It’s been five months since the bridge on Highland Road collapsed in the early morning hours of March 15, leaving commuters in the area having to find a new route to work.
On Thursday, Aug. 1, Delvin Hester, the superintendent of the Robertson County Highway Department, received word from the Tennessee Department of Transportation that the bid letting process for the anticipated $1 million project could begin.
The bridge once crossed the Red River on Highland Road in Orlinda before collapsing into the water last spring. Fortunately, no one was on the two-lane bridge when it fell.
Hester said the Robertson County Highway Department has been awaiting paperwork to clear before beginning the project.
“We received what we needed from TDOT this morning,” Hester said last Thursday. “Now we can move ahead with the project. We first have to put it out to bid, which we will plan to do after its advertised in the Connection.”
Before a project can be bid on by a business, it needs to made available for bidding.
The letting and bidding process will allow the highway department to get the most competitive pricing on the bridge rebuilding project.
The day the project’s bid is selected, the bid for the contract will return to Nashville for even more signatures, according to Hester.
“This has been a long, drawn out process,” Hester said. “But hopefully the construction will begin soon. I’d love to have that bridge back up tomorrow.”
The Highland Road bridge services several farmers in Orlinda and people who commute towards Interstate 65.
“The people in Orlinda really need this bridge rebuilt,” Hester said. “We are getting two or three calls a week from people who are frustrated.”
Without use of the Highland Road bridge, farmers in and around Orlinda have had to adjust their workdays and schedules to accommodate new routes.
Randy Groves, who operates Groves Family Dairy Farm in Orlinda, the home of Tennessee Real Milk, said the bridge connected farmland he owns located on both sides of the Red River.
The Groves farm includes land that has two dairies. Additionally, his family grows corn, soy beans and wheat on about 2,000 acres in northern Robertson County.
“Normally, for me to get from one farm to the other, it’s a one-mile drive with the bridge,” Groves said. “Now, it’s about eight miles.”
The drive since March has added two hours to his work day in order to feed two herds, he said.
The new route puts him on a heavily-traveled Highway 52.
“Our equipment is very wide and it is very slow to move,” Groves said. “People get frustrated with us. It’s really been a trying time.”
Counting the cost
The new bridge is expected to cost about $1 million, according to Hester.
“We have had about $160,000 to $200,000 of funds built up from the State, which provides us about $58,000 a year for state aid and bridge money every year,” Hester said. “That’s the paperwork that is being held up right now. If I had the money to just build the bridge, I would have already done it.”
The bridge was not insured, so the rest of the funding will need to come from the fund balance of the county’s highway department.