Paul Smithey had a big grin on his face Thursday morning.
Crews working for his Paul Smithey Construction Company of Tupelo had just finished installing a 38,000-pound steel fabrication, and did it with the precision that might be expected in crafting a 38-thousand dollar gold Rolex watch.
The new Tanglefoot Trail bridge spanning Main Street in downtown New Albany is 120 feet long and weighs 38,000 pounds. Smithey’s crews had built two concrete piers, one on either side of Main Street, on which the bridge was to rest. When the crane lowered the 19-ton bridge onto the steel bolts set in the concrete of the piers, the mounting holes on the bridge fit with a clearance of about one-sixteenth inch around the diameter of the bolts.
By our calculations there are slightly more than 23,000 one-sixteenths of an inch in a span of 120 feet. Smithey said the measurements made for this precise fit were made, not with laser equipment, but with an ordinary tape measure. Clearly Smithey was not surprised Thursday morning. He’d done the measuring and the calculations. Smithey is a Union County native and graduated from East Union High School.
The bridge itself was fabricated in Fort Payne, Alabama, by Contech Engineering Solutions. It was hauled on trucks in two sections and arrived in New Albany, where they rested on the library parking lot for a couple of weeks.
The old bridge (which, by the way, weighed 63,000 pounds) was removed Wednesday morning, May 6. The new bridge is about 200 feet south of the trailhead of the Tanglefoot Trail in downtown New Albany. The 43 mile Tanglefoot Trail for cycling and hiking opened last year and was built on the abandoned railroad right of way of the Ship Island, Ripley and Kentucky Railroad.
Tanglefoot Trail has proven very popular with visitors traveling from around Mississippi and around North America to enjoy it.
Take a look at this video of the bridge being set in place. It is courtesy of TV 99, the local public access cable television channel.