Putnam County needs to repair or replace 30 faulty bridges - WSMV News 4

Putnam County needs to repair or replace 30 faulty bridges

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The bridge collapse last month in Washington left many drivers across the country a little uneasy, but for people in one Middle Tennessee county, the latest bridge inspections could be a special cause for concern.

The Poplar Grove Bridge in Putnam County only scored a 31 out of a possible 100 on a recent Tennessee Department of Transportation inspection. In all, 30 bridges need to be repaired or replaced in Putnam County.

"The concrete is beginning to deteriorate. The guardrails are old and outdated. It's too narrow. It has to be widened," Putnam County road supervisor Randy Jones. "It is still safe. If it was not safe, the state of Tennessee would have us close it."

Overall, Tennessee has a good bridge inspection record. By law, states have to inspect bridges longer than 20 feet every two years and those shorter than 20 feet every four years.

Tennessee has nearly 20,000 bridges, and TDOT said not only do its inspectors follow those guidelines, but they often stay ahead of inspection schedule.

"We work very hard to make sure that the bridges both on the state highway system and on public roads all across the state are safe," said Tennessee Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Paul Degges.

Weight limit signs warn some larger trucks to stay off the bridges that need repair while the county comes up with the money. The price tag in Putnam County is steep: it needs almost $8 million for just the 13 bridges the county owns.

"We can't find anything that we can apply for. And the state aid money is about all we can get," Jones said.

Putnam County only gets $63,000 each year from the state to add to gas tax money for road repairs.

The plan, for now, is to build the new Poplar Grove Bridge just downstream from the old one. Putnam County officials feel they have enough money to start taking bids at the end of this month and hope to start construction on that bridge in July.

TDOT has not set any deadline for the repairs on the other bridges. In the meantime, it should take about a year to complete that new bridge and demolish the old one, while the cities of Baxter and Cookeville keep searching for grants.

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