published Friday, October 4th, 2013

Group gains preservationist's support for Jackson County, Ala., bridge

The 1931-era B.B. Comer Bridge over the Tennessee River in Jackson County, Ala., could become the target of preservation efforts.
The 1931-era B.B. Comer Bridge over the Tennessee River in Jackson County, Ala., could become the target of preservation efforts.
Photo by Ben Benton.

A Jackson County, Ala., group seeking to preserve the B.B. Comer Bridge near Scottsboro got a shot in the arm from an Iowa preservationist who made a recent visit to see the 83-year-old steel truss-style span over the Tennessee River.

“They absolutely have something worth preserving. This bridge is sound,” said Julie Bowers, executive director of The N. Skunk River Greenbelt Association.

A consulting company associated with the Grinnell, Iowa-based group, Workin’ Bridges, seeks to preserve old bridges across the country and could be hired to perform a study on saving the old span.

“It’ll be a place that people go for the sunsets,” Bowers said.

Bridge preservation “takes developing partnerships with all the interested parties, and it takes making some changes in the original plans for demolition,” she said.

The Comer Bridge Foundation hosted Bowers, who stayed a few days in the Scottsboro area to learn about the bridge and its community, foundation member and spokeswoman Lallie Dawson Leighton said.

Leighton, Bowers and foundation member Caroline Lynch Minor met with representatives of several Jackson County agencies, including Scottsboro Mayor Melton Potter, County Commission Chairman Matthew Hodges, county Economic Development Authority director Dus Rogers and the Scottsboro Water, Sewer and Gas Board.

The meetings were aimed at introducing local officials to bridge preservation group members, talking about ideas and learning from government officials how agencies and departments are connected with the bridge, Leighton said.

Bowers said these early meetings are important in generating and unifying support among local officials and agencies without attaching financial strings.

Bowers got “yeses” from city and Jackson County officials who voiced their support of ideas for re-purposing the bridge, and construction officials contracted to demolish the bridge are open to alternatives for that part of the ongoing replacement project beside the old span, she said.

The effort to save the 1931-era B.B. Comer Bridge started gaining attention when the span was named earlier this year to 2013’s Top Rated Unique Savable Structures, or TRUSS, list, according to bridgehunter.com. The bridge at Scottsboro is the last of 15 memorial bridges built by the Alabama State Bridge Corp. starting in 1927, according to James Baughn, author of the TRUSS list and the website.

Bowers’ visit “just really gave us an injection of energy and enthusiasm, and we felt like this is really possible,” Leighton said. “She told us it was going to be an ‘uphill battle.’ She does not minimize it by any means.”

Bridge friends are anxious to start raising the $6,000 for an engineers’ study of the aging structure, Leighton said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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