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Bridge work to begin soon

By Michael Butler

The repainting and repair work for the Benjamin Fitzpatrick Bridge is about to begin. The Alabama Department of Transportation estimates the project to take 16 months or longer depending on weather delays.

Commuters crossing the Tallapoosa River along Highway 14 between East and West Tallassee should expect delays for the duration of the project that is scheduled to start on March 1.

The contractor will be placing a containment structure on the side and under the bridge to catch, collect and remove all residue while prepping and painting the bridge.

"Lane closures will not be permitted Monday through Friday 6-8 a.m. or 3:30-5:30 p.m," ALDOT noted in a statement regarding measures to avoid delays during the busiest travel times. "Lane closures are necessary for the safety of the people and the use of equipment needed to complete the project."

To aid with traffic flow, the state will place temporary traffic lights at each end of the bridge that will be synced with a time delay for traffic control. The current red lights at the Community Library and Tallassee Police Station will be changed to flashing caution lights during the construction period. Flagmen may also be used.

Open for business - the Benjamin Fitzpatrick in December of 1940

"They're going to resurface," Tallassee Mayor Sarah Hill said. "They're going to replace the chainlink fence and paint it as well."

The price tag for the work is $3.5 million and is being funded by state and federal fuel taxes. ALDOT awarded the project to Omega Coatings and Construction, LLC, out of Tarpon Springs, Fla.

In the beginning

The maintenance is designed to extend the life of bridge which went into service on Dec. 10, 1940.

Areas of concrete will be removed and replaced with a layer of sealant being applied to the bridge deck. Minor repairs to steel, expansion joints and bearings will also be done.

The 1,738-foot long bridge is the highest bridge above water in Alabama at 143 feet.

*Photos through the years of the Benjamin Fitzpatrick