KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The bridge that completely collapsed over White Creek may have been due for an upgrade before the heavy rainfall that resulted in the collapse according to the National Bridge Inventory, Tennessee Inventory and Appraisal Report.

The National Bridge Inventory, Tennessee Inventory and Appraisal Report give detailed information on highway bridges and when inspections are performed. “The Structures Inventory and Appraisal (SI&A) Office is primarily concerned with the safety and condition of the highway bridges in Tennessee,” the TDOT website says.

The TDOT webpage continues that the office maintains records of highway bridges and any bridges that are not privately or federally owned. Each bridge is given a sufficiency rating, which is based on a 100-point scale according to the Bridge Summary Guide. A rating under 80 means that the bridge qualifies for rehabilitation, and a rating under 50 means that the bridge qualifies for a replacement.

Of the 224 bridges included in the Sevier County Structures Inventory and Appraisal report, 11 received a rating under 50. The Jones Cove Road Bridge that collapsed received a rating of 22.9. Its full report can be seen on page 203 of the document below.

Two other bridges in the Pittman Center area also received astonishingly low scores. The Hills Creek Road Bridge over the Little Pigeon River received a rating of 29.1, and the lowest rating bridge, Grassy Branch Road over the Little Pigeon River, received a rating of 4. Both of these bridges were listed as being owned by the town of Pittman Center.

The collapsed bridge on Jones Cove Road, and six more of the bridges that scored less than 50, were listed as owned by the State of Tennessee.

The bridge was last inspected on August 19, 2021, and regular inspections are supposed to take place every 24 months. The inspection left the appraisal structural evaluation and deck geometry at a rating of 3.

Appraisal ratings are included in the Recording and Coding Guide on a 10-point scale. The rating scale is as follows:

  • N – Not applicable
  • 9 – Superior to present desirable criteria
  • 8 – Equal to present desirable criteria
  • 7 – Better than present minimum criteria
  • 6 – Equal to present minimum criteria
  • 5 – Somewhat better than minimum adequacy to tolerate being left in place as it is
  • 4 – Meets minimum tolerable limits to be left in place as it is
  • 3 – Basically intolerable requiring high priority of corrective action
  • 2 – Basically intolerable requiring high priority of replacement
  • 1 – This value of rating code is not used
  • 0 – Bridge closed.

The rating of 3 in the structural evaluation and deck geometry sections means that the bridge was in need of corrective action. The structural evaluation is determined independently by the bridge inspector. It is determined by the traffic that drives over the bridge and the superstructure or substructure listed for the bridge.

The bridge also receives a waterway adequacy rating of 7, and an approach roadway alignment and scour condition rating of 8. Additionally, the culvert condition was coded as a 3.

The recording and coding guide explains a 3 in this section means “Any condition described in Code 4 but which is excessive in scope. Severe movement or differential settlement of the segments, or loss of fill. Holes may exist in walls or slabs. Integral wingwalls nearly severed from culvert. Severe scour or erosion at curtain walls, wingwalls or pipes. Metal culverts have extreme distortion and deflection in one section, extensive corrosion, or deep pitting with scattered perforations.”

The improvements listed in the report mention that the bridge needs widening, but no deck repairs were needed, with an estimate of $169,000 for the total improvement projects to be completed.