Nearly 100 bridges marked “structurally deficient” in region

Local

Ninety-seven bridges in our region are marked as “structurally deficient” by the Tennessee Department of  Transportation. 

According to TDOT, there are 19,822 structures in the state classified as a public highway bridge, in addition to about 400 bridges that are owned and operated by federal agencies.

TDOT Community Relations Officer Mark Nagi said experts inspect bridges across the state every day, and that bridges are typically inspected every two years while bridges deemed “structurally deficient” are inspected once per year. 

The TDOT website says bridges are deemed “structurally deficient” if one or more “major structural components of the bridge are rated in ‘poor’ condition.” A bridge can also be classified as structurally deficient if its load carrying capacity is significantly below current design standards or if it crosses a waterway that floods frequently. 

“A bridge is deemed structurally deficient in one component that is in need of repair/monitoring, be it the deck, substructure, culvert, etc.,” Nagi said. “It does not mean that the bridge is unsafe for travel.”

According to the report released in Jan. 2018, bridges on the concern list had all had inspections since 2016, with the earliest inspection logged Feb. 10, 2016, almost two years before the report was issued.

TDOT was unable to provide data more recent than the 2018 report.

Structurally-deficient bridges 
CountyState BridgesLocal BridgesTotal Bridges
Carter23335
Hawkins8715
Greene347
Johnson077
Sullivan21012
Unicoi156
Washington31215
Total197897

Source:  https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/tdot/structures/StructurallyDeficientTNBridges.pdf

TDOT Of the bridges classified as structurally deficient in our region, most of them are bridges crossing creeks and other waterways. 

  • Carter County has three branch crossings
  • Hawkins County has two railway crossings
  • Greene County has three branch crossings
  • Sullivan County has one branch crossing
  • Washington County has one railway crossing and three branch crossings

The road to action

The TDOT website lists Plan of Action reports for “scour critical” and “unknown foundation” bridges in the state. Such lists are organized by county, according to the department. 

The list compiles a checklist for bridges during flooding events. These bridges may be in danger of scour activity, or the erosion of streambed or bank material due to flowing water. 

The list also includes bridges for which the foundation details are unknown, according to TDOT. 

The Plan of Activity reports include inspection and maintenance details for personnel who check bridges for scour during flooding events. By county: 

  • Carter County – 5 
  • Greene County – 35 
  • Hawkins County – 7 
  • Johnson County – 15 
  • Sullivan County – 6
  • Unicoi County – 3 
  • Washington County -2 


Bridge budget
According to tn.gov, highway bridge funding is provided by the federal gas tax, which hasn’t been raised in more than 25 years. 

While assorted federal bills have helped out with highway funding over the years, the state supplements federal funding with state funds to keep up with highway infrastructure. In fiscal year 2017-18, Tennessee allocated about $41 million for bridge repairs for the state highway system. 

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