Update on the BB Comer Bridge: 31 March, 2015

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

A new breath of life has been given to the B B Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF) in Alabama and in particular, the North Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSGRA), located in Iowa, pertaining to the future of the BB Comer Bridge near Scottsboro. A $5,000 grant was awarded to NSGRA to be used for an independent economic impact study on the use of the bridge as a tourist attraction. An additional $5,000 will be needed to hire an independent contractor to conduct the study of the steel Warren cantilever through truss bridge, whose replacement span is being constructed and is close to completion. While traffic will be shifted to the new bridge once completed later this spring, there is still a chance that the bridge will remain, should the survey be completed and state and local officials can agree with a proposal with the CBF and NSGRA. The grant is one step in the right direction and if more people contribute, the second step will open that key door to the possibilities of saving the bridge.

Here’s the latest press release by the CBF with information on how to contribute to the study and preserving the bridge:

 

SCOTTSBORO, AL, March 31, 2015 — The National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) awarded The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA) a $5,000 grant to support the group’s pursuit of an independent economic impact study on behalf of the Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF). An additional $5,000 must be raised to hire Dr. Anthony Dixon of Troy University to complete the study. Dr. Dixon prepared a similar study for the Eufaula Heritage Association to assist with preserving Eufaula’s main historic streetscape from construction by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), which also owns Comer Bridge.

The B.B. Comer Bridge crosses the Tennessee River near Scottsboro, Alabama. NSRGA applied for the grant in early February and received notification on March 30.

David J. Brown, NTHP’s executive vice president and chief preservation officer in Washington, DC, stated, “The National Trust is very supportive of this worthwhile preservation initiative and we hope that this financial commitment will assist your organization in raising any additional funds needed for this effort.”

“We have determined that such a study is essential to show local citizens and governmental bodies how much the bridge can bring to the area, which in turn will help NSRGA/CBF gain eventual ownership of the bridge and prevent the bridge’s demolition. The timeline for demolition is not as tight as we anticipated, and we have time to explore how to lessen risks while growing the rewards of keeping the bridge intact,” explained CBF President Charles Holderfield.

“The study will solidify NSRGA/CBF’s commitment to saving, preserving and repurposing the bridge not only as a local asset but as a national treasure for everyone,” said Holderfield.

In March 2014, CBF entered into a collaborative agreement with NSRGA. Local attorneys Bill Tally and Justin Lackey represent CBF and NSRGA, respectively.

“The study will provide real numbers that support our plans to provide jobs, training and education in areas from hospitality, event management, security and maintenance,” shared Julie Bowers, executive director of Workin’ Bridges, the consulting arm of NSRGA. “The bridge can become a place to go for wellness and serenity, and a place where wildlife and human life are celebrated. Food, fun, music and historic preservation go hand-in-hand.”

In September 2014, after extensive work with relevant policy and with approvals by the Federal Highway Administration, Alabama Historical Commission and environmental requirements, ALDOT Director John Cooper interpreted the policy and demanded that the bridge could be sold only to a governmental entity.

NSRGA and CBF will now move forward to raise the remaining $5,000 needed for the study, which in turn will attract more support and funding for the effort to save the bridge.

Donations may be contributed toward the remaining $5,000 needed to fund the study online at http://www.gofundme.com/savecomerbridge. Contributions can be mailed to CBF at P.O. Box 609, Scottsboro, AL 35768-0609.

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. Selected for the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in October 2013, the historic bridge will now be submitted for national recognition by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

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.

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