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Cordell Hull Bridge deemed safe, will open again soon

crack in Cordell Hull Bridge in Carthage
Posted at 12:45 PM, Jun 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-19 13:49:31-04

CARTHAGE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Two weeks after a crack was first discovered in the Cordell Hull Bridge in Smith County, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) may reopen it to traffic as soon as Wednesday.

During a routine inspection, what appeared to be a crack was found by workers on June 8. Open closer inspection, TDOT determined the crack was simply corrosion of steel.

The damage is not a structural concern and only requires minor repairs. This means the bridge was deemed safe under its current weight limit of 28 tons.

“One of the first signs of fatigue in a bridge is rust or cracks in the paint,” said TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges. "When crews spotted the deterioration in the paint during a routine inspection, they knew we needed to take a closer look.”

The bridge was built with steel contemporary at the time of construction in 1934. It is more prone to corrosion than modern steel.

Crews removed paint covering the trouble spot and noticed that water was getting trapped, which was causing the corrosion. TDOT's contractor will grind the deteriorated area to smooth the sharp edges and then will repaint it to limit the additional trapping of moisture in the future.

Final inspection work will be completed on Monday and the base coat of primer will be applied shortly thereafter. The final top-coat paint will be applied as soon as it is available.

TDOT will open the bridge to traffic upon completion of inspection work and the base coat primer. It said this could mean the bridge reopens as soon as Wednesday.

A second, short-term closure will be required when it is time to apply the final top-coat paint system.

Drivers have been instructed to continue to utilize Ferry Road or U.S. Highway 70N to the SR 25 Bypass bridge as alternative routes.

“Safety is our top priority and we will always act out of an abundance of caution,” said TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley. “We have a robust bridge inspection program that includes 20,026 bridges inspected every 2 years to ensure we find any potential problems. We are glad this was a minor issue identified by the current process that could be fixed quickly.”