There are rehabilitated rail bed bridges, wooden bridges and truss bridges. There are bridges that were built in the mid-1990s and bridges that were built in the decade that followed the trail’s 1996 opening.
Now more than 15 years after the first section of the trail was completed, some of the bridges are showing signs of wear and tear. To prevent them from deteriorating to an unusable state, the city of Piedmont is pursuing grant money to improve nine of the 12 bridges.
The city maintains not only bridges within its boundaries but also bridges in nearby unincorporated areas of Cleburne and Calhoun counties; it does so under a contractual agreement with the counties.
“The bridges are still usable but they are wearing and it’s time to perform some maintenance,” said Diane Glenn, a principal planner with the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission.
Glenn, through the commission, is helping Piedmont pursue a grant to secure federal Recreational Trails Program funding for the $120,000 project. If Piedmont secures the funding, the city will be able to tackle the bridge repair projects at once, instead of doing the work one at a time with city money, Glenn said.
The city is currently in the application process. If it receives a high enough score on the project then it will be invited to apply for grant funding at the end of June, Glenn said.
The grant would pay to repair headwalls, flooring and handrails, she said.
The primary need for bridge repair work is related to wood decking. Pieces of the wood planks have begun peeling up and have been replaced a few at a time by volunteers.
Though Piedmont is pursuing funding to repair the bridges, some visitors on the trail say many of the bridges don’t appear to need much work. Robert Smith, a volunteer who makes trail repairs and rides the pathway regularly said all but one bridge — the wooden one that crosses Nance’s Creek near Piedmont — is in sound condition.
“It’s in pretty bad shape,” Smith said of the Nance's Creek bridge.
Smith said he thinks the spans should be put on a schedule to do preventative work, though none is in need of emergency repair.
“There are a lot that need to be scheduled for redecking,” Smith said.
Craig Russell, facilities manager for the Piedmont Parks and Recreation Department said the bridges were recently inspected by an engineer, who found that the bridges’ substructures were sound but several surfaces and railings need to be replaced.
“It’s evident they need replacing,” Russell said. “Some of the boards are almost 20 years old.”
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.