Brown’s Bridge out in District 3

By ED HOWELL, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 12/3/17

The Walker County Commission is looking at ways to reopen a bridge that has been temporarily closed — although the county may still have to come up with hundreds of dollars of match to build a new bridge.

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Brown’s Bridge out in District 3

Posted

The Walker County Commission is looking at ways to reopen a bridge that has been temporarily closed — although the county may still have to come up with hundreds of dollars of match to build a new bridge.

County Engineer Mike Short spoke of the closing of Brown’s Bridge at a commission meeting Wednesday. The meeting was called to approve revised contracts with the private tax collection firm RDS, now being renamed Government Revenue Solutions (GRS). The one-year contracts are for tax revenue collections for lodging, rental, alcohol, sales and use, gas and tobacco taxes. The firm also will collect taxes for revenue discovered while doing other audits for other clients.

A county study showed the firm was still the most efficient means of collecting the most tax revenue at less cost, officials said.

Before that action was approved, Short gave a department report as part of the agenda.

The bridge is between Parrish and Oakman over Lost Creek on Brown’s Bridge Road, Short said.

“We’re trying to come up with some way to get Brown’s Bridge reopened” in District 4, Short said, noting District 3 Commissioner Ralph Williams has also been in discussions.

The bridge was closed on Nov. 15 during a routine county inspection of the bridge, he said, noting the metal decking had been exposed.

“We’ve had some deck pins that have been exposed due to pavement wearing off,” leaving areas of the deck rusted, he said. Holes have been left on the bridge that one can look down through the decking to see the creek,

Short said he was trying to get in touch with the state maintenance engineer in the Third Division of the Alabama Department of Transportation to see exactly how department personnel handle similar situations on the interstate, in the hopes local crews can adopt some of the procedures. He noted he was concerned about slippery metal areas of the bridge that could be exposed, and he said the bridge might could be made into a one-lane structure to slow traffic down. That might could allow the bridge to function until a new bridge is completed.

A new bridge would be constructed 300 feet upstream from the existing bridge, using state ATRIP money, he said.

Williams said the U.S. Postal Service called him with concerns about the closed bridge, adding that he assured postal officials that the county is looking at it only being a temporary closure and opening a new bridge as quickly as possible.

“That’s our intentions,” Short said.

After the meeting, Short said county officials had no choice but to close the bridge, which is approximately 200 feet long. State officials were notified as part of a process in place, as well as school boards and some emergency services.

“This bridge was already posted at 10 tons, so a school bus was not crossing it,” he said, noting it was considered a two-lane bridge but is still very narrow.

County officials are currently trying to determine how to do work using their own crews, although contractual work may also have to be undertaken.

“We also don’t have a fund sitting over here for emergency bridge repair,” he said. “We just don’t. We’ve got to be cautious about all of this, because money spent in one area is money that was scheduled to be spent somewhere else.” 

Short said the good news is that a new bridge was scheduled to be constructed downstream that could be up and running in 18 to 24 months, using the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP) program. “This had been planned. We were just hoping to make it to the point of replacement with this bridge.” 

As far as hopes as when the work would be done, he noted with large state projects such as ATRIP, the state has a large workload as other counties want their work done.

Also, regulatory work also has to be done, such the Alabama Historical Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Geological Survey. “We’ve cleared all those hurdles, and we’re about to make rights-of-way acquisition for the new location, because the new bridge is scheduled to be about 300 feet upstream from this existing location,” Short said. “I hope we can have it built in 18 to 24 months.” 

The big concern that could impede that progress is obtaining 20 percent matching funds for ATRIP, he said.

“This is probably a $1.5 million to $2 million bridge, so between $300,000 to $400,000 of matching money” is needed by the county,” he said.

Short said he did not know many details about the detour for that road, although he noted Old Tuscaloosa Road is being used to go from Brown’s Bridge to Jasper.

“I think it is more of an inconvenience for people on the north side of Lost Creek who want to go to Parrish,” he said. “They would have to drive a long way around.” 

Williams said King’s Mills Bridge is already out not far from Brown’s Bridge.