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.


The $5000 Challenge for the Mc Intyre Bridge

The McIntyre Bridge before its collapse during floods in 2010. Photo taken by Julie Bowers

There is a ray of hope with regards to the future of the McIntyre Bridge in Poweshiek County, Iowa. The North Skunk River Greenbelt Association, which owns the 1885 bowstring arch bridge was provided with a grant of $10,000 by the Marilyn Taylor Jordan on behalf of the McFarlin Family. However this grant comes with a challenge- there is a challenge to match at least half the funding- meaning $5000!

The organization is looking for 250 people who are willing to donate $20 to the cause. The advantages are two-fold: 1. The names of the donors will be in-scripted either on the planks of the bridge or on a plaque at the Millgrove Access Wildlife Area, where the bridge is located and 2. A thank-you gift in a form of the DVD documentary on historic bridge preservation will be given to the donor. The documentary features the restoration of the Piano Bridge in Texas and was produced earlier this year.

The money will be used to finish the Site Survey and pier study to determine if we need to add additional height to the piers. The NSRGA has been granted $1950 for this study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and more time has been extended for that study to be performed. It is expected to cost $4000. Grant money will be used for engineering drafts and bringing parts to the bridge site from outside so that work can proceed on rebuilding the bowstring arch bridge.

The McIntyre Bridge was destroyed by flooding in 2010 as the structure was swept downstream. A survey revealed that the bridge is salvageable and can be rebuilt, yet it is possible that new higher piers may be needed to avert further flooding. The full cost of bridge restoration and reset will cost about $134,000. This does not include money for work on the road or the riverbanks, as that will be separate and plans are in the making to work with the county on this aspect once the bridge is reset.

If you are interested in taking the challenge or have any questions on how you can help restore the McIntyre Bridge, please contact Julie Bowers at NSRGA at this website: www.skunkriverbridge.org If you want to take the challenge, you can also send a check to: NSRGA PO Box 332 Grinnell, IA 50112. The deadline to donate to meet the challenge is 31 July, 2012. Every little dollar counts in preserving a piece of America’s history for generations to come.