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Easley Ford Bridge

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Photo taken by Eddie Douthitt

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Survey Report for Historic Bridges in Tennessee

Significant under Criterion C as a good example of an open spandrel arch bridge by the Roehl and Steel Bridge Company.

Unlike most other counties, Polk County had no bridges spanning its three major rivers by the turn of the century. Feeling that ferry service hindered the county’s growth, Polk County initiated an ambitious bridge building program. In 1899 the state legislature authorized the county to issue bonds for $25,000 to build bridges. However, it was not until about 1905 that the county contracted for major bridges. At that time it contracted with the Converse Bridge Company for $40,000 to build six bridges, including a bridge at this site. It is not clear why this contract was not honored, but local mining interests (a major component of the local economy) opposed construction of the bridges and they may have succeeded in stopping the work. However, over the following years, the county built these six bridges and others, one at a time, primarily between 1908 and 1915 (Carver 1983c; Clemmer Book 3:384, 385, 382; Polk Quarterly Court Minutes Volumes 13-19).

Although Polk County’s original 1905 contract with Converse included this bridge (see #70, 70-01223-02.53), the county did not build the bridge until 1923. In July 1919, the county court appointed a committee of W. G. Willis, W. Davis, and James Headrick to investigate building a bridge at this site. In October the committee reported that a bridge 160 feet long was needed and that engineer C. P. Williams had submitted plans for a 16-foot wide bridge of steel (110 and 50 feet spans) and a two span concrete bridge (80 feet each). The report stated that each bridge was designed to carry either a “road roller” or “two heavily loaded freight trucks passing each other in the center of the span.” While a steel bridge was slightly cheaper, the committee felt a concrete bridge would be more cost efficient in the end saying “a concrete bridge should stand from one to two hundred years without a dollars cost for upkeep.” This committee also stated that this was the last major bridge this county would need for several years and could concentrate on roadwork. However, it was not until April 1923 that the court appropriated $14,000 to build the bridge. In May the committee received a bid for $8,978 from Roehl and Steel for a one span arch and a bid for $12,900 from the Luten Bridge Company for a two-span arch. The county awarded the contract May 9 to Roehl and Steel and amended it in June to $12,854. However, the contract was a “plus cost” arrangement providing Roehl and Steel a fifteen percent profit above cost. The firm finished the bridge by the end of the year, but due to foundation problems and raising the bridge higher than planned, the final cost to the county was $21,376.53 (Polk County News 5 April, 9 May 1923, 27 March, 10 April 1924; Polk County Court Minutes Volume 20:462, 557-558; Volume 22:46, 125, 164, 206).

The 182-foot bridge contains one span, a 170-foot open spandrel dual ribbed concrete arch. Lateral bracing bars connect the paired ribs. The bridge has a curb-to-curb width of 15.7 feet and an out-to-out width of 17.7 feet. The railing is post and rail.

Facts 

Overview
Open spandrel arch bridge over Conasauga River on Easley Ford Rd.
Location
Polk County, Tennessee
Status
Open to traffic
History
Built 1923-24 by the Roehl and Steel Company
Builder
- Roehl & Steel of Knoxville, Tennessee
Design
Open spandrel arch
Dimensions
Length of largest span: 169.9 ft.
Total length: 170.9 ft.
Deck width: 15.7 ft.
Also called
Conasauga River Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+35.00079, -84.75349   (decimal degrees)
35°00'03" N, 84°45'13" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/705013/3875436 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Felker
Inventory numbers
TN 70022680001 (Tennessee bridge number)
BH 32658 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection (as of 12/2015)
Deck condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Superstructure condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
Appraisal: Structurally deficient
Sufficiency rating: 32.3 (out of 100)
Average daily traffic (as of 2016)
140

Update Log 

  • April 19, 2017: New photos from Ben Tate
  • March 3, 2013: New photos from Calvin Sneed
  • December 25, 2010: Essay added by Eddie Douthitt
  • July 4, 2009: Updated by C Hanchey: Added bridge builder
  • February 13, 2009: Updated by Eddie Douthitt: Added coordinates
  • October 20, 2008: New photo from Eddie Douthitt
  • October 19, 2008: Updated by Eddie Douthitt: Adding common road name and pics

Sources 

  • Eddie Douthitt - eddied1962 [at] charter [dot] net
  • C Hanchey - cmh2315fl [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Calvin Sneed - us43137415 [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Ben Tate - benji5221 [at] yahoo [dot] com