Renovations on the roughly 50-year-old walking bridge that crosses John Exum Parkway at Science Hill High School begins today to repair crumbling concrete and structural steel and aluminum.
The outer edges of the concrete have deteriorated, leaving the frames and bolts anchoring the handrails in an unstable state, and the aluminum mesh fencing along the side has been torn open, creating several large openings.
“All we’re trying to do is make it structurally sound and safe,” the city’s Public Works Assistant Director Mike Arsenault said Monday as crews set up signs, flashing lights and bright orange barrels along John Exum. “At this juncture, we will not be refinishing any metal or doing any repainting. We’re making repairs to reset the handrails. We’re also replacing some of the aluminum mesh, or screen, that’s built into the sides.”
Arsenault said the bridge’s span is made of a 4-inch concrete slab that was poured on top of a separate concrete foundation. The plan is to use mechanical hoists to lift public works employees to the bridge. They will unfasten all bolts that hold the handrails and reposition them 10 inches inward on both sides.
“The width is now 7 feet,” he said. “When we’re done the width will be about 5 feet so the handrails can be placed in firm concrete.”
Arsenault said the concrete deck was last repaired in 1993, the same year the handrails and aluminum portions were completely refinished and painted. He said the costs incurred for the project will be mostly for labor and that the total cost for repairs should run about $5,000.
Concerns about the bridge’s condition were expressed at a recent Board of Education/City Commission Facilities Committee meeting, but no specific plans were put in place at that time regarding repairs.
Johnson City School’s Instruction and Facilities Supervisor Dave Chupa, who attended the meeting, said on July 15 during a tour of school construction projects that he did not know when repairs might be made.
“There has been a lot of discussion about it,” he said Monday. “I guess the city decided to jump on it.”
Construction and renovations of the high school’s administrative offices has moved the majority of these functions at a point on campus that directly faces the bridge that crosses John Exum. The road runs north and south at that point; the bridge runs east and west.
John Exum Parkway closures and traffic pattern changes:
n The southbound portion of the parkway will be closed first.
n Traffic patterns will be adjusted to establish two-way traffic on the northbound side of the highway.
n This closure will remain in place for approximately three days.
n At that point, the southbound side will be reopened and the northbound lanes closed.
n Traffic patterns will again be adjusted and two-way traffic established in the southbound lanes.
n Work should be complete by Saturday, and traffic patterns will return to normal.
For information about the project or traffic patterns, call Mike Arsenault at 975-2707.