State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver say they have been assured by officials of the Tennessee Department of Transportation that both Sligo Bridge and Hurricane Bridge are in line for rehab or replacement at some point.
In a joint appearance on WJLE Wednesday morning, but Senator Beavers and Representative Weaver say they met Monday with Paul Degges, Chief Engineer for TDOT, who says both bridges will eventually be fixed or replaced. In fact, Senator Beavers says Hurricane Bridge might even be a higher priority with the state than Sligo. "We had a good meeting with the Chief Engineer this week. Those bridges are in line to be done. They have to prioritize the bridges and that's exactly what they did this year. Paul Degges, Chief Engineer has repeatedly said that they have two to four years to do something about the Sligo Bridge. It's not as desperate as some other bridges in the state. They just have a limited amount of money. They have to prioritize to get everything done. We felt really good about the meeting the other day. The Sligo and the Hurricane Bridge are in line to be done and at this point it looks like the Hurricane Bridge may even take priority over the Sligo Bridge."
Representative Weaver says the reason the state is taking a closer look at Hurricane Bridge is because it is a similar type bridge as the bridge that collapsed in Minnesota a couple of years ago. "In light of what happened in August 2007 with the Minnesota bridge, the Hurricane Bridge. which is a truss bridge as well, has received much attention because it is the same kind of bridge and for the safety of the people who cross over it they have started inspections on it. Right now, as of the meeting on Monday, we were told that they are still in the process of analyzing the status of the bridge. This bridge was built in 1944 and during the 1970's, the bridge was widened which has caused some concern as to extra stress on the Hurricane Bridge. So it is very possible that the Hurricane Bridge will be bumped up (repaired ahead of schedule)."
Senator Beavers added "Hurricane Bridge was built in 1944 back during World War II. They're doing the analysis right now to see what kind of steel and bolts were used so they have a better idea just what the status of the bridge is. It may come down to removing those extra lanes that they put on a few years ago. They are in the process of trying to find out exactly what they need to do on that bridge."
TDOT has posted weight limits on both Sligo Bridge and Hurricane Bridge which has raised worries about whether the bridges are safe. Representative Weaver says TDOT has been made aware of those concerns."They posted a weight load limit on the Hurricane Bridge which is a concern with the factories, like Star Manufacturing and Federal Mogul and those type of businesses here. I talked with the manager of Star Tuesday and his question is simply if it's a safety issue then when are they (bridges) going to get fixed. That is the question we brought to TDOT. They posted the signs to not add the extra stress but they are still analyzing this bridge (Hurricane). They still don't have the details on the deterioration of the bridge, etc. so I guess if you see a weight load sign I would embrace that. Unfortunately it's going to cost some extra routing for these bridges. The point is a sign was put up on the bridge so we need to abide by it the best that we can."
Senator Beavers says one of the issues regarding Sligo is acquiring the necessary right of way for a new bridge, which takes time. "As far as the Sligo Bridge goes, everybody thought it was imperative that it be done this year but from talking with TDOT, it was not ready for the stimulus money. There's a hangup with the marina. They are having to work things out with them to move it. There's a huge cost there so there have been a few complications with acquiring the right of way for the Sligo Bridge and that has been holding things up with it at this point."
"They told us this week that they are hoping the Sligo Bridge will be ready next budget year for a letting but that's a year to year thing and until they get that worked out with TVA on the land acquisition that they need for the right of way, they can't say anything for sure whether it'll be done next year. But I want to stress again that Paul Degges, TDOT Chief Engineer, has always said there is a grace period here. He has said we've got two to four years before we have to do anything with the Sligo Bridge. So we've got a period of time to work on it. They assured us Monday, it is line to be done. People say, you didn't get the bridges in the budget this year because Mae Beavers didn't vote for the bond bill, but Degges said that is absolutely not true. It was not ready."
Some have criticized both Representative Weaver and Senator Beavers for voting against the bridge bonding bill and the state budget earlier this year (both of which passed without their support) and that somehow their actions have may have caused the Governor's administration and TDOT from expediting the Sligo bridge project. Click here to read a previous account of why Beavers and Weaver voted against the budget and bonding bill. http://www.wjle.com/node/7960