Marion County officials negotiate steel plan for stalled bridge project

Marion County officials negotiate steel plan for stalled bridge project

September 17th, 2013 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

The U.S. Highway 41 Bridge is seen unfinished on Monday. Employees of the Anchor Inn, located just east of the bridge, said that it has been five or six weeks since they have seen work being done on the bridge.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter /Times Free Press.

Site of Highway 41 bridge work.

Site of Highway 41 bridge work.

Illustration by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

The $21.5 million Marion Memorial Bridge replacement on U.S. Highway 41 at the Tennessee River is stalled as officials negotiate a steel erection plan for the bridge spans.

"We are still working out our differences on the steel erection plan," said Jennifer Flynn, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. "There will be a delay on the project, but it is unknown as of yet how long it will be."

Flynn said officials have not determined whether the delay could result in penalties for contractor Britton Bridge LLC.

"Hopefully, we can get our differences ironed out and get this important project back on track soon," she said.

Officials with Britton Bridge said around the middle of last month that it could take "several weeks" or more to agree on a plan and for work to resume.

Spokesman John Van Mol said Monday that Britton Bridge officials now hope to be back in operation on the site within a couple of weeks.

Company officials "expect to get a letter authorizing them to begin erecting the steel in the next week or 10 days," Van Mol said Monday. He said that's based on recent conversations with state officials.

Van Mol said Britton Bridge officials don't know whether the delay will cause the completion date to be changed.

"The main thing we need to do is get started and see how it goes," he said.

The project began in 2011 with an original completion date of Aug. 31 of this year, but ran into problems early. The completion date was moved to February 2014 after crews found voids and unsuitable materials in the riverbed that weren't adequate to support the bridge piers. Crews had to dig deeper to reach solid bedrock, officials said.

The new bridge replaces the now-closed 1929-era truss bridge alongside it that has been deemed unsound.

According to an Associated Press report, an analysis of 607,380 bridges in the National Bridge Inventory shows that 64 of Tennessee's 19,721 bridges are fracture critical and structurally deficient.

TDOT officials said the department has current records on 57 of the bridges. Of those, six have been replaced with new structures, three have been repaired and 16, including the Marion County project, are under construction for repair or replacement.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569.