published Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Chickamauga Battlefield bridges reopen to traffic after two years of construction

A car crosses Alexander's Bridge on Friday. The bridge reopened on Friday after having been closed to motor vehicle traffic in February 2009.
A car crosses Alexander's Bridge on Friday. The bridge reopened on Friday after having been closed to motor vehicle traffic in February 2009.
Photo by Dan Henry.
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After more than two years of construction, two historic bridges in the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park reopened to motor vehicle traffic Friday.

Contractors disassembled Alexander's Bridge and Slough Bridge piece by piece to preserve as much of the natural stone as possible. Jim Szyjkowski, chief of resource management at the battlefield park, said the original bridge was a crucial structure during the Battle of Chickamauga in November of 1863.

In 1907, a steel bridge replaced the wooden 1897 structure but still sat on the natural stone supports. Much of that stonework was saved, giving the bridges a historical look, Szyjkowski said.

"Let's be honest -- they're not the historical structures anymore that were built in the early 1900s," he said. "But the bridges that are there look very similar to what they did when we started this process. The characteristics are very much the same."

A safety inspection Thursday by the Federal Highway Administration and the National Park Service gave the green light to reopen the bridges to traffic, park Superintendent Cathy Cook said in a news release.

Crews will continue to complete minor finishing work in the coming months, though the bridges will remain open. Cook said she plans to hold a formal rededication of the bridges next year.

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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Plessiewill said...

These bridges should have been closed permanently. To reopen them was a set up deal forced by a few people in Ft. Oglethorpe. There was a comment period but it was only a few weeks long. There was no way people opposed to open bridges to lodge complaints. There are plenty of ways to get around the park and these bridges are not necessary. So, now people who use and enjoy the park will have to deal with locals speeding down Alexander Bridge Road. No amount of dressing can convince anybody that the original look of the bridges was maintained. The old bridges were perfect for foot traffic. I hope the few lazy residents of the area are happy. Now let's see how long it takes one of them to kill somebody. That will be easy to do since the funding has been cut to the park and you never see the rangers giving tickets to speeders.

December 24, 2011 at 9:06 a.m.
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