5th, I am writing to confirm the department's intentions with respect to the Sligo Bridge. First, let me express my regret for the confusion which has led to the concerns of your community."
"As I stated in our meeting, I agree with the County's position that an 18-month closure is unacceptable and would have a severely negative impact on the area. Taken this as a given, we have two alternatives:"
1. "A total replacement, which is the preferred solution, but is currently outside the department's financial capabilities. I understand State Representative Frank Buck is pursuing a Congressional earmark through U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander's office. If successful, TDOT would provide the local match and we could proceed with the replacement. It is also possible at some point the Government will put forward a transportation revenue package for consideration by the General Assembly. If this were to occur, TDOT would recommend that the bridge replacement fund be enhanced. The Sligo Bridge would certainly be a strong candidate for funding if this were to occur."
2. "Bridge Rehabilitation while maintaining one lane for traffic is a back up alternative. This would probably require a six-eight week closure of the bridge to prepare it for rehab under traffic. While not an ideal solution, it would certainly be preferable to a long term closure."
"The good news is that while the bridge decking needs replacement, it is still structurally functional. Our structural engineers do not think work has to occur immediately and the bridge could be maintained without major repair work for about two years. This should give us time to pursue funding for the total replacement option. If we are unable to do so, we could then pursue option 2 as outlined above."
"Let me assure you that we are committed to finding a solution which is acceptable to the citizens of DeKalb County. I want you to know that State Representative Charles Curtis is in support of your position on this matter. Speaker Jimmy Naifeh has also spoken to me about this bridge and expressed his support to finding such a solution. While Representative Pinion and Representative Buck are both retiring from the legislature, you can be assured that Speaker Naifeh and Representative Curtis will make certain that the project remains a priority of the General Assembly."