BB Comer Bridge in Alabama: Demolition Funding can be Repurposed for Rehabiliation

Overview of the slue, approach and main spans of the BB Comer Bridge. Photo taken by David Kennamer

 

Spanning the Tennessee River at Scottsboro, Alabama, the BB Comer Bridge represents a classic example of a cantilever truss bridge that is traditionally a target of progress, especially in light of the Minneapolis Bridge disaster six and a half years ago. Yet a preservation group is fighting to save this 1930 structure, and the way things are going, they will have things their way in converting the bridge into a pedestrian crossing, especially as the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) is providing them with support.

In a letter dated December 31, 2013, to Julie Bowers of Workin’ Bridges, acting on behalf of Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF), Division Engineer Johnny L. Harris of the ALDOT provided a list of criteria defining the next steps required to change the intent of ALDOT’s contract with HRI Bridge Construction from demolition to repurposing. These criteria are based on ownership, construction and restoration practices, permitting, inspections, and a maintenance plan. Harris noted that the demolition funds CAN be used to preserve and repurpose the bridge IF all criteria are met and approved by the Federal Highway Administration.

CBF is arranging working sessions with local, regional and state officials the week of February 3, 2014.

“We are delighted that ALDOT took our request seriously,” said Bowers. “Workin’ Bridges was confident from the beginning of our relationship with CBF that this bridge can be saved. We have started the visioning process with a concept plan and elevation for the area. These are preliminary plans, and we welcome the public’s input.”

Comer Bridge, completed in 1930, is the last of the 15 memorial toll bridges enacted by legislation in 1927 that were built by the Kansas City Bridge Company but contracted through the Alabama State Bridge Corporation. Recently selected for the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage, the historic bridge will now be submitted for national recognition by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

Wiley Bridge in Berk’s County, Pennsylvania. Photo taken by Nathan Holth. Winner of the Best Photo Award. Most likely candidate for the crossing of the slue on the Scottsboro side of the BB Comer Bridge.

Plans to repurpose and preserve the historic B.B. Comer Bridge,  include adding a connection across the slue, which would allow visitors to park, hike and possibly dine on riverfront property adjoining the bridge. This also includes adding a connection across the slue that parallels the bridge on the Scottsboro side of the river. The Wiley Bridge in Pennsylvania, an 1883 truss bridge that is historic by state and national standards is being considered for that crossing. Located in Berks County, the bridge, which won the 2013 Ammann Awards for best photo (taken by Nathan Holth), is slated for removal and will be torn down if no one comes to claim it.

In response to a December 5 meeting with local and ALDOT officials, Bowers contacted Harris to initiate the plan of action he outlined during the meeting.

The CBF is calling on everyone for tax-deductible contributions in any amount, which may be donated online using the donor’s secure PayPal account or mailed to the following address:

Comer Bridge Foundation, PO Box 609, Scottsboro, AL 35768.

The CBF website features a page with a link to the umbrella nonprofit — The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association — through which secure tax-deductible contributions are being made: http://comerbridge.org/donate-to-cbf.html. A link for CBF contributions is also available on the website ChamberForGood.com.

For more information about the CBF and efforts to save the bridge, visit the CBF website at www.comerbridge.org and consider liking CBF’s Friends of B.B. Comer Bridge at https://www.facebook.com/comerbridgefoundation.

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest on the BB Comer Bridge as events start to unfold. You can like to follow if you want more information on preservation examples that are posted on a frequent basis.

Note: The Newsflyer is based on a press release provided by the Comer Bridge Foundation with elements of the Wiley Bridge coming from the previous article on the Ammann Award winners provided by the Chronicles. 

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