published Monday, February 18th, 2013

On schedule: Work on Marion Memorial Bridge beams, girders to start by summer

Crews at the Marion Memorial Bridge replacement project in Haletown, Tenn., excavate the Tennessee River bottom for the seventh and last pier for a new $21.5 million bridge that will replace the eight-decade-old truss-style bridge.
Crews at the Marion Memorial Bridge replacement project in Haletown, Tenn., excavate the Tennessee River bottom for the seventh and last pier for a new $21.5 million bridge that will replace the eight-decade-old truss-style bridge.
Photo by Ben Benton.

HALETOWN, Tenn. — The Marion Memorial Bridge replacement project is on schedule as crews work this month on the last of seven piers to support the span over the Tennessee River above Nickajack Dam.

February 2014 "is still our target completion date" for the Highway 41 project, Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said Friday.

Delays last year caused by the discovery of voids and unsuitable material on the river bottom have not affected the project since the first pier work began in fall 2011, Flynn said. Site work began in March 2011, when the original completion date was August 2013.

Andy Horstman, construction manager for Chattanooga-based Volkert Inc., said crews now are working on the last two piers to support spans that will stretch 1,883 feet across the river, just 30 feet or so away from the original 84-year-old Parker truss-style bridge built in 1929.

"We're starting excavation for the foundation of the last pier," Horstman said Friday. "If all goes well, we'll have all the piers completed in early summer."

Crews now have the foundation problems behind them, he said.

"We've finished with all the piers we had major concerns about," he said.

The old bridge was considered for conversion to a pedestrian bridge at one time, but efforts to preserve the structure, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, were forestalled by the downturn in the economy, state officials said when the project started.

In 2000, TDOT studied what it would take to preserve the old bridge -- initially built as a toll bridge -- as a pedestrian walkway. Cleaning and replacing steel parts of the structure, installing pedestrian-friendly handrails and fencing, and replacing the bridge deck estimates ran about $1.6 million for a timber deck and $1.9 million for concrete, officials said.

Unofficial annual maintenance estimates far exceeded $125,000 for a pedestrian bridge, and officials estimated that when the bridge inevitably grew too old for renovation, its demolition would cost $800,000.

The new bridge will be about 30 feet wider, 13 feet longer and three feet higher above the river surface than its predecessor, officials said.

Horstman said crews will start work on beams and girders for the roadway in late spring or early summer.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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