Officials of the Tennessee Department of Transportation, working toward right of way acquisition for construction of a new Sligo bridge, have re-designed plans for the proposed project hoping to address concerns to the satisfaction of Sligo Marina.
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During a Projects Bus Tour Thursday at Hurricane Bridge, TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges told WJLE that a new offer will soon be made to the marina for the right of way and if all goes well, construction could be underway by next spring. "We have one property owner that we're dealing with on the project and it's the United States government through the Corps of Engineers," said Degges. "They have a lease with a marina (Sligo Marina). We're working with the Corps of Engineers but we will actually make an offer to the marina. Of course, we're not quite there yet but we're finishing up all our appraisal work to be able to go back to the marina (with an offer)," he said.
In previous interviews with WJLE, Degges has said one of the major concerns is that the marina owners want the state to pay for "potential loss of business"to them during the construction of the bridge. The problem is the state cannot legally pay for those types of damages. "They're wanting to be paid for some things. In particular, he (lessee) wants to be paid for some potential loss of business due to loss of some of his parking and the impact of construction. Under state law in Tennessee, we (TDOT) are prohibited from paying those types of damages" said Degges
Normally, when an agreement cannot be reached on right of way acquisition, the state can resort to imminent domain proceedings. But in this case, condemnation is not an option because the state cannot condemn federal property.
"We originally designed the project from what we understood were to be the ways we would least impact the marina," said Degges on Thursday. "But when we ended up going to the marina and talking to them about how we planned on delivering the project, they really weren't all that happy with it so we've been trying to work with them. We've kind of gone back and looked at our design and we've listened to the marina (owners) and some of the concerns they have. We've tried to re-design the project to meet some of the things they've got concerns about. The bridge is actually going to be designed pretty much the same but we have gone back and looked at how we would build the bridge. We're going to be going back through the Corps of Engineers to the marina and making a new offer to them on the right of way impacts due to the construction of the project. We hope to have that to them in the very near future. Hopefully it will be more in the realm of what the marina is actually looking for which will allow us to get on with the project. Hopefully we'll get everything resolved and be able to get under contract after New Years," said Degges
The Sligo project, which was funded in the 2011-12 state budget, calls for replacement of the existing overhead truss bridge which is structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. The new bridge will be located a few feet to the north of the existing bridge, which will remain open to traffic during construction. The new bridge will be a continuous welded plate girder design with a composite concrete deck slab and will be 1,545 feet in length. The project typical section is two-12 foot lanes with 10 foot shoulders. The total estimated cost of the project including engineering, right of way, and construction is $31-million.
"We're going to build what we call a steel plate girder bridge with a concrete deck," said Degges. " Right now, the bridge is a truss. The truss has quite a bit of age on it. The steel of that vintage, when it starts to deteriorate, deteriorates pretty fast. So its time for us to put a new bridge in there. The bridge is somewhat narrow. The new bridge we're going to put in here will have twelve foot lanes and ten foot shoulders. It will be what most people would consider a traditional bridge in that the beams of this bridge will be under the deck. One of the challenges here is that the water is over one hundred feet deep at this location which makes the construction of the bridge somewhat more challenging. Just think about trying to pour concrete one hundred feet under water. Its a pretty tough proposition. We don't have a whole lot of that type of work in Tennessee, but we do have some. We'll build the new bridge adjacent to the existing bridge. It's a vital artery for this part of the state of Tennessee. DeKalb County is very interested in this project. This county is split by the river and transportation is a key component of the economy there. So we want to make sure we get this bridge replaced before we have to do any additional repair work to the bridge," added Degges.
In addition to Degges, TDOT Commissioner John Schroer was on the Projects Bus Tour Thursday along with other TDOT officials, State Senator Mae Beavers, and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver.