published Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Glass Holmberg pedestrian bridge repairs mount: Chattanooga seeks solutions for landmark

The City of Chattanooga is exploring a new material for the walkway of the Holmberg Bridge, which connects the Bluff View Arts District to Walnut Street. Since it's construction in 2005, the city has spent at least $5,000 a year on repairs to the glass walkway. Recent repairs topped $10,000.
The City of Chattanooga is exploring a new material for the walkway of the Holmberg Bridge, which connects the Bluff View Arts District to Walnut Street. Since it's construction in 2005, the city has spent at least $5,000 a year on repairs to the glass walkway. Recent repairs topped $10,000.
Photo by Angela Lewis.
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Looking this good isn't cheap.

The Holmberg pedestrian bridge, an architectural gem along the city's riverfront, is proving to be a continual drain on the city's maintenance budget.

The glass bridge connects the Bluff View Art District with Walnut Street. But since the $1.6 million bridge opened in 2005, it's racked up at least $5,000 a year in glass panel repairs, said Lee Norris, Chattanooga's director of public works. In 2007, the city shelled out about $25,000 to fix seven panels, according to newspaper archives. And this year, the city spent about $10,000 on repairs.

Now city officials are meeting with the bridge's original architect to explore a more durable material for the walkway, which is covered with several layers of laminated glass.

"Obviously, we don't want to change the character of the bridge," Norris said. "But maybe there's a better transparent material we could use."

City Councilman Chris Anderson, who is director of food and beverage for the Bluff View Art District, asked the Public Works Department at this week's meeting to find a long-term fix for the bridge that won't break the bank.

"If we're repairing a panel or two every six months that's a huge cost," he said. "I think it's a great part of the city; I just want to find a way to make it work better."

Norris said the city is working quickly to find a reasonable solution.

"We want to do it as fast as we can," he said. "I don't want to keep paying $5,000-plus a year to fix the bridge."

Speculation has varied throughout the years about the cause of cracked and shattered pieces of glass. Some have suspected vandals in the past. The city added extra security cameras in 2007 as a precaution. Norris suspects the most recent round of damage was caused by skateboarders.

Though skateboarders and bikers aren't supposed to be on the bridge, Lynda Curtis, who owns the nearby Ice Cream Show, said she's seen them there several times.

"One time a guy skateboarded all the way across and down the railing," she said. "And we see people riding bikes across it, too, even though there's a sign there that says you're not supposed to."

Staff writer Joy Lukachick contributed to this story. Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy @timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

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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