Tennessee Rt. 109 Gateway Bridge

“We’re in a prime location for further growth,” said Rosemary Bates, Director of Special Projects for the Mayor’s Office. Gallatin’s Mayor, Jo Ann Graves, believes strongly in controlled and progressive growth for the town. “We want to protect our history, and also want people to grow with us.”

Welcome to Gallatin! That’s what officials in this Tennessee town will communicate to travelers, visitors and residents through the new 109 Gateway Bridge Project, which will create an inviting “front door” to this growing community.

The green two-lane Cumberland River Bridge, a classic example of Warren through-truss-with-verticals design, has stood watch over the City of Gallatin since 1954. For years, the people of Gallatin have traversed this bridge south to Interstate 40, which spans the U.S. from coast to coast, and travelers have crossed the bridge into Gallatin when heading north to Kentucky and beyond.

Gallatin was established in 1802 as the permanent county seat for Sumner County. Located less than 30 miles northeast of Nashville, it had been referred to as a “bedroom commuter suburb.” But that sleepy description just doesn’t hold true any longer.

Gallatin is a town that’s on the move. The city’s population increased 33% between 2000 and 2010. A lot of what has helped that growth (residential, industrial and commercial) is easy access into Nashville.

A short distance away, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) was working to build a loop around Nashville. The southern portion was completed in 2012, but the northern portion would instead involve widening and improving existing state and U.S. routes. One of those routes is SR 109, which runs right over the storied old green truss bridge and into the City of Gallatin. According to TDOT studies, the average daily traffic total over this portion of SR 109 for 2010 was 21,570 vehicles. TDOT projects that the number will increase to 32,370 vehicles by 2030. That’s slightly more than a 50% increase over a 20-year period.

TDOT already had planned to replace the old bridge, which had become structurally deficient. Once Mayor Graves realized the bridge project was fast-tracked, she seized the opportunity to get in on the front end and initiated talks with TDOT, as well as Sumner and Wilson Counties, both of which would be affected. She felt strongly that the bridge should serve as a true gateway into the city and be impressive when traveling in either direction.

Nashville-based Mountain States Contractors was awarded the project as the prime contractor, with Britton Bridge as the structural steel erection subcontractor, and Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. (CEC) for construction staking, environmental and CQA services. Mountain States looked to CEC because there are only a few firms in the state that can do the challenging work for the planned bridge project. ”There’s a history of a good working relationship,” said Josh Randall, Project Manager for Mountain States. ”We have worked with CEC successfully on a number of jobs. Mountain States has a great deal of confidence in CEC’s work.”

It wasn’t your standard bridge-building project. In fact, nothing like it has been built in the area before. The bid cost of the project was more than $29.6 million to replace the Cumberland River Bridge and construct an additional backwater bridge. Both were to be built over Old Hickory Lake - a mainstream storage impoundment to the Old Hickory Lock and Dam built on the Cumberland River between 1952 and 1954. The river backs up and spreads out because of the dam, forming the lake.

TDOT generously welcomed Gallatin and Wilson and Sumner Counties to collaborate on the incorporation of amenities and aesthetic design of the bridge. The partnership agreed on bicycle lanes and pedestrian pathways over the bridge. These connect to a trail that runs along the side of the abutment and curves under the bridge to provide a view of the river. Having the counties come together, without competition, to provide input for the Gateway Bridge helped TDOT to move forward on this important project. Construction began in April of 2011, and the new bridge is slated to open to traffic this fall. The entire project will be completed in the spring of 2014 when the old green truss bridge will be relieved of its post.