Damage to the system that protects the historic Concord Road Covered Bridge has led county officials to consider modifying it yet again.
A curtain of PVC pipes was installed on Concord Road earlier this year to deter motorists with vehicles too large to enter the wooden bridge. Over the weekend, the pipes on the Smyrna side of Concord Road were struck and damaged by a passing vehicle; the PVC shattered, exposing the metal chain they had covered.
County spokesman Ross Cavitt said the windshields of at least three cars were damaged after striking the exposed chains. The county is helping the vehicles’ owners replace the windshields.
Dating back to 1872, the bridge that crosses Nickajack Creek just past Concord Road’s intersection with the East-West Connector was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The bridge reopened in mid-December 2017 after an $803,000 renovation. It is flanked on both sides by multiple warning signs with flashing lights warning drivers of the low clearance.
The $20,000 curtain of PVC pipes were installed because the bridge’s previous protection system, which includes a horizontal metal beam, was insufficient.
In June, when the pipes were installed, the beam had been struck at least 22 times since the bridge was renovated. That month, after the 22nd incident, Cavitt said he was befuddled by the fact that so many people either miss or ignore the warning signs.
“I really don’t know,” he told the MDJ. “That’s been kind of one of life’s mysteries.”
The pipes are wrapped in reflective red material and are designed to make a noise when hit by a vehicle taller than the bridge’s clearance.
The day after they were installed, the pipes were struck and damaged. Nevertheless, Cavitt insisted Monday that they are working.
“It prevented any problems with the bridge, so it’s doing its job,” he said. The problem, he added, is that motorists are driving at much higher speeds than the pipes’ designers had anticipated.
The county is now considering replacing the PVC with something less likely to break, like rubber.