By Max Hrenda
In response to a recommendation from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Carter County Board of Education has altered bus routes for any buses that drive across Smalling Road Bridge.
On Monday, TDOT Inspector Adam Wallen, who last inspected the bridge on July 26, 2011, told the county’s Highway Department that Smalling Bridge’s weight limit was less than the average weight of some of the buses used by the county school system.
“I’m not saying the bridge isn’t safe,” Wallen said. “I’m saying that, as far as taking buses over it every day, you’re exceeding the weight limit. Close it down to all (Type C) buses.”
A Type C bus, which typically holds anywhere from 36 to 78 passengers, ranges in weight from 18,000 to 29,500 pounds, or nine to 14.75 tons. The weight limit for the Smalling Bridge, on the other hand, is nine tons.
“You’re overweight before anybody gets on the bus,” said Commissioner Charles Von Cannon. “The safety of the children of this county is being absolutely ignored.”
After learning of Wallen’s recommendation, Director of Carter County Schools Kevin Ward said that all buses that currently cross the Smalling Bridge will be diverted to a longer, but safer, route.
“As of this afternoon, we were making arrangements not to cross that bridge,” Ward said. “Nobody wants to take any chances.”
During a workshop for the county Board of Education on Monday afternoon, Ward suggested purchasing two Type B buses to replace the Type Cs on their routes. Type B buses are designed to hold 30 to 36 passengers, and weigh five tons, putting them below the bridge’s weight limit.