Legislature opens a narrow window for repairing deficient bridges; call it the … 2% solution
Several bridges in Carter County could soon receive much-needed repairs thanks to state grant funding and the efforts of a local legislator to assist counties.
Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey said the Tennessee Department of Transportation recently issued a statewide list of locally maintained bridges which have been classified as being “structurally deficient.”
Carter County had 32 locally maintained bridges on the list.
Humphrey is hoping to begin work on projects to repair some of the bridges on the list issued by TDOT grant money from the state.
“Each county has ‘X’ number of dollars available in this account,” Humphrey said, adding the portion available to Carter County is $1.8 million.
Until recently, the grant required counties to match the funding by 20 percent in order to obtain the funding for projects to repair or rebuild bridges. “Most counties have not been able to touch it because they could not afford the 20 percent match,” Humphrey said. At the 20 percent rate, Carter County’s portion would have been $360,000.
Recently, State Rep. Timothy Hill, whose district includes areas in Carter, Johnson and Sullivan counties, pushed a bill through the state legislature that temporarily reduces the matching obligation of the county from 20 percent to 2 percent — effectively lowering the county’s required contribution from $360,000 to $36,000. This reduction in required fund matching will remain in effect until 2016.
“Our time frame is short,” said Humphrey. “We have to have these projects identified, applications submitted and funding committed by 2016 in order to take advantage of this. After 2016 it reverts to the 20 percent match.”
Humphrey said the county is currently working with Tysinger, Hampton & Partners engineering firm to begin work on getting projects identified. Humphrey said he is also seeking clarification from TDOT as to whether or not the county must work in sequential order from the issued list or if the county is allowed to choose projects from the list without working in a specific order.
“We want to take a very proactive stance to go ahead and identify these bridges,” Humphrey said.
In total, Humphrey said he hopes to get at least four or five bridge projects identified and committed before the reduced matching rate ends.
However, before any work on those new projects can begin, the county must first complete another bridge project — the Rittertown bridge where Gap Creek Road connects to U.S. Highway 19E.
“Most of the work has been completed from a legal standpoint, securing right-of-ways,” Humphrey said. “There was a property owner that was holding things up, but what I am hearing from the attorney now is that an agreement has been reached to sell that portion of the land.
“It is imperative that we get this under way so we can move on to these other projects.”
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