Historic one-lane bridge closed after accident

By ED HOWELL, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 6/7/17

Country Club Bridge is closed in the wake of a vehicle accident that damaged its railings, leading questions of not just finances but also whether the 119-year-old bridge itself has more damage to consider in light of its age.

County Engineer …

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Historic one-lane bridge closed after accident

Posted

Country Club Bridge is closed in the wake of a vehicle accident that damaged its railings, leading questions of not just finances but also whether the 119-year-old bridge itself has more damage to consider in light of its age.

County Engineer Mike Short gave a report on the bridge, located on Country Club Road, at a Walker County Commission meeting on Tuesday, saying it was constructed in 1898.

“It is maybe the oldest bridge in constant service in Alabama,” he said. “Unless someone has some emergency funds that I don’t know about, we’re just going to remain closed until the insurance either pays us or we find some money.”

District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis, whose district is home to the bridge, said after the meeting the one-vehicle accident occurred on June 1. He released photos he took on the bridge, showing the railings damaged and a truck leaning on the bank of the Blackwater Creek, sticking halfway out of the water.

He said earlier during the meeting the driver was not hurt and survived the accident with “minor scrapes and bruises.” 

Short told the commission that the accident “knocked the railing off of approximately 50 feet of the bridge. It is a one-lane bridge, so we have closed the bridge at this time. I filed a claim with the driver’s insurance.” 

He discussed the impact of the guard rail leading to the bridge, noting it was not designed to contain a vehicle at the time of its construction.

“The bridge really was not damaged other than the components of the railing,” Short said.

Davis said in the meeting, “We’re still talking 10s of thousands of dollars just for the rails and to assess and see what additional repairs will be needed with that bridge.”

He said the railing and guard rail were damaged. “Guard rails are not cheap,” he said.

Asked if just the railings could be worked on the bring the bridge back up to use, Short said, “Correct.” Davis said it would be Short’s decision to reopen the bridge.

Short added, “We will call in a team out of Montgomery to look at the bridge and confirm our thoughts. It doesn’t appear there is any damage but with something this aged and this type of structure, a truss bridge, it would be wise to look at it.”

Chairman Jerry Bishop said the situation is somewhat complicated, as the railing is also part of the support of the approach on the bridge.

Short said the bridge has a three-ton load limit.

Davis said detours are being made down Harrison Shipman Road or just go down Baughn Road.

“You can turn left if you are going past the country club before you get to the bridge, and turn left on Harrison Shipman,” he said. “If you are coming in the south way, you would go on Baughn or stay on Country Club and it continues to Curry Highway.”

“This commission will work as a whole to help on that bridge, or whatever we need to try to do,” Bishop said.

Later in the day, Short said it is an unusual situation to estimate a cost for replacing the railings, but he said a ballpark figure might be $30,000 or more.

The one-lane truss bridge is located west of Musgrove Country Club and a mile east of Highway 195. Bridgehunter.com said the bridge 170.9 feet long with a deck width of 12.1 feet. The vertical clearance above the deck is 15 feet.

The average daily traffic as of 1991 is 400 and the structure is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. However, the superstructure condition rating was poor and was considered structurally deficient, according to bridgehunter.com.

The commission has arranged for a referendum on Aug. 15 for county voters to decide on raising the county sales tax by 1 cent to pay for debt and other needs, including road needs. A total of $4.2 million of the $7 million raised annually from the extra tax would go to road and bridge needs in the county jurisdiction.

In other commission matters, the commission approved a three-year lease contract with Pitney Bowes for a postage machine in the Revenue Office, at $1,062.09 per quarter. It also cancelled the Monday, July 3, commission meeting due to the Fourth of July holiday the next day.