The city of Columbus will begin underwater and above-the-water inspections on the pedestrian bridge at the Riverwalk today, said City Engineer Kevin Stafford during a Wednesday press conference.
The inspections are to assess the damage the bridge took in February when, it is believed, a barge drifting down the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway hit two of its supporting concrete piers, causing one pier to shift and pull away from the bridge, Stafford said. Part of the metal support atop that pier, he said, is already disconnected from the bridge.
City engineers closed the bridge Feb. 7 as a precautionary measure, although it was designed to rotate and should hold its own weight without relying on the piers, he previously told The Dispatch. The bridge — built in 1927 and closed in 1991 — was rehabilitated and reopened as a pedestrian bridge to connect downtown Columbus and The Island in 2013, The Dispatch reported.
A preliminary assessment from the city engineers shows the barge knocked the eastern pier loose and moved it by seven inches, Stafford said Wednesday. The center pier, which holds the weight of the bridge, only seems to have suffered some surface damage, he said.
However, the city needs to further assess the damage to determine how best to fix it, Stafford said. That includes using divers to examine the damage the piers took underwater.
“We’ll come up with a scope of what damage was done, how to repair it, put a cost to it and go back to all parties that are involved right now and figure out the best way … to get funded,” he said.
The inspections will cost no more than $51,500, and the city will shoulder the cost, Stafford said. After the damage assessment, the city will negotiate with the barge owner — Alabama-based Cooper Marine and Timberlands — to determine who should bear the cost, he said.
Stafford’s company, Neel-Schaffer, and its subcontractor, Consor Engineers, will be responsible for the inspections, he said. The inspections will take 30 to 60 days.
Yue Stella Yu was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.
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