The bridge spans a drainage ditch on Martin Luther King Drive, near the intersection of Washington Street.
Eric English, bridge operations engineer with the Alabama Department of Transportation, said inspectors noticed the structural problems during a recent annual inspection.
English said the engineer recommended this week that if the town decides to keep the bridge open, the two-lane bridge should be reduced to one lane and signs should be posted stating no vehicle weighing more than 10 tons can cross.
The required signs were posted this week, said Councilwoman Deneva Barnes, chair of the streets committee. The speed limit on the bridge also has been reduced to 10 mph, she said.
Traffic cones were placed on the bridge to funnel traffic down to one lane, but someone moved those cones and they had to be repositioned Friday, Barnes said. She stressed the importance for drivers to pay attention to the cones and keep to the middle of the bridge.
“They need to know it’s a safety hazard,” Barnes said.
Reached by phone Friday, Mayor Alberta McCrory said it’s not clear how much it will cost to fix the bridge or where the money will come from.
“We haven’t’ started that process yet,” McCrory said, adding that the important thing now is for drivers to be aware of the danger and drive accordingly.
Oxford City Schools buses that pick up Hobson City children will be rerouted to avoid the bridge, McCrory said. Tractor-trailers that deliver supplies to the town’s Head Start program also will be rerouted, she said.
Hobson City’s dwindling revenues in recent decades make paying for things like bridge repairs all the more difficult.
The town ended the 2012 fiscal year with $53,000 in its general fund. Barnes said it may be necessary to begin looking for grants to pay for the repair.
Financial difficulties have plagued Alabama’s oldest black incorporated town, but steps have been taken in recent years to improve matters.
After two decades without passing a budget or completing a financial audit, Hobson City reached a milestone in October by completing a third straight audit. Many grant-making organizations require applicants to have at least three audits, McCrory said at the time.
The bridge is at least 60 years old, Barnes said, though it could be much older.
“Going back years ago when they built this city, they did the best they could. They did only what they knew to do,” Barnes said.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.