TDOT to monitor I-40 bridge after pictures show damaging erosion near Harpeth River

Posted at 8:50 PM, Jun 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 15:25:45-04

KINGSTON SPRINGS, Tenn. (WTVF) — Damage beneath Interstate 40 in Kingston Springs has some people across Middle Tennessee concerned that the bridge near exit 188 could fail.

Ed Mason first brought it to NewsChannel 5's attention after someone posted a picture of the damaged concrete to the Hip Kingston Springs Facebook page that Mason manages. Mason said he could tell something was wrong almost as soon as he saw the picture.

“I’m no engineer, but the alarm bells go off,” Mason said.

His store Pencils is just down the road from exit 188. It’s a road he takes every day, that he says may all change after what he’s seen. We managed to get a closer look at the bridge ourselves, after speaking with the property owner where the bridge is located.

The property owner didn’t want to go on camera, but he said the Tennessee Department of Transportation has done some work to brace the beams. He said how after every storm, TDOT makes a trip to see if floodwaters have made the erosion any worse. Mason says this is the damage worth another look.

“Let’s take a hard look at this and try to get this fixed. Make sure that there’s no structural damage there that could put people’s lives in danger,” Mason said.

NewsChannel 5 reached out to TDOT who explained that they reviewed the pictures we sent their way. They claim the image shows a “minor defect.” They say the concrete helps protect the steel pile from rust “due to normal wet/dry conditions.”

“It has no bearing on the structural integrity of the bridge. This bridge has been inspected and evaluated including additional site visits of the issue. There is no danger to the traveling public and no loss of capacity for this bridge. The structure is safe for all vehicles and will continue to be monitored during future inspections.”

In the same email from TDOT, they said there seems to be some confusion with the aforementioned bridge in that there currently is no weight limit on this bridge. “There is, however, a weight limit on a separate, nearby bridge along I-40 over the Harpeth River at mile marker 198. The weight limit is 40 tons due to deck (or surface) deterioration. The limit only affects oversized/overweight loads. All oversized/overweight loads that exceed 40 tons must take a detour accessible from the Kingston Springs exit. As for the bridge itself, deck deterioration is not uncommon in concrete structures, but it’s important to be aware, take precautions as needed and make repairs as necessary. The structure at this location is safe for standard traffic loads (excluding oversized loads), and will continue to be monitored until deck repairs can be made.”

TDOT said repair plans are in the works, but likely won't take place until next year. Due to the structure and location near the river, TDOT's bridge teams and maintenance crews will not be able to make the repairs. TDOT said the work will go through the traditional letting process, such as contractor bidding, and because the bridge is structurally sound, other projects will take priority.

It’s not to say we haven’t seen precautions taken before on the same interstate, just three hours west. One stretch of I-40 in Memphis has been closed since May after a break was discovered in one of their beams. If that was enough to close down one bridge, Mason expects TDOT to once again put safety first.

"Eleven years later from the flood of 2010 and we're still looking at damage from this bridge. So they've known about this for quite some time. It's time to get this fixed," Mason said.