2015 Ammann Awards: The Author has some bridge stories to tell

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To start off this new year, there are some good news as well as some bad news. First the bad news: The deadline for entries for the 2015 Ammann Awards has been pushed back again for the last time. This time the 10th of January at 12:00am Central Standard Time (January 11th at 7:00am Central European Time) is the absolute deadline for all entries, including that for Best Photo, Lifetime Achievement and other categories. Reason for the delay is the low number of entries, much of that has to do with the weather disaster of biblical proportions in the United States and Great Britain, which has kept many away from the cameras and forced many to fill sandbags. The the voting process will proceed as planned with the winners being announced at the end of this month.

The good news: The author has enough candidates and stories to justify announcing his choices for 2015- the first to be announced before the actual Ammann Awards presentations but one that should keep the interest in historic bridges running sky high, especially before the main course. In other words, the author is serving his appetizers right now to keep the readers and candidates hungry for more bridge stuff. 😉

So here is our first appetizer: The Biggest Bonehead Story

Photo taken by Tony Dillon

USA:

Truck Destroys Gospel Street Bridge in Paoli, Indiana- Ever since Christmas Day, this story has been the hottest topic in the media, even breaking records of the number of post clicks on the Chronicles. A 23-year-old woman, who claimed to be Amish, drives a 30-ton truck full of drinking water across the 1880 Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company structure that was only able to carry 6 tons. Naturally, the bridge gave in, yet the excuses the driver brought up became more and more incredulable: 1. I just received my driver’s license, 2. I couldn’t turn around or find an alternative so I took the chance, and 3. (Most outrageous): I didn’t know how many pounds equaled six tons.

Yet the question remains, which was more incredulable: The incident or the consequence of the incident: a mere $135 fine for crossing the light-weight bridge, destroying it in the process?

International:

Viaduct Collapses in Sicily- 2015 was not a good year for bridges outside of the USA, for several key (historic) crossings have met their fate or are about to due to human error. A temporary pedestrian bridge in Johannesburg (South Africa) falls onto the motorway crushing two cars. A pedestrian suspension bridge in New Zealand breaks a cable, causing the decking to twist and send hikers into the water.  Fortunately, no casualties. Both incidents happened in October. The highest glass bridge in the world, located in China, is cracking even though the government says it is safe.

But this bridge collapse on the island of Sicily, which happened in January, was a scandal! The Scorciavacche Viaduct near Palermo was completed in December 2014, three months earlier than scheduled, only for it to collapse partially on January 5th, 10 days after its opening! While no one was hurt, the collapse sparked a political outcry as the multi-million Euro bridge was part of the 200 million Euro motorway project, and as a consequence, officials prompted an investigation into the cause of the bridge. The construction company, which claimed that the accident was caused by “substinence,” tried shooting down the accusations, claiming the accident was overexaggerated. Makes the reader wonder if they tried covering up a possible design flaw, combined with human error, which could have caused the collapse. If so, then they have the (now jailed) Captain of the capsized Costa Concordia to thank, for like the ship that has been towed away and scrapped, the bridge met the same fate. Lesson for the wise: More time means better results. Check your work before opening it to others.

 

 

Best Historic Bridge Find:

While the author stayed out of the US for all of 2015 and focused his interesting findings on European soil, other bridge colleagues have found some bridges that had been either considered gone or had never been heard of before. One of these colleagues from Minnesota happened to find one that is still standing! 🙂

 

USA:

Bridge L-1297 in Clearwater County, Minnesota-

According to records by the Minnesota Historical Society, the Schonemann Park Bridge, located south of Luverne in Rock County, is the only example of a Waddell kingpost truss bridge left standing in Minnesota. This 1912 bridge is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Bridge L-1297, which spans the Clearwater River near Gronvich in Clearwater, is the OTHER Waddell kingpost pony truss bridge that is still standing. Its markings matches exactly that of its Schonemann counterpart. Although there is no concrete evidence of when it was built and by whom, Pete Wilson, who found it by chance and addressed it to the Chronicles, mentioned that it was likely that it was built between 1905 and 1910 by the Hewett family, which built the bridge at Luverne. In either case, it is alive, standing albeit as a private crossing, and should be considered for the National Register. Does anybody else agree? 🙂

International:

The Bridges of Zeitz, Germany

It is rare to find a cluster of historic bridges that are seldomly mentioned in any history books or bridge inventory. During a bike tour through eastern Thuringia in March, I happened to find a treasure in the hills: A dozen historic bridges within a 10 km radius, half of which are in the city of 29,000 inhabitants, including the ornamental Moritzburg Pavillion Bridge located on the east end of town. Highly recommended the next time you pass through the area. These bridges will be profiled further in the coming year because of their aesthetic and historic value, which makes the town, resembling an East German bygone era, more attractive. Check them out! 🙂

 

Spectacular Disasters:

Flooding and Fires dominated the headlines as Mother Nature was not to kind to the areas affected, thus they were flooded, destroying historic bridges in the path. If there was no flooding, there were dry spells prompting fires that burned down everything touched. While there were several examples of historic bridges destroyed by nature, the author has chosen two that standout the most, namely because they were filmed, plus two runners-up in the international category. Fortunately for the bridge chosen in the US category, there is somewhat of a happy ending.

Photo by James MacCray

USA:

Full Throttle Saloon Fire-  Only a few weeks after celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Motorcycle Rally at the World’s largest saloon, the Full Throttle Saloon was destroyed by a massive fire on September 8th. Two of the historic bridges, relocated here to serve as overlook platforms and stages, were damaged by the blaze with the bridge decking being completely burned away. While the saloon was considered a total loss, bar owner Michael Ballard is planning on rebuilding the bar complex and has already lined up concert events including the upcoming Motorcycle Rally in August. More on how you can help rebuild here. Whether the bridges will be part of the plan is unclear, but given the effort to bring in the structure, it is likely that they will be kept and be part of the project as well. More on the project will follow, but things are really looking up for bikers and bridge lovers alike. 🙂

 

International:

300-year old arch bridge washed out by flooding-

While there was a three-way tie for spectacular natural disasters done to the historic bridges on the international front, this concrete arch bridge in Tadcaster in the UK stands out the most. The bridge collapsed on December 29th as floodwaters raged throughout much of the northern part of Great Britain. It was one of dozens of bridges that were either severely damaged or destroyed during the worst flooding on record. The saddest part was not the video on how the bridge fell apart bit by bit, but the bridge was over 300 years old. Demolition and replacement of the bridge is expected to commence at the earliest at the end of this year once the damages are assessed and the clean-up efforts are under way.

Runners-up:

Coach takes a swim under a culvert in Brazil:

Two runners-up in this category also have to do with bridge washouts due to flooding. One of them is this culvert wash-out in Brazil. A video submitted to the French magazine LeMonde shows what can happen if engineers choose a culvert over a replacement bridge, as this coach sank into the raging creek, went through the culvert and swam away! :-O Fortunately all the passengers evacuated prior to the disaster, however, it serves as a warning to all who wish to cut cost by choosing a culvert over a new bridge- you better know what you are getting into, especially after watching the video below.

 

Massive Panic as Bridge is washed out in India-

The other runner-up takes us to the city of Chennai in India, where flash flooding wreaked havoc throughout the city. At this bridge, the pier of a concrete bridge gave way as a large wave cut up the crossing in seconds! Massive panic occurred, as seen in the video seen below:

 

 

Dumbest Reason to destroy a historic bridge:

The final category for this year’s Author’s Choice Award goes to the people whose irrational decision-making triggered the (planned) destruction of historic bridges. This year’s candidates features two familiar names that are on the chopping block unless measures on a private scale are undertaken to stop the wrecking ball. One of the bridges is an iconic landmark that is only 53 years old.

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

USA:

BB Comer Bridge in Alabama- Three years of efforts to raise awareness to a vintage cantilever bridge went up in smoke on November 14th, when county officials not only rejected the notion for a referendum on saving the BB Comer Bridge in Scotsboro, but also turned down any calls for the matter to be brought up for all time to come. While the organization promoting the preservation of the bridge claimed that the city and Jackson County would not need to pay for the maintenance of the bridge, officials were not sold on the idea of having the bridge become a theme park, which would have been a win-win situation as far as producing funds for the tourism industry is concerned. Instead, behind closed doors, the contract was signed off to convert the 1930 bridge into scrap metal, giving into the value of the commodity. Talk about short-sightedness and wrist slitting there!

 

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International:

Fehmarn Bridge to come down- In an effort to push through the Migratory Freeway through Fehmarn Island and down the throats of opposing residents, the German Railways condemned the world’s first basket weave tied arch bridge, built in 1963 to connect the island with the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The official reason was too much rust and any rehabilitation would prolong the bridge’s life by only 20 years- highly disputable among the preservationists and civil engineers given the number of concrete examples of rehabilitated bridges lasting 50+ years. Yet many locals believe that the German Railways is pushing for the bridge to be removed in favor of its own railroad crossing that would carry Fernzüge from Hamburg to Copenhagen, eliminating the ferry service between Puttgarten and Rodby in Denmark. The fight however is far from over as the campaign to save the island and its cherished architectural work is being taken to the national level, most likely going as far as Brussles if necessary. In addition, lack of funding and support on the Danish side is delaying the tunnel project, threatening the entire motorway-bridge-tunnel project to derail. If this happens, then the next step is what to do with the Fehmarn Bridge in terms of prolonging its life. The bridge is in the running for Bridge of the Year for the 2015 Ammann Awards for the second year in a row, after finishing a distant second last year.

 

AND NOW THE VOTING PROCESS AND RESULTS OF THE 2015 AMMANN AWARDS, WHICH WILL BEGIN STARTING JANUARY 11th, AS SOON AS THE DEADLINE FOR ALL ENTRIES PASSES. HURRY TO ENTER YOUR PHOTOS, BRIDGES, AND PERSONS DESERVING HONORS BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!!!!

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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.

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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.

BB Comer Bridge: Decision Day

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

Voting on the allocation of funds to restoring the bridge to take place on November 9th.

SCOTTSBORO, ALABAMA-  At their Monday working session, the Jackson County Commission agreed to place the proposal to work with Comer Bridge Foundation and NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges on the agenda for a vote on Monday, November 9. The proposal agreed to put 1 million dollars into a county account to start the fund for eventual removal of the 1930 B.B. Comer Bridge, if necessary, and to start the process of design and planning bridge preservation.

Marie Bostick of the Land Trust of North Alabama wrote today, “I just feel so helpless. I know you and so many others have fought hard to save this bridge and it is so obviously the right thing to do.  Unfortunately, if it is demolished, we will regret it. And one day, we’ll be looking for the money to build a new bridge across the river for peds and bikers.  You can just see it coming!” The Economic Impact Study showed that the trail makes economic sense for the region, with a quarter of the impacts directly attributed to the trail crossing over the Tennessee River at Scottsboro.

At this time there are no plans for the Scottsboro City council to take this matter up. However, Scottsboro City Councilman, Brent Miller stated in a response to Comer Bridge Foundation (CBF) outreach, “I’ll be glad to discuss efforts to save the bridge and request that it be added to the next work session so the council can possibly discuss adding it to the agenda. I’ll make a conscious decision based on what I believe is in the best interest of Scottsboro. I’ll be glad to discuss this issue with anyone who would like to express their opinion.” Miller’s office is located at 121 North Broad Street, one block north of Willow Street. He will be out on city business at the end of this week, but if the sign says open, he will be there. We urge citizens to talk to all of their elected officials about how to build Scottsboro using the bridge as an asset and a resource, rather than an old bridge that needs paint. Comer Bridge Foundation board Chairman, Arnold Wheeler stated, “Let’s just hope these political leaders, who have refused to get involved, will now come forward and help us, all of us, save our bridge.”

The Jackson County Commissioners can be reached at 256 – 574 -9280.
Governor Bentley can be reached on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GovernorRobertBentley, or by calling 334-242-7100 or Faxing 334-353-0004. He can also be reached on Twitter under the name @GovernorBentley.  Ask for his input in working with ALDOT to accept the counter offer to his requirement of $5 million dollars in a fund somewhere for something.

The B.B.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 B.B. Comer Bridge was  also included in the 2015 Places in Peril list from the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation.

Contact Charles Holderfield  with any questions: (256) 486-1940 or Comer Bridge Foundation Media at media@comerbridge.org.

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.

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BB Comer Bridge Update: Economic Impact of Tourism Study Arrives.

BB Comer Bridge in Jackson County, AL.  Photo taken by David Kennamer and submitted by Julie Bowers
BB Comer Bridge in Jackson County, AL. Photo taken by David Kennamer and submitted by Julie Bowers

SCOTSBORO, ALABAMA- While the fire that destroyed the Full Throttle Saloon complex near Sturgis, South Dakota made headlines, espcially because of the magnitude of the blaze and the damage it inflicted on the complex’s two restored historic bridges, another headline quietly made the scene at the same time and is being posted here, despite its tardiness. This is a press release provided by the BB Comer Bridge Foundation on the Economic Impact Study on the Preservation of the BB Comer Bridge (info on the bridge here).

The study, written by Anthony Dixon, Ph.D. was funded in part by a grant from the
National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) in March, 2015. The 37 page study
was delivered to Comer Bridge Foundation and NSRGA / Workin’ Bridges on
Frday, September 4, 2015. “The study was requested because, although, inherently
the our groups know that retaining the bridge will sustain itself through hospitality,
retail and events, we didn’t know how it will effect Scottsboro and Jackson County
revenues and we are delighted to read the results,” stated Charles Holderfield,
President of Comer Bridge Foundation. “We still have to finish paying for the
report and feel that will be easier when everyone can read what it has to say about
the potential to Save Our Bridge.”
“We read report to say the best outcome is a public / private partnership that can
conduct the events throughout the years and if that is followed benefits from 1 to 3
million dollars in new money to the area is possible. The study looked only at the
impact of tourism events and “new” visitors to the area. The numbers were figured
using conservative, moderate and very conservative estimates. The highlight of the
report was the real boost that a trail that was able to use the Comer Bridge would
bring to the area, and that surprised us. Given that the study will be very important
to the Land Trust of Northern Alabama and to adjacent counties looking at those
same benefits.”
This study will be presented as a whole to the City of Scottsboro and Jackson
County in their working sessions later in September, but in the interest of time, the group
wants everyone to have as much access to the document. We are seeking input
input through social media and the website and any questions will be answered to
the best of our abilities.
“The removal of the bridge is being planned, I had a call from HRI the contractor
just the other week – they are hoping to avoid blowing it up which is a great thing.
The Tourism Authority is one way to stop the planned demolition and to start the
process of rejuvenation of the area because we don’t have a place for this bridge to
be moved. Sure a span or two could go elsewhere but this bridge is one of
Alabama’s Treasures, it was placed on the 2015 Places in Peril. This report didn’t go
into conclusions of what should be done, just what might be achieved if people
were to understand that it is a resource and not beyond it’s time, stated Julie
Bowers, Executive Director of NSRGA. “We are doing work in many states and
this report is quite exciting to our other bridge friends who want to rebuild to retain
our rural heritage.”

The copy of the final report can be accessed via link below. Questions can be referred to Charles Holderfield at 256.486.0442 charles@comerbridge.org or Julie Bowers at 641.260.1262.

ComerBridge_Report_Final

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Comer Bridge Foundation to host fundraising event

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, Alabama – The Comer Bridge Foundation has announced that it will host a car show, gospel singing, food vendors and a country music concert, headlined by Leah Seawright.  The event, Cruisin’ Comer Country, will be held at the Veteran’s Fairgrounds in Scottsboro on June 20.  The car show will begin at 10:00 a.m. with registration starting at 9:00 a.m.  The day’s activities will culminate with the Leah Seawright concert from 2-4:00 p.m.

 

Cruisin’ Comer Country’s presenting sponsor is Debbie Mathis Realty and Auction located in Scottsboro.  The car show will feature awards for the Top Ten, People’s Choice, Foundation’s Choice, and Best of Show.  Registration for the show is only $20 and cash prizes, determined by participation levels, will be awarded for People’s Choice, Foundation’s Choice, and Best of Show.

 

CBF President Charles Holderfield and the board of directors have spent many hours working to create the best event possible.  “I believe that this is a great opportunity for the community to have fun and support our efforts to preserve the B.B. Comer Bridge as a historical treasure and quality of life destination for everyone to enjoy.  We believe that the event will be a great success and hope it can be an annual fundraiser for this project,” Holderfield said.

 

The admission for the day’s events is only $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 5-12, and free admission for children under age 5.  Pre-registration for the car show portion is underway.  You can receive a registration form or obtain more information by contacting Charles Holderfield at charles@comerbridge.org.

You can also donate online at our donation page at Comerbridge Foundation donation page or at our GuFundMe campain at www.gofundme.com/savecomerbridge.

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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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.