State inspectors took a close look at the Dismal bridge on the Alexandria to Dismal Road over Smith Fork Creek Monday and the findings were not good.
Road Supervisor Kenny Edge says damage to the bridge is "critical" but not serious enough to close it, although weight limits may have to be posted. "I met with the state bridge inspectors Monday and they took one of those huge trucks that sets on the bridge with a long arm and they went back under it and took pictures of it all the way across. They said it did have critical damage to it but they felt like it was safe for local traffic, small vehicles. But they said if it was a main road and a lot of trailer trucks were on it I might wind up having to close it."
"They're going to send all of the information to the engineers in Nashville and they'll get back with me and tell me what safe bridge limit sign to put on it and what I may have to do in the future to try to eliminate some of the problem as far as the danger part of it because a lot of the rebar, which is the steel inside of the beams, are exposed and concrete jumped off of those beams due to that heat all the way across under there for approximately thirty feet. It looks terrible but I feel like it's safe for small cars and local traffic and they (inspectors) felt like it would be alright for the school bus and our (county road department) trucks to travel but they said the engineers will get back with me and tell me exactly how many tons it's safe to carry and what to post it."
Last Wednesday, someone set fire to the driftwood and debris underneath the bridge, which had washed up and lodged there during the May floods. County Fire Chief Donny Green said members of the Liberty and Temperance Hall stations and a tanker truck from the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department rushed to the scene upon receiving the call and when they arrived, firefighters found a roaring blaze coming from under the bridge. Firefighters even had to use a floating pump to draw water from the creek to help put out the blaze. Green said the fire was so intense that it caused chunks of concrete to break apart from the bridge.
The $1.1 million bridge was completed two years ago. Edge says it was built with eighty percent federal funds, fourteen percent from the highway department budget, and six percent from the county general fund.
Last week, Edge estimated that the repair costs could run as much as half a million dollars and he won't know how to deal with it. Edge says he'll have to do what the state mandates. "There's probably two or three ways to do it (repair the bridge) but you've just got to do what you're told to do through the state on a bridge that's twenty feet or longer. There could be another pier put under it from where the good part is on out to support it and then work on the thirty or forty foot section that got damaged or you could take down one third of it and go back with it (replace) like the original. I don't have that choice. I've got to do what's passed down to me (by the state)."