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Construction (Circa 1940)

Bridge undergoes annual inspection

By Michael Butler

Every year, the Alabama Department of Transportation performs a series of checks on the Benjamin Fitzpatrick Bridge. Last week, state workers were back in town for their annual visit.

"It's one of only a few curved, deck truss bridges in the world," Tallassee native and ALDOT spokesman Tony Harris said. "There are only about five or six deck truss bridges in Alabama and less than a thousand anywhere in the United States."

Tallassee's Benjamin Fitzpatrick Bridge has been in service since 1940. Approximately 13,000 vehicles utilize it to cross the Tallapoosa River on a daily basis.

"It is a unique bridge. It is what we consider at the Alabama Department of Transportation an iconic or landmark bridge just because of its design and size."

Harris noted the ALDOT has one of the best bridge inspection program in the U.S.

"Federal law requires that every bridge or conveyance over 20 feet long be inspected every two years, but with that particular design of this bridge we inspect it annually. It gets a thorough inspection. Any time we've ever found a problem with it, we address it right then."

There are 5,700 bridges in Alabama that are the responsibility of ALDOT.

"We are operating on 1991-92 revenues," Harris noted. "We are in deferred maintenance on some things."

In the next few years, the Fitzpatrick should be getting a fresh coat of paint.

"It is over a waterway, the power company and water treatment plant, so environental precautions have to be taken. That does drive the cost of painting a bridge like this. It's a multi-million dollar project."

As for the color scheme, Harris said to not expect anything different than gray.

"With the age and historic nature of the bridge, we would see the same paint color used. It would be hard to make a departure from that."

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