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Bridge railing collapse could have lasting impact on freight in Chattanooga

 Image: Twitter/Chattanooga Fired Department
Image: Twitter/Chattanooga Fired Department

All lanes of I-75 North to I-24 West in Chattanooga, Tennessee were blocked Monday after a concrete railing collapsed onto the roadway from the interchange above.

A railing on a portion of I-75 South crumbled late this morning, hitting a car below, but only generated minor injuries to one person.

Tennessee Department of Transportation regional bridge manager Steve Hutchings told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that in its routine inspection last year, the bridge showed no signs of serious faults and that “it had normal problems that an older bridge would have, but there was nothing structurally wrong with it.”

As of 5:00 p.m. Monday, all lanes of traffic at the scene remain closed, with southbound vehicles being re-routed to I-24 West.

According to a Facebook post from TDOT, both ramps are expected to reopen Monday night after barriers are placed around the damaged railing. Permanent repairs are expected to take three to four weeks.

The damage to this bridge is likely to interfere with Chattanooga’s massive freight traffic for weeks to come.

“This will create a tremendous amount of stress for the local community and will be disruptive to the freight markets because it shuts down traffic that flows through Chattanooga,” FreightWaves CEO Craig Fuller said. “The bridge is in the most important interchange in this region. Therefore it will cause significant delays and potentially impact freight flows on a national basis. If the highway is fixed quickly, hardly anyone outside of Chattanooga will notice, but if repairs take more than a week, it could impact regional supply chains and force trucking carriers to find alternative routes.”

According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s 2018 poll, Tennessee was ranked 42nd out of 50 states for deficient bridges, with only 4.3 percent of its more than 20,000 bridges considered deficient.

TDOT had not responded to FreightWaves’ requests for comment at the time of publication.