Tennessee is home to thousands of bridges, but not all of them are in the best condition. In fact, over 7,500 bridges in the state are in need of repairs, which would cost a staggering $4 billion. However, only 881 of these bridges are considered "structurally deficient." Let's dive into the top five counties in Tennessee that have the highest number of bridges with "poor" ratings according to the National Bridge Inspecting Standards (NBIS).
The NBIS Rating System:
The NBIS implements a comprehensive rating system to ensure the safety of bridges across the United States. Bridges are evaluated based on three key factors: the condition of the deck or surface, the structure that supports the deck, and the culverts or substructures that uphold the main structure. Each bridge is assigned a rating from 0 to 9, with higher ratings indicating better overall condition. However, any bridge with a rating of four or less is classified as "poor," indicating significant issues that require immediate attention. Bridges with a rating of one or two are in a critical state, posing a risk of collapse.
It's important to note that a "poor" rating doesn't necessarily mean a bridge is unsafe to use. Instead, it signifies that one of the three critical components (deck, main structure, or culvert) requires substantial repairs or maintenance.
The Top Five
Let's take a closer look at the top five counties in Tennessee with the highest number of bridges rated as "poor" by the NBIS:
1. Fentress County
Fentress County, located in the middle of the state towards the top, has a total of 56 bridges. Out of these, 16.07% (nine bridges) have received a "poor" rating. The county boasts a mountainous terrain dominated by Buffalo Mountain, with an elevation exceeding 2,600 feet. The area is rich in fresh water sources, including the Wolf River and various streams. Fentress County's primary industries revolve around agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing. Visitors often flock to the region for its wineries, such as Tennessee's oldest winery, the Highland Manor Winery.
2. Cumberland County
Cumberland County, situated in southeastern Tennessee, has a total of 136 bridges. Of these, 14.71% (20 bridges) have been rated as "poor" by the NBIS. The county enjoys a pleasant climate year-round, with neither extreme heat nor cold. It showcases natural beauty, including the majestic Cumberland Mountains and several picturesque lakes, with Lake Tansi being a popular attraction. Cumberland County also boasts cultural landmarks like the Cumberland County Playhouse, a reputable theater company established in 1948. History enthusiasts can explore the Cumberland Museum and Archives to learn more about the county's past.
3. Carter County
Carter County, tucked away in northeastern Tennessee, boasts a total of 196 bridges. Out of these, 13.78% (27 bridges) have received a "poor" rating. Surrounded by the breathtaking Appalachian Mountains, the county seat, Elizabethton, is nestled in the foothills. Carter County is renowned for its awe-inspiring views, with Roan Mountain State Park and a portion of the Appalachian Trail attracting outdoor enthusiasts.
4. DeKalb County
DeKalb County, located in central Tennessee, is home to 99 bridges, with 13.13% (13 bridges) classified as "poor" by the NBIS. The county's seat is Smithville, and it is renowned for its rolling hills, pristine forests, and natural beauty. DeKalb County also offers a glimpse into history, with events like the Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree and Craft Festival, showcasing local traditions, music, and crafts. The county's thriving industries encompass agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, and a vibrant small business sector.
5. Humphreys County
In Humphreys County, there are a total of 247 bridges, out of which 11.74% (29 bridges) have received a "poor" rating. Located in the western part of central Tennessee, the county is famous for its stunning natural beauty, captivating history, and family-friendly entertainment options. The Tennessee River, Buffalo River, and Duck River grace the area with their picturesque presence. Travelers can also explore various historical sites, such as the Humphreys County Museum and Civil War Fort, the Nolan House, and the Johnsonville Historic State Park. Loretta Lynn, a renowned country singer, was born in Humphreys County, and her Ranch and Family Campground near Hurricane Mills is a popular attraction.
Building a Safer Future
While these counties face challenges with their bridges, it is crucial to prioritize their maintenance and repairs to ensure the safety and well-being of all residents. The state of Tennessee is actively working to address these issues and allocate resources for necessary improvements. By raising awareness and investing in the infrastructure, together, we can build a safer future for all Tennesseans.
Remember, bridges with a "poor" rating still have measures in place to ensure safety, but it is essential to address the areas that require attention promptly. Stay informed, stay cautious, and let's work towards a Tennessee with stronger, more reliable bridges for everyone to use.