TDOT to Repair, Replace 111 Bridges With $350M Program

Fri September 18, 2009 - Southeast Edition
Erik Schelzig - Associated Press




NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Department of Transportation on Sept. 11 identified 111 bridges to be replaced or repaired under its program to reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges in the state.

The bridge projects are the first set in a four-year, $350 million bonding program approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

The projects “will improve the safety and reliability of more than one hundred bridges in Tennessee,’’ Gov. Phil Bredesen said in a release. “Addressing these projects now rather than later allows us to take advantage of today’s lower construction costs.’’

Steel and iron scrap prices fell nearly 57 percent between June 2008 and June 2009, and cement prices dropped 15 percent over the same period, according to federal Bureau of Labor statistics cited by TDOT.

The bridge bonds became an issue of contention during the legislative session between the Democratic Bredesen administration and Republican lawmakers. Bredesen first proposed issuing all the bonds at once, while the Senate Republicans sought to eliminate all the bonding because it broke with the state’s practice of paying for road projects without going into debt.

A compromise was reached by spacing out the bonds over four years and requiring reauthorization from the Legislature each year.

“Without this program much of this critical work on structurally deficient bridges would have to be deferred for years,’’ said Transportation Commissioner Jerry Nicely. “The bridges we rebuild today with this investment will serve the state for decades to come.’’

The bridge bonding work is in addition to the state’s $572 million share of federal stimulus money designated for transportation projects.

The most expensive project announced Friday is the replacement of a 73-year-old bridge over the Clinch River in Union County. It is expected to cost more than $20 million.

Five other projects each costing more than $4 million are located in Cocke, Perry, Montgomery, Shelby and Sevier counties.

The department also identified four large bridges to be funded in the second year of the program in Knox, Loudon, Shelby counties and between Sumner and Wilson counties.