Work begins at Alexander's Bridge Road

Work begins at Alexander's Bridge Road

June 15th, 2011 by Mike O'Neal in Catoosa

BRIDGE TO THE PAST

Alexander's Bridge spans West Chickamauga Creek. The original bridge, constructed of wood, was a key structure used during the Battle of Chickamauga.

In 1897, the original bridge was replaced with a wood, low-truss bridge built on stone abutments.

In 1907, the wood, low-truss bridge was replaced with a steel 'pony' truss superstructure using the existing abutments.

During that same year, the Slough Bridge was built, constructed of a reinforced concrete deck set on steel stringers with native stone abutments. Slough Bridge crosses a tributary of West Chickamauga Creek (a slough which accommodates overflow during high water events). Both bridges are contributing historic resources to the park's 1890-1942 Commemorative Period.

- From a federal study concerning the bridges and their replacement:

Work to replace the actual bridges where Alexander's Bridge Road crosses West Chickamauga Creek at the boundary of Chickamauga National Battlefield Park is under way.

"We've had our preconstruction meeting with the contractor," said Jim Szyjkowski, the park's chief of resource management.

Alexander's Bridge and the nearby Slough Bridge, both built in 1907, had deteriorated over the years to a point that both were deemed unsafe and closed to all vehicular traffic in February 2009.

Traffic counts done at the time of their closure found the bridges, separated by a 90 degree bend and within 300 feet of each other at the southeast boundary of Chickamauga Battlefield Park, were used by about 370 motorists each day.

Replacing the pair of one-lane bridges is a federal project because foundation piers that support them are on National Park Service property.

A $1.6 million contract to replace the bridges was awarded in May, prepartion for construction commenced last week and the road is scheduled to reopen by year's end, according to Don Stephenson, facility manager for Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

Alexander's Bridge Road has been a vital link in the community for more than 150 years - earlier bridges were in use before the Civil War - linking LaFayette Road (U.S. Highway 27) near the park's visitor center with Meg Williams and Burning Bush roads.

Rusted steel trusses and substandard guardrails along with general wear-and-tear made the roads unsafe for use by motorized vehicles, but cyclists, walkers, runners and horseback riders continued to use the bridge.

That changes during construction as Alexander's Bridge Road on either side of the creek will be closed to all traffic during construction, Szyjkowski said.

"Signs will be posted that the bridge is out," he said.

The new spans are designed to closely resemble the structures they replace, each will maintain the one-lane configuration and be sheathed in stone salvaged from the originals.

Replacement of the bridges' wooden guardrails and reconstruction of stone piers and walls will be part of this project, officials said.

While the new bridge will make travel to and through the park easier and safer, the current Alexander's Bridge is not being consigned to the scrap heap. The bridge will be donated and delivered to the Walker County Highway Department for storage until is is adapted for reuse on the future Chickamauga Creek Greenway.

"The construction company is in the process of securing the necessary permits to transport the old bridge once it is dismantled," Szyjkowski said.