Chickamauga Battlefield bridges reopen to traffic after two years of construction

Chickamauga Battlefield bridges reopen to traffic after two years of construction

December 24th, 2011 by Kevin Hardy in News

A car crosses Alexander's Bridge on Friday. The bridge reopened on Friday after having been closed to motor vehicle traffic in February 2009.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

After more than two years of construction, two historic bridges in the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park reopened to motor vehicle traffic Friday.

Contractors disassembled Alexander's Bridge and Slough Bridge piece by piece to preserve as much of the natural stone as possible. Jim Szyjkowski, chief of resource management at the battlefield park, said the original bridge was a crucial structure during the Battle of Chickamauga in November of 1863.

In 1907, a steel bridge replaced the wooden 1897 structure but still sat on the natural stone supports. Much of that stonework was saved, giving the bridges a historical look, Szyjkowski said.

"Let's be honest -- they're not the historical structures anymore that were built in the early 1900s," he said. "But the bridges that are there look very similar to what they did when we started this process. The characteristics are very much the same."

A safety inspection Thursday by the Federal Highway Administration and the National Park Service gave the green light to reopen the bridges to traffic, park Superintendent Cathy Cook said in a news release.

Crews will continue to complete minor finishing work in the coming months, though the bridges will remain open. Cook said she plans to hold a formal rededication of the bridges next year.