The Chattanooga City Council voted Tuesday to finish the task of replacing the striking but damage-prone glass panels on the Holmberg Bridge that links the Hunter Museum of American Art to the Walnut Street Bridge plaza.
The $1.6 million glass bridge that crosses Riverfront Parkway was built in 2005 in honor of Ruth S. and A. William Holmberg, former leaders of The Chattanooga Times newspaper and generous supporters of the arts.
But the glass panels couldn't take the stress of roller skaters, skateboarders and bikers, and the city was spending a small fortune each year replacing them at a cost of $4,000 apiece. Justin Holland, Chattanooga public works administrator, told council members the city has replaced 47 panels at a cost of $270,000 since 2009.
In December 2016, the council approved an $88,271 bid by Ross Glass & Aluminum to install a dozen slip-resistant, stainless steel grate panels.
Now, with eight stainless steel panels in place, the council voted to approve a $540,000 contract to complete the replacement.
"It will be a whole new look and feel" for the Holmberg bridge, Holland told council members Tuesday night. Last year, he said, the public works department reached out to the bridge's architect, area residents and the Holmberg family before deciding on the stainless steel solution.
He said the department had worked for two years with a University of Tennessee materials analyst and other experts. They found similar problems with glass bridges across the country and concluded they just aren't suited for outdoor uses.
"We've done a lot of work and feel like this is the best solution," he said.
Councilman Darrin Ledford wondered if this was a lesson learned for the city, having to come up with an "expensive fix" for possibly "flawed" materials.
Holland said it was.
"In hindsight, the landscape architect who designed it may not have included glass if he'd known it was unsustainable."
Also Tuesday, the council approved rezoning for property at 5564 Dayton Blvd. for a residential and zero-lot-line townhouse development, and gave final approval to the city's first urban farm on Davidson Road.
Council members also voted to award a $4.9 million contract to build a new Avondale Youth and Family Development Center near the site of the present center.
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416.