Bridge Inspections: 4 Out Of 5 In East TN

By: Jim Freeman
By: Jim Freeman

Knoxville (WVLT) 4 of the 5 Tennessee bridges ordered by the feds to be inspected immediately are right here in East Tennessee.

One is ruled structurally deficient, and awaiting replacement.

It's used by 30,000 vehicles a day on I-40.

A second, the Gay Street Bridge in Downtown Knoxville.

Volunteer TV's Jim Freeman has more on what inspectors are looking for.

Officials just finished an inspection on the Gay Street Bridge earlier this evening.

T-DOT inspectors going over all the trusses and supports, and all the pavement.

This 110 year old bridge was rehabilitated in 2004.
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But a second bridge that carries I-40 over the French Broad River is awaiting to be rebuilt.

Inspecting bridges in Tennessee is a team effort.

Travis Brickey with T-DOT says, "well, we do have guys in the truck who are an arms length to the bridge. We have guys on the bridge deck watching out for them, and we also have a safety team in the water."

17 teams statewide check bridges at least every two years.

They check way down low, even below the water.

Chief Engineer Paul Degges says, "the substance or piers."

They look over the superstructures that run directly under the road.

Degges continues, "the superstructures are the beams."

And of course the part the average driver sees on every trip across a bridge.

"And then the deck or the riding surface of the bridge."

Of the more than 19,000 Tennessee bridges, five are "deck truss" bridges which are similar, but still very different in construction to the bridge that collapsed in Minnesota.

Four of them are right here in East Tennessee.

Jefferson County on I-40 over the French Broad River, on the Sullivan-Hawkins County line at Netherland Inn Bridge, Carter County on State Route 67 at the Watauga River, Knox County over the Tennessee River and in Middle Tennessee, Dekalb County at the Caney Fork River.

A rough driving surface on the I-40 bridge gives it a "poor" rating.

However, it is slated to be replaced.

Johnny Sartin drives an 18-wheeler and says, "oh, it's a great thing, excellent thing. I mean. I worry about that bridge every time I cross it some of the spots on it especially."

Inspections on all five of these bridges will be completed by next week.

Degges says, "we felt it was important to get out and look at every single one of these bridges in Tennessee."

The bridges in Carter, Dekalb and Sullivan-Hawkins counties are rated as fair.

The oldest of the five bridges, the Gay Street Bridge, is in good condition.

Degges adds that a bridge that is defined as structurally deficient by no means means it has a safety issue.


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