BB Comer Bridge to become History

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

SCOTTSBORO, AL (USA)-  As a general rule, democracy works when the majority of the population favor a project that is for the benefit of the community; even if it means putting it to a vote. The campaign to save the BB Comer Bridge garnered massive amount of support from people within Jackson County, as well as many throughout Alabama and parts of the US. It was hoped that the Jackson County Commissioners would put the issue up to a vote, to assume responsibility over a historic bridge with over 80 years of history.

Sadly, County Officials not only rejected the proposition for a vote or even a referendum, but they rejected calls for any measures involving the cantilever span, once and for all. The notion at the council meeting on 9 November effectively closed the last doors to any opportunity to convert the bridge into a recreational area. The contract was signed yesterday to remove the bridge as soon as the new span opened to traffic next spring.

According to a statement by the BB Comer Foundation released yesterday: “It’s sad to see a piece of history destroyed for lack of positive vision.  The hurdles could have been met and crossed if people put their minds to it.  Without doing anything to the bridge it would stand for generations. We are just about to throw a 12 million dollar resource in the trash because efforts to figure out absurd ownership requirements from ALDOT did just what they were supposed to do, stop the preservation of this bridge.”

County officials were concerned about the liability it would have to undertake to preserve the bridge, which includes its maintenance. In addition, some officials questioned the credibility of having a third owner take over the bridge, especially with regards to requirements presented earlier by the Alabama DOT. For cost reasons alone as the official reason, they decided that the effort was not worth it, despite the benefits of using the 1930 bridge that was built by the Kansas City Bridge Company.

“Saving your bridge required the establishment of a governmental entity to assume ownership of the bridge,” stated officials at the bridge foundation. “It would have required no funds from the county or city.  The Comer Bridge Foundation, in concert with the authority, that we were asking them to form could have carried out fundraising activities and, as a government entity, been eligible for grants and other funding mechanisms.  The Bridge could have been used by movie companies for filming at a rate of up to five  thousand dollars a day.  There are many other revenue producing items that would have been available to the Tourism Authority. We were never able to convince the city or the county, despite all efforts, to create the necessary government entity to work with ALDOT on the rest of the conditions.”   Several examples of bridges that became part of a joint cooperation with a private and public sector exist in the United States, including the Sutliff Bridge in Johnson County (Iowa), especially after the bridge was rebuilt in 2012 after sustaining substantial damage in the 2008 flood. This 1896 three-span Parker through truss bridge was one of several examples of historic bridges in Johnson County alone that were saved and reused thanks to efforts by both the private and public sectors. Other examples can be found at FW Kent Park west of Iowa City.

Still, it is unclear how county officials had a change of heart, and how members of the foundation plus other proponents for the preservation of the historic bridge were given the cold shoulder and their pleas were quashed. But apparently the culture of fear factor, combined with behind-the-door politics may have played a key role in sentencing the bridge to death, without any chance to put the proposal up for a vote. A show trial where the defendant is pre-programmed to die is the motto for the bridge.

And with that, time is short; get your photos of the bridge between now and the time the new bridge opens in March- and the historic iconic bridge becomes a memory.

BHC logo france15

To show solidarity towards the French and Lenabese and the families who were killed in a series of terrorist attacks on 13 November, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, together with sister column The Flensburg Files, will present a special logo to show support in these dark times. These logos will be used for the rest of 2015. While the photo shows the Bridge of Friendship at the German-Danish border in Flensburg, Germany, the lettering represents the colors of the French national flag.

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.

bhc new logo newsflyer

BB Comer Bridge Update: Impartial Economic Survey to be Undertaken

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

SCOTSBORO, ALABAMA- The clock is ticking as far as the future of the BB Comer Bridge is concerned. The replacement span is close to completion, and there are still some issues to settle as far as the future of the 1930 steel cantilever truss bridge is concerned. Apart from the ownership and liability, some further studies on the impact of keeping the historic bridge- among them economic, are being considered. As you can see in the most recent press release by the Comer Bridge Foundation, a grant is being sought so that an independent entity is hired to conduct an impartial economic survey, which will in turn persuade county officials to hand over ownership to the CBF once the new bridge is open to traffic. The date of the completion as well as the eventual demolition has not yet been set, however parties will have to act quickly but thoroughly to ensure that once the new bridge is open, the decision on the future of the old bridge will be made to benefit all the parties involved. More information on the progress of the bridge is in the press release below:

SCOTTSBORO, AL, January 30, 2015 — After the January 26, 2015, meeting of the Scottsboro City Council, the Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF) is now identifying and hiring an independent entity to prepare an economic impact study. The B.B. Comer Bridge crosses the Tennessee River near Scottsboro, Alabama. An application for grant funding to assist with procuring the study will be submitted to the National Trust for Historic Preservation to comply with the Trust’s deadline (February 2, 2015).

“We have determined that such a study is essential for CBF to show local citizens and governmental bodies how much the bridge can bring to the area, which in turn will help 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 CBF’s commitment to saving, preserving and repurposing the bridge at an upcoming meeting of the Jackson County Commission,” said Holderfield.

In March 2014, CBF entered into a collaborative agreement with The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA), another bridge-preservation group. 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.”

The board of directors for CBF and NSRGA submitted a formal purchase plan to the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), which currently owns the bridge. In September 2014, however, ALDOT informed the two organizations that the bridge could be sold only to a governmental entity. With support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Land Trust of North Alabama, Justin Lackey went before the Scottsboro City Council in mid-January 2015 to request that a tourism development authority be formed by the City to take ownership of the bridge. In addition to owning, leasing and developing land, improving and managing real estate and owning equipment, the authority could also employ personnel, execute documents, and accept and receive gifts from the public or private funds. It would also be able to apply for and receive federal grants.

The City Council members asked for additional time to study the request prior to its next regular meeting on January 26, at which time Lackey requested that the Council vote on the creation of the tourism development authority. The City deferred voting on the authority, with the majority of the Council members agreeing that the City could approve such an authority only in partnership with the County Commission. CBF will provide the economic impact study to the County Commission for review prior to formally requesting that the Commission consider partnering with the City Council to create the tourism development authority.

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).

Certificate from the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.

More updates on the BB Comer Bridge will be posted in the Chronicles as the story unfolds. In the meantime, you follow the events in real time, just by visiting  the CBF website at www.comerbridge.org and considering  liking CBF’s Friends of B.B. Comer Bridge at https://www.facebook.com/comerbridgefoundation. There you can find out more about how you can help save the bridge.

Update on the BB Comer Bridge in Alabama: Collaboration underway with CBF and NSRGA

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

Author’s note:  Here is an update on the pursuit to purchase the BB Comer Bridge, spanning the Tennessee River at Scottsboro, Alabama. At the moment, collaboration is in progress to purchase the 1930 structure, featuring a cantilever truss span and steel approaches. More information about the bridge can be found here.  This is the press release provided by the Comer Bridge Foundation:

SCOTTSBORO, AL, March 11, 2014 — Attorneys for the Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF) and The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association (NSRGA) are drafting an agreement that will authorize the two bridge-preservation groups to work collaboratively to save, preserve and repurpose the B.B. Comer Bridge, which crosses the Tennessee River near Scottsboro, Alabama. Local attorneys Bill Tally and Justin Lackey are representing CBF and NSRGA, respectively.
“NSRGA/CBF wants 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. “We want the bridge to become a habit for wellness and serenity, and a place where wildlife and human life are celebrated. Food, fun, music and historic preservation go hand-in-hand, and it is up to us to decide what importance preservation of our past makes in the threads of life for our future.”
Once the agreement is approved by the board of directors for each of the nonprofit organizations, the collaboration will submit a formal purchase plan to the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), which currently owns the bridge.
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).
Workin’ Bridges prepared a preliminary concept plan and elevation for the area around and on the bridge that Bowers shared with local and state officials in February. Bowers’ efforts to bring the City of Scottsboro and Jackson County into the collaboration were unsuccessful despite positive response from Alabama’s Department of Commerce, Made in Alabama and the Alabama Film Office during February meetings in Montgomery.
The NSRGA/CBF collaboration addressed a list of criteria provided by ALDOT Division Engineer Johnny L. Harris that defines 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.
For more information about the CBF and efforts to save the bridge, visit the CBF website at http://www.comerbridge.org and consider liking CBF’s Friends of B.B. Comer Bridge at https://www.facebook.com/comerbridgefoundation.

 

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.