Local residents inconvenienced by the closure of the bridge on Holmes Creek Road at the bottom of "Town Hill" will have to deal with a detour for a few months until a new bridge can be constructed.
According to city officials, it will likely be fall before the new structure over Fall Creek is complete.
Public Works Director Kevin Robinson told the assembly at last week’s meeting of the Smithville mayor and board of aldermen that the new bridge was being designed. "I talked to Kyle Hazel probably two or three weeks ago," Robinson shared. "He is the engineer over the bridge. It's in the design phase right now. They're projecting it to be done by late summer or fall."
City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson said the order to close the 42-foot span came without warning. The bridge was closed to traffic on Oct. 30 after a Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) evaluation found "100 percent corrosion" on the steel I-beams supporting the structure, holes in the concrete deck and inadequate bracing.
"Every other year they come through and do an inspection and send us a report telling us what we need to do," he explained. "Usually it's just clearing sediment from underneath the bridge and checking on the signed tonnage that's allowed to cross it. Right before Halloween this year they issued a statement saying the bridge would be closed in two weeks. There was nothing we could do about it. They (state funds) are paying for 98 percent of it, but it is still a big inconvenience for anybody living in that area."
Hendrixson said there were still a few hoops to jump through before traffic crosses Fall Creek again, but funding for the project under the 1990 Bridge Grant Program means TDOT will pay for 98 percent of the cost to replace the ailing structure, with the city on the hook for only the remaining two percent.
"Unfortunately it is going to move slowly," he informed. "They've got to do site tests and core samples. They also have to obtain a permit from the Corps of Engineers because the creek is a tributary to the lake. Then they have to bid it out and whoever is awarded the contract will have 120 days to complete the project. It's a long process," said Hendrixson.