The first light post on the right side of the eastside connection to the Benjamin Fitzpatrick Bridge fell just after 3 p.m. last Wednesday.
According to Tallassee Mayor Johnny Hammock, it was the strong winds that caused the light post to come down.
According to Alabama Department of Transportation public information officer Brantley Kirk, ALDOT inspected all light poles on the Benjamin Fitzpatrick Bridge on Thursday and is developing a plan regarding the remaining light poles.
In addition to Thursday's inspection of the bridge's light posts, the bridge is inspected annually and continues to be open to traffic. The next bridge inspection is scheduled for July, according to Kirk.
ALDOT was working to mill down the roadway at the westside entrance in an effort to smooth the bridge's connection point to the roadway in September. Workers could mill down only the westside lane of the entrance to the bridge because, according to ALDOT officials, the crew ran into mechanical issues with the necessary machinery and will return to finish the project in the future.
In May of last year, residents expressed their concerns about the condition of the bridge at an ALDOT meeting held at city hall about ALDOT's projected five-year plan.
The bridge has been in "poor" condition since 1999 and was last listed in “fair" condition in 1997. ALDOT said there is no plan to replace the bridge at this time. Photos reveal flaking paint, cracks in the deck surface, exposed rebar and more.
At last year’s meeting, ALDOT Southeast Region pre-construction engineer Joshua Kervin told residents a new bridge is not included in ALDOT's projected five-year plan and is safe.
Also at the meeting, Hammock addressed the possibility of painting the bridge which would help curb rusting.
Construction of a bridge that would reroute traffic from the bridge has been talked about for decades. At one time a new bridge was in ALDOT's five-year plan.
"A new bridge across the Tallapoosa River at Tallassee has been talked about for a long time but now two river bridges have been authorized for planning and engineering by the Alabama Department of Transportation," The Tribune reported on Nov. 11, 1999.
The bridge is reinforced by monolithic concrete with a steel truss deck and, with a lifespan of almost 80 years, the superstructure is beginning to show signs of aging.
According to bridgereports.com, the last inspection of the bridge was in August 2017. At that time the bridge was listed in poor condition with average daily traffic at 12,810 vehicles.
Opening in 1940, the bridge connects the east and westsides of Tallassee with a span of 1,737.9 feet. According to the website, the bridge is structurally in poor condition with a sufficiency rating of 6 out of 100.
Additional statistics include:
• Deck condition is fair (5 out of 9)
• Superstructure condition is poor (4 out of 9)
• Substructure condition is fair (5 out of 9)
• Structural appraisal is basically intolerable requiring high priority of replacement
• Deck geometry appraisal is basically intolerable requiring high priority of corrective action
• Water adequacy appraisal is superior to present desirable criteria• Roadway alignment is better than present minimum criteria
• Channel protection: Bank protection needs minor repairs; river control devices and embankment protection have a little minor damage; banks and/or channel have minor amounts of drift.
• Scour condition: Bridge foundations determined to be stable for the assessed or calculated scour condition.
• Recommended work: Replacement of bridge or other structure because of substandard load carrying capacity or substantial bridge roadway geometry.
To date, the bridge has no weight restriction and 18-wheelers frequently utilize it.
Hammock urges citizens to express their concerns to their elected state representatives and to ALDOT.