Bridge project delayed again
Completion of the new four-lane bridge to replace the historic J. Carmichael Greer Bridge atop Fort Loudoun Dam has again been pushed back.
In July, state officials predicted a summer 2017 finish date, but now Tennessee Department of Transportation representative Mark Nagi said the project is estimated to be done by Nov. 23. Seventy percent of the bridge is completed, Nagi said.
“Now the last time I talked to them they do feel like it’s going to be done by this November of ‘17, and my personal opinion is that I don’t think there’s any way for that to happen because they still lack a lot of work and I think when they said that, too, that they may still like some of the places like City Park Drive and stuff like that, they may still have some work to do on those intersections,” Lenoir City Councilman Eddie Simpson, who also serves as Loudon County road superintendent, said.
Simpson said a more realistic time frame could be spring
or summer 2018.
Overall construction entails three bridges, with one across the railroad, one across the river and one that will be parallel to the current structure across the canal. Construction began in 2014, and the overall project is estimated to cost $69.3 million, according to TDOT.
“They still have to weld sheer studs, install metal decking, construct overhang falsework, place and tie all steel reinforcement for the deck and parapet walls, forming for installation of expansion joints, pour the concrete, construct the approach slabs, grinding, grooving, striping, sidewalk installation and construct barrier rails,” Nagi said in an email correspondence.
While Simpson believes the project will not be ready by November, state Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, thinks TDOT’s estimation may actually be accurate.
“It is exciting to think that before the end of the year we’re going to be moving through, and the bridge is going to be a tremendous asset to us, and I think not the least of which a lot of people are talking about is the whole (U.S. Highway) 321 corridor,” Matlock said. “The traffic lights are holding people up, the tremendous congestion, and once we get the bridge finished I think people will see so much difference in the flow through that they’re presently getting hung up between I-75 and now Broadway.”
Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens said while he doesn’t like hearing of the project being pushed back, he understands patience is needed while Sevierville-based Charles Blalock and Sons Inc., finishes its work.
“Obviously, we’re going to — I think traffic flow will certainly pick up in the area and certainly when the intersection of (Highways) 321 and 11 is — when it is revamped and that intersection is probably one of the worst if not the worst inside (in the area),” Aikens said. “I think that it will certainly improve the traffic congestion along with the fiber optic signalization on (Highway) 321, but unfortunately that’s going to take time as well and we’re just going to have to be patient. It’s going to be painful but once it’s all completed I’m sure that everybody will certainly be appreciative.”
Save the Bridge?
An effort to convert the current bridge atop Fort Loudoun Dam for pedestrian use may nearly be done. Matlock said at this point the Save the Bridge project is on “life support” mainly because of a meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in November.