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Little Tallahatchee Bridge to Be Replaced in Alabama

Fri October 15, 2010 - Southeast Edition
Laura Johnson

CEDAR SPRINGS, Ala. It’s not always easy to cross the one-lane pony truss bridge that crosses the Little Tallahatchee Creek near Cedar Springs, but it’s always scenic.

The bridge, built of wood beams and steel railing was constructed in the early 1950s to replace a covered bridge that was swept away by a tornado. About 15 ft. below the wooden surface, bream and small turtles tread water just above the soot-covered creek bed. A few yards downstream, water so clear it looks like it was drawn from the tap runs over the crumbled stone remnants of an old mill.

The appearance of the bridge fits seamlessly with its rural surroundings on Old Broadwell Mill Road, but it’s soon to become structurally obsolete, according to officials. By next year it will be replaced by a two-lane truss bridge with a paved surface.

“It’s structurally deficient because it will not hold up legal loads,’’ said Calhoun County Engineer Brian Rosenbalm.

Thirty feet of the 60-ft. bridge is in Calhoun County Commissioner J.D. Hess’ District 4 and the other 30 ft. is in District 5, represented by Commissioner Rudy Abbott. They pooled funds from revenue drawn from a 2-cent sales tax to pay for the truss bridge, which they selected for both its practical and its aesthetic qualities.

“It fits in place,’’ said Hess while visiting the bridge site. “We want Calhoun County to be as positive and as beautiful as we can make it.’’

Nearly half a dozen residents stopped to talk to Hess about the bridge reconstruction project Aug 18. All were in favor of it.

Residents who live nearby often have to wait to let oncoming traffic pass atop the bridge, causing traffic to back up on either side. It also can become dangerous, some say, because a small hill is situated not far from the bridge on one side, and a blind curve is situated a short distance away in the other direction.

“We do find it fairly dangerous,’’ said Billy Brannon, who lives nearby. “We can’t wait to have it redone.’’

It’s not the first truss bridge to be constructed in Calhoun County in recent months, and it likely won’t be the last. Earlier this year District 2 Commissioner Robert Downing replaced a bridge on Rainbow Drive in White Plains with a truss bridge and another on Old Downing Mill Road. Initially Downing received some light-hearted ridicule from other commissioners for his support of the truss bridges, but five years after the construction of the first bridge, they’re coming around.

“I don’t mind taking a little ribbing from the rest of the commission and I’m excited to see that we’re starting to see truss bridges being built throughout the rest of the county,’’ Downing said.

He said truss bridges are less disruptive to the environment than some other bridge construction styles.

“One of the main advantages of a truss from an environmental standpoint is that there is less damage to the stream underneath, if the bridge is crossing water,’’ Downing said. “I really wanted to construct a truss bridge because it was replacing a truss bridge and that old bridge was really a landmark for the Choccolocco area.’’

Truss bridges are paid for in two phases, in the first phase the pre-fabricated parts of the bridge are purchased. In the second phase a bid is awarded for the piecing together of those parts, and for concrete and paving work that accompanies it. It cost $315,000 to purchase and construct the pre-fabricated bridge in Downing’s district from U.S. Bridge.

Currently, the bridge on Old Broadwell Mill Road has cost $114,000 to purchase its pre-fabricated parts and the county is still receiving bids for the contract work. Rosenbalm said it costs slightly more to build truss bridges, but in turn they’re quicker to install and more attractive once completed.

“It’s not an enormous difference,’’ Rosenbalm said. “It’s taxpayer money going right back to what they paid it for.’’

However Downing said he finds the bridges to have a comparable price. He added that the construction of the bridge on Rainbow Drive came in under budget and on time.

Now, in Hess’ district alone, at least two more such bridges may be in the works. He would like to construct a truss bridge along Verbon George Road and to put a new truss bridge on Hammonds Bridge if re-elected in November.

The bridges are not commonly found in urban settings and local officials don’t expect that to change, but they say the truss bridges fit well in rural communities.

“There is a time and a place for it,’’ said Calhoun County bridge inspector Jeffery A. Clendenning of the bridge. He’s been inspecting the existing bridge for 16 years.

With a 10-ton (9 t) weight limit, the one-lane structure can only accommodate cars and pick-ups, officials said. Buses are forbidden to drive atop it and anyone pulling heavy equipment across it does so illegally and at their own risk.

“This bridge is still safe for people to drive on before it gets unsafe, we’re replacing it,’’ Hess said. “This area is beginning to grow and something needs to be done.’’

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