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Cordell Hull Bridge repair work begins

By Eddie West

Staff Writer

Emergency repair work to the Cordell Hull Bridge was anticipated to begin as soon as Monday (June 13), according to Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) officials in Nashville.

Meanwhile, officials estimate the bridge will be closed at least a month while repair work is taking place.

The bridge was closed to traffic Wednesday afternoon (June 8) as deficiencies were located during a routine inspection that TDOT officials announced would be taking place a few weeks ago.

After the deficiency discovery was made, an emergency contract was awarded to Mid-State Construction Company Inc. to assist in its accessing, evaluating and repairing of a crack in the bridge, according to TDOT officials.

Mid-State Construction, based in Livingston, has constructed and repaired a number of bridges in Smith County through the years.

TDOT inspection crews discovered what was described as a 24-inch-long crack in a fracture-critical member of the truss. 

Until last Wednesday, the bridge was closed while inspections crews were on the scene but reopened after crews had completed the days work. 

TDOT officials are warning repair work could take longer if the contractor is delayed in procuring any necessary materials.

As soon as Monday of this week, Mid-State Construction Co. crews were expected to install a work platform underneath the bridge to gain better access to the hard-to-reach beam, according to TDOT officials. 

“Over the course of the week, they will conduct tests to determine the exact length of the crack and drill holes at each end to keep it from growing any further,” a TDOT spokesperson described. “TDOT structural engineers will then evaluate the data and determine if a more permanent solution is needed.”

Routine inspection:

The historical Cordell Hull Bridge was abruptly closed to traffic Wednesday afternoon after a sizable crack was discovered during a routine inspection of the bridge by TDOT.

TDOT began inspecting the bridge Monday morning of last week. After crews left the scene, the bridge was reopened to traffic. The scenario occurred on Tuesday.

TDOT’s inspection of the bridge began on the South Carthage side where the last significant repair work had taken place a couple of years ago.

One crew of TDOT bridge inspectors checked underneath the bridge. A second crew checked the framework above the bridge.

On Wednesday of last week, the bridge was open until about mid-morning when a crew inspecting the bridge arrived on the scene for another day of inspection.

Apparently no major structure flaws had been located on Monday and Tuesday as the bridge was reopened when TDOT bridge inspectors were not on site. 

Wednesday morning, inspection was taking place underneath the bridge on the Carthage side of the structure in an area near the river bank. 

At least two crews were inspecting  underneath the bridge’s roadbed, Wednesday morning and that afternoon.

After the discovery was made, the bridge was barricaded Wednesday afternoon and has remained closed since.

After the crack was discovered Wednesday, TDOT released the following statement:

“Today during a routine inspection of the Cordell Hull Bridge in Smith County, Tennessee Department of Transportation crews discovered a crack in a steel member underneath. The bridge was built in 1934. The 24-inch-long crack is located in a fracture-critical member of the truss. The bridge, which had already been closed to traffic for inspection, will remain closed indefinitely out of an abundance of caution/ Structural engineers will evaluate to determine the overall condition of the bridge and its load-carrying capacity based on the inspection data. It’s not uncommon for inspections to reveal issues that need further evaluation.”

During the day Friday a crew continued to inspect underneath the bridge’s roadbed on the Carthage side of the structure.

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