School buses avoid aging Gadsden bridge, county plans for replacement
Many bridges across the state are aging and in need of replacement. Some so bad, buses are forced to detour because they exceed the weight limit.
This is a statewide problem. In Etowah County a much needed bridge repair is on pause.
The bridge on Centre Road that runs over Dry Creek is over 40 years old.
"Counties maintain about 9,000 county bridges around the state. Forty-five percent of those are 50 years old or older," Sonny Brasfield, Executive Director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama said.
The bridge won't hold the weight for school buses forcing routes to go around the major thoroughfare between Hokes Bluff and Centre.
"We're going around about a ten to twelve mile detour so that we can pick up students on the other side of Dry Creek," Jimmy Sewell, Transportation Director of Etowah County Schools said.
School bus routes changed in December adding on about 15 minutes of bus time for the 40 to 50 students who live across Dry Creek.
In the state, about a quarter of bridge projects are forcing detours for school buses.
"School bus routes change every year," Brasfield said. "A child turns from four years old to five, and is going to kindergarten and suddenly he's riding the bus. Now a bridge that wasn't on the bus last year is suddenly on the school bus route."
Etowah County says the project has been delayed due to recent rainy weather.
School leaders say they hope to return to normal bus routes by the beginning of the next semester.
Engineers in Calhoun County tell us the county is working on two bridge projects. In Tuscaloosa, there are about ten bridges being replaced or scheduled for replacement.