The signs alert drivers that there's now a weight restriction on the bridge. That means emergency vehicles are affected and may log slower response times.
Drivers and passerbys’ notice cracked and crumbling in some places with exposed beam poking through the concrete.
The bridge runs above Swift Creek and carries more than 8,000 vehicles daily.
VDOT bridge engineer Gary Martin tells CBS 6 News they were made aware of the structural troubles during a recent, routine bridge inspection.
"Where we find deficiencies we do them on a yearly basis. In this particular one we had deficiencies so it was done on a yearly basis, but it was not in this condition last year.
“This was kind of unexpected," Martin said.
He said they found holes in the slabs and took immediate action. They put a four- ton limit on the bridge which means no buses, ambulances or fire engines can cross.
Crews at the Manchester fire station near Courthouse and Hull Street Roads, three and a half miles away, normally respond to that part of Qualla Road. Now, Lt. Jason Elmore says crews almost twice that distance at Fire Station 19 will have to step in to assist.
"It will add three or more minutes to our response times to about a dozen different
homes on the south side of the bridge," Elmore explained.
He says every minute is critical.
While he suspects they may have to adjust and reroute resources more and more in the coming years with the aging bridges, Elmore says they will still provide quality service to residents who need it.
Martin says this recent finding prompted them to double-check other bridges in the area.
“This was the only one that appeared to be in a condition like that," Martin explained.
He added that they will ultimately repair the Qualla Road Bridge, an expense that could cost around $800,000 dollars.
Once the bridge on Qualla Road is repaired, emergency crews will go back to their former coverage plan. V
DOT expects the bridge to be done by year's end.