published Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Weight limits in place on bridge

Motorists drive along the Wilcox Boulevard Bridge over the Norfolk Southern DeButts railroad yards.
Motorists drive along the Wilcox Boulevard Bridge over the Norfolk Southern DeButts railroad yards.
Photo by Jenna Walker.

Starting today, no vehicles heavier than 10 tons are allowed on the Wilcox Boulevard bridge over the DeButts Rail Yard off Amnicola Highway.

Chattanooga officials announced last week they would impose weight limits after a state inspection turned up deficiencies on the 54-year-old span that crosses the Norfolk Southern rail yard.

Two groups that might be expected to be most affected say it's not a problem.

Hamilton County school buses don't use it to pick up and drop off children, schools Transportation Supervisor Ben Coulter said.

"It's good that Amnicola is mostly commercial from there to downtown. It is not mandatory for any of our routes," Coulter said. But field trips might have to be rerouted, and all drivers have been notified not to use the bridge, he said.

And Tom Dugan, executive director of the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority, has said it should be fairly easy to reroute buses that come and go from barns next to the bridge.

The weight-limit signs went up Wednesday, a spokeswoman in the city traffic engineer's office said.

That followed an inspection this summer by the Tennessee Department of Transportation that revealed "continued deterioration of the steel beams on the bridges," TDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said in an email Wednesday.

She said there are actually two side-by-side bridges over the tracks. Limiting the weight of vehicles using them will lessen wear while TDOT and Norfolk Southern decide whether to repair or replace the bridges.

"The safety of the traveling public is our main concern," Flynn said.

about Judy Walton...

Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...

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