“The bridge has been a nightmare for the past 4-5 days,” Mayor Rusty Jessup said at the Riverside Council meeting Tuesday morning. “The bridge on River Bend Road is unstable. We did some emergency repairs so the pipe wouldn’t collapse, made traffic one-lane and put a 3-ton weight limit.”
Jessup said the bridge is stable at this point, but there is no guarantee how long the repairs will last.
City officials said the River Bend Road Bridge is the only entrance/exit to River Bend Apartments and the communities located on the island, which houses approximately 700-plus residents. The bridge is supported by a 14-foot diameter galvanized pipe, which partially collapsed, broke away from the concrete bridge and a portion of the pipe is in the water.
The city, through a private contractor, braced the interior of the pipe so it shouldn’t collapse further, but it is approximately 4-5 feet below the road pavement. Further repairs are hampered by the current lake level. The bridge is approximately 40 feet wide and 50 feet long, about 18-20 feet above the water.
Jessup said arrangements were made for the school bus to pick up children at a different location on U.S. 78.
Councilman Johnny Osborn asked Jessup if he would contact Advanced Disposal Services regarding garbage pickup at River Bend Apartments and the communities served along that road.
“We asked the state (Alabama Department of Transportation) to get us a temporary bridge, and they said they would try,” Jessup said. “This could break us — it’s a very serious situation. It’s on our right-of-way, and nobody has money and we are going to be left holding the bag on this. We are looking at a minimum of $100,000 and possibly a quarter-of-a-million dollars.”
Jessup said if ALDOT can come up with a temporary bridge, it costs a lot of money to haul it to Riverside and put it in place.
“I don’t want to paint too bleak of a picture,” he said. “I think St. Clair County will help, but I’m not sure if we can get more help than 75 percent of the cost.”
Jessup said the culvert bridge became worn as the lake level went up and down for summer and winter pool.
“It has also been suggested that by the time we could get a temporary bridge put together and in place, a new concrete cast pipe could be installed as a permanent fix,” he said.
St. Clair County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon said St. Clair County Engineer Dan Dahlke is actively assisting Riverside in finding a solution, including requesting a temporary bridge from ALDOT and also contacting the U.S. National Guard, who have temporary bridges sturdy enough to support tanks.
“If a temporary bridge can be put in, then when the water goes down a permanent fix could be done,” he said.
Dahlke said he looked at the bridge with ALDOT representatives and contractors.
“Part of the structure has settled pretty significantly, creating a void between the pipe and the slab pavement on the surface,” he said. “A contractor put some bracing in the pipe. The side traffic is on is braced so it should be OK. It seems to be fine, but we haven’t been able to get in there and see if there is a void on that side. There is no visible damage to the side open to traffic and if there is a void, it is not significant on that side. If the slab did give way, it would be a very minima settlement in the roadway — a few inches, not a catastrophic fall-in-the-water event.”
Dahlke said the main concern is heavy traffic, which is why there is a three-ton weight limit posted.
“People should take normal driving precautions for a one-lane type road,” he said.
Batemon said officials are looking at a couple different locations where a temporary bridge could be placed.
“We have also made the county’s public transportation available to provide transportation to any individuals with disabilities that require a handicapped-accessible vehicle to transport them,” he said. “The county has a handicapped-accessible van that is under the three-ton weight limit. We are assisting with the temporary fix, and will assist Riverside all the way through this process to help with funding and go after grant monies for a permanent fix.”
Contact Elsie Hodnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.