The most high-profile and highly traveled bridge spanning downtown Nashville’s Gulch has a surface that remains in “poor” condition, but the structure is in no imminent state of collapse, according to state officials.
Not counting the deck surface of Nashville’s Broadway Viaduct, built in 1946 and with an average daily traffic count (per 2010 figures) of approximately 25,640, the bridge earns a “fair” rating in all other areas, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation. TDOT owns and oversees the viaduct because Broadway/West End is a state route (Highway 70).
Wayne Seger, director the TDOT Division of Structures, said the viaduct was most recently inspected in February. Its deck first received a “poor” rating — while other elements of the bridge were listed as “fair” — in 2005. The poor rating means there is some deterioration or spalling (that is, chipping or flaking) in the deck, he said. However, the condition is not negatively affecting the primary structural capacity of the deck, Seger added.
With the recent national attention on infrastructure — and, specifically, the aging Brent Spence Bridge that connects Kentucky and Ohio in Cincinnati — transportation departments nationwide have become hypersensitive to the conditions of bridges.
The Broadway Viaduct was last repaired in 2006. Similarly, a previous iteration of the Demonbreun Street Viaduct was replaced during a project on which worked spanned 2004 to 2007. TDOT does not own or operate the Demonbreun or Church Street viaducts.
TDOT has not said when it might replace the aging Broadway Viaduct, which spans the buildings home to The Tennessean and Exxon Tiger Mart on the west to Lifeway Christian Bookstore and Union Station Hotel on the east.“Our requirement is to inspect all bridges on a maximum of a 24-month cycle," Seger said. "As [the Broadway Viaduct] continues to age, we will keep track of its condition. We can alter the 24-month period to a shorter period of time if necessary.”
“We have one of the nation’s best inspection programs,” Seger said. “All inspections are done with in-house personnel.”
B.J. Doughty, TDOT spokeswoman, said the department’s bridge repair unit is capable of making spot repairs to the deck. For more substantial repairs, TDOT would put the project out for bids, she said.
“These types of repairs are challenging because the deteriorating concrete would have to be removed, most likely by jack hammering,” Doughty said. “Then, the new concrete must be poured and then ‘set up’ for a period of time.”
Doughty said TDOT typically close lanes from Friday nights through Monday mornings when road and bridge work is undertaken.
“Repairs of this nature to the Broadway Viaduct would present unique challenges due to the heavy volume of traffic and high number of events in the downtown area on the weekends,” she said.