Bill could reduce bridge repair costs
by JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Mar 16, 2014 | 715 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Legislation in the General Assembly could benefit Bradley County bridge work in the next few years.

The County Bridge Relief Act of 2014 has passed in the state House of Representatives and has been sent to the Senate for approval.

If passed, the legislation would change the required local match on bridge repair projects from 20 percent to 2 percent for a bridge qualifying for state-aid bridge grant funds for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 fiscal years.

The funds could be used “to upgrade, repair and rehabilitate bridges that have fallen in disrepair over the years,” according to a press release.

Bradley County engineer Sandra Knight said the legislation would “be a great benefit to all the counties when you only have to do is 2 percent, and it can be in-kind match.”

Knight said much of the work on bridges is done by the county, and this could count toward the local match.

To have the local funds available to meet the current 20 percent match can take two years or more depending on how large the project is, Knight said

“I think you are going to see a lot of counties take advantage of this,” Knight said.

The 20 percent requirement had left funds in the State Aid Bridge Grant Program unused, because counties could not afford the required local match. This legislation seeks to make this money more available by temporarily allowing a much lower match.

“Some of the more rural communities will now be able to meet the threshold more easily,” District 24 State Rep. Kevin Brooks said. ‘To me, this is an immediate opportunity for bridge construction and repair.”

If the Senate passes the current version of the bill, the match would only apply to bridges that meet state-aid qualifications.

“Lawmakers argue the legislation simply unlocks local money that has been sitting unused for a number of years to help aid communities with important bridge infrastructure projects and upgrades,” Brooks said. “In addition, while the 2 percent match can be paid using direct funding, the bill also allows municipalities to match the rate using in-kind services, allowing local road departments to invest sweat equity to satisfy the program’s requirements instead of our tax dollars.”

The legislation has the potential to enable the county to do more than one bridge at a time because its resources will go farther.

“It’s going to help get all the depreciated bridges off the list,” Knight said.

Knight said from the time planning starts to actual reconstruction usually takes a year.

If passed the legislation will only apply to future projects, not those currently in progress.