Johnson City took a major step Monday to improve travel and safety along a stretch of South Roan Street by placing a 90-foot-long, 20-ton pedestrian bridge along the north side of the street spanning Sinking Creek.
The steel bridge includes a walkway made from a composite of wood and plastic, making it the first of its kind in the city. The new bridge stretches across the creek immediately adjacent to an existing bridge under the street that originally was constructed in 1926.
“This continuation of our sidewalk project is being built mainly to improve access for people walking down South Roan to Food City and other businesses,” said Brandon Pachol, a Public Works Department engineer and project manager on this job. “Before, there was really no way to assure a safe path for handicapped people, and there’s actually a lot of people who walk all the way into downtown from here.”
The roughly $80,000 bridge is mostly steel painted green to match the color on surrounding businesses, such as a Goodwill, a large train trestle above the road and a nearby storage business. Alabama-based Contech Bridge Solutions built the bridge in two sections and delivered them to the site. Public works employees did the rest, including preparation that included $20,000 for the bridge abutments, supports, rock, concrete and pylons to strengthen the old bridge, bringing the total cost to about $100,000.
“Next, we will be widening the sidewalk on the east side for about 100 feet to match the bridge’s 10-foot width,” Pachol said. “This is part of a larger plan. We put the new bridge on the north side, because the city owns right of way on the other side (in front of Food City), and there are plans in the future to widen this to five lanes.”
The City Commission approved the bridge project in 2010.
The city hired Kinsport’s Barnhart Crane & Rigging to bring a 170-ton crane on site to do the heavy lifting, which took about 10 minutes once everything was set up. Holes were drilled into the abutments on which metal sections of the bridge were set. The bridge was secured using long bolts.
“It should actually be ready for use as soon as we wrap up today (Monday),” said Mike Williams, a Public Works Department street division construction supervisor. We’ve been removing stones and debris from underneath the road (bridge), and we will be doing some landscaping around the area of the new bridge.”
Williams also said the city is considering using the very same Contech-designed structure when it comes time to replace the bridge that crosses John Exum Parkway at Science Hill High School.