Hammitt bridge won't be replaced until 2005

By Staff
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
A city bridge that no longer carries its weight is set to be replaced by the state in 2005. Until then, emergency vehicles will continue to find other routes to travel, even if it means slower response times.
The Alabama Department of Transportation has agreed to fund the $1.5 million replacement of the Hammitt Street bridge.
Mayor Clif Knight said the design and engineering phase of the project is scheduled to begin sometime this year.
"We're in limbo right now waiting for the state highway department to give us permission to go ahead with the design and engineering," Knight said. "Once ALDOT gives approval, the engineering firm can let loose on the project."
Acquisition of right-of-way for the bridge replacement is scheduled for 2004 and construction is tentatively set to begin in 2005.
"The city is thankful that the state has agreed to fund this project and we are anxious to get started," Knight said.
The bridge's weight capacity is a mere 3 tons, making it impossible for fire and ambulance emergency vehicles to cross.
The Hartselle Fire Department's pumper truck weighs approximately 16 tons.
"With 24 to 36 trains passing through town each day, not being able to cross the railroad tracks or the Hammitt Street bridge cuts off access to about 50 percent of the city for approximately two hours a day," Hartselle Fire Chief Rickey Joe Smith said. "Something like a train derailment or chemical spill would be a huge problem without that access."
Knight said the current structure poses problems not only in emergency situations, but also in daily traffic.
"There has been a high level of concern for sometime that the bridge might collapse, due to its low weight capacity," Knight said. "But access for emergency vehicle is a major concern. If the railroad gate crossing was closed during a chemical spill, it would put us in a very precarious situation."
Preliminary inspection for the bridge replacement began in late June. City Development Director Jeff Johnson was on site for the historical research and environmental assessment.

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