(WBIR-Claiborne Co.) Five bridges have been closed in Claiborne County after TDOT said it found serious problems during this week's inspections.
Of the 67 bridges in Claiborne County, TDOT has inspected 38. Five failed inspections.
"The biggest thing about it is when they make that recommendation, and if we don't do something and someone gets hurt, we're going to be liable so I'm not going to put myself in that position. So we're going to shut them down as a mandate," said Bill Fultz, the Claiborne County Road Superintendent.
The bridges closed include Tiprell Road over Gap Creek, Buchanan Ridge Road over Little Sycamore Creek, Old Highway 63 over an unnamed creek, Old Highway 63 over Cawood Branch, and Providence Road over Keg Branch.
"Some of them were built back in the '20s, '30s, or whenever, but they're actually wood bridges, wood floor bridges on concrete or wood beams," said Fultz. "And so, over the years they've just deteriorated and they're giving away and it's time to modernize a little."
TDOT said it divides the inspection into three major components, including the deck, superstructure, and substructure. Each of the components are rated on a zero to nine point scale, with a seven or greater being 'good condition' and zero to two being 'critical condition'.
If the lowest value is in the range of three to four, TDOT said the brige is classified as being in poor condition.
"A lot of them were in poor condition at the last inspection, two or three years ago," said Fultz. "We should have fixed them then, but I don't know if there was money available or not."
Fultz said he has been the Road Superintendent for less than a year, but said the money troubles in Claiborne County are similar to struggles for other county highway departments in East Tennessee.
Fultz said there is a grant program where the state will pay for 80% of the costs, with Claiborne County having to fund the remaining 20%.
"We're working with the county commission," said Fultz. "But it will be anywhere from eight to 12 months to get the closed bridges fixed."
The Claiborne County Highway Department placed large rocks on the Buchanan Ridge Road bridge to prevent people from trying to drive through. Fultz said the closure will force local residents to drive about five miles around their area to get to and from their homes.
"It's going to be inconvenient for those people, but we will work as fast as we can," said Fultz.
TDOT said it still has 29 inspections to complete in Claiborne County.