Gadsden bridge deemed ‘structurally deficient’ prior to collapse

Gadsden bridge deemed ‘structurally deficient’ prior to collapse
The bridge that collapsed near the Georgia/Florida state line. (Source: Decatur County Fire and Rescue)

GADSDEN CO., Fla.. (WCTV) - New information regarding the Hutchinson Ferry Bridge collapse has surfaced.

The collapse occurred last month from, what Gadsden County says, box culverts under the structure loosening. As seen on inspection records provided by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to WCTV, the last inspection of the bridge took place on Feb. 4 and showed a significant need for improvement.

That bridge is located near the state line, right off Hutchinson Ferry Road, just south of Lewis Lane.

The wordage used in the reports deems the bridge as "structurally deficient" and saying it needs prompt corrective action. A spokesperson for FDOT shares that the word "prompt" is a term used frequently, when corrective action needs to be done as soon as possible, or requires immediate action.

FDOT is responsible for the inspections and scheduling inspection dates, but the county is responsible for all repairs, maintenance, and scheduling when those reparations take place.

The bridge is still closed, due to the collapse. Resident Richard Martin has lived off of Lewis Lane and Peck Betts road for 37 years. The unearthed dam off of Peck Betts Road was shut down in February, and was still closed on Tuesday evening. Martin says when the closure of Hutchinson Ferry occurred, it has caused him to take more time and miles, getting from his house, to Tallahassee.

Martin shares he saw the scene the morning of the bridge collapse, and thought it was bound to happen, "Nothing has really been done structurally to the bridge except make it cave in."

The report from FDOT suggests that something should have been done sooner. The report called for "prompt corrective action".

Douglas Ray, has been living right next to Hutchinson Ferry Road for 35 years. And while he likes the quiet traffic due to the closures, he shares something needed to happen.

“We’ll you should fix it," Ray said. "That’s it close it right then. It has been patched several times, patch it up patch it up. They just did it two months ago put a layer of asphalt on it.”

Martin echoes, “And like in the last couple of months they have put a sign up, bump, you know, and put up extra asphalt but it was continuously caving in.”

The report also gives the bridge a sufficiency rating of 54 and a health index of 66, which are both scored out of 100.

Eloise Joyner, a resident in the area for 50 years, says it is aggravating. Her and her husband, are in poor health and she wishes more would have been done.

“They knew that there was a problem but just put it on the backburner and it will go away," Joyner said. "Sometimes that happens, you don’t address a problem and it is only going to get worse.”

And for Ruben Uribe, he has been commuting off of Hutchinson Ferry Road for the past 6 years. Uribe is concerned.

“We don’t know in what condition they are and the community is worried for what is happening,” Uribe said. “Especially bridges that have been inspected and they need to take care of them and they didn’t.”

Martin believes that the county does not know how to handle the infrastructure that it currently has.

“Yeah, I think it would have just kept on going if it did not actually collapse and they would have just kept on trying to brush it under the carpet," Martin said. "I don’t think that they had any plans to replace it.”

And so far there is no solution or time frame for reparations on the bridge. Martin says it no surprise.

“I don’t think it will be fixed in several years at the rate they are moving I don’t think we will have a bridge in a year or two,” Martin said.

WCTV reached out to Gadsden County for comment on the inspection reports but they are not able to comment due to pending litigation.

A Florida Department of Transportation spokesperson shares that although the paperwork suggests that the next scheduled inspection was for Aug. 4, that date just served as a place maker/reminder for FDOT to schedule their inspection.

The inspection was scheduled for Aug. 26, which was five days after the collapse.

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