Bridge project on track
Jeremy Nash
After pushing back the completion date for construction of the new four-lane bridge that will eventually replace the J. Carmichael Greer Bridge atop Fort Loudoun Dam, state officials believe the project will still be finished by early 2017.
Earlier this year, the Tennessee Department of Transportation delayed the bridge until January 2017. A previous estimate listed a June 2016 completion date.
State Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City, said he planned to speak with TDOT Commissioner John Schroer this week in Nashville to gain a better understanding of where the bridge project stands.
“I think to use his (Schroer’s) words, we’re cautiously optimistic,” Matlock said. “... We’re still hopeful that January ‘17 timeline will be met.”
Mark Nagi, spokesman for TDOT, said bridge work, which started with the first seal footing in May 2014, is about 40-50 percent complete.
“Piers 2 and 3 are completed,” Nagi said in an email correspondence. “Pier 1 is at 40 percent. Abutment beams at each end of the bridge are complete. Beam erection should start at span No. 4 in the next couple of months.”
In a previous interview, Nagi said the $70 million project is estimated to be finished by Jan. 3, 2017.
“As with most any construction project of this kind, inclement weather will slow production,” Nagi said in an email correspondence of possible future delays as cold weather moves in.
The project includes the construction of three bridges, including one across the railroad, one across the river and one that will be parallel the current structure across the canal.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw, Loudon County mayor, said of the bridge’s construction and what it will mean to the county. “If you look at (U.S. Highway) 321, (the road) has become such a main artery for Loudon County. Of course, that area of the county is just — going across there is beautiful, and so I think that’s going to be a great thing.”
Lenoir City Assistant Administrator Amber Scott said she was encouraged the public could see some structures of the bridge, showing progress in the project.
“The contractor (Charles Blalock and Sons) continues to work diligently to complete the work within the contract timeline,” Nagi said in an email correspondence.
Scott said she believes the bridge will “greatly improve” traffic flow to and from Lenoir City.
“We’re going from a two-lane (bridge) to a four-lane bridge that will improve the traffic flow,” Scott said. “As the traffic volumes continue to increase, this will definitely improve that. The other piece of it is that it encourages use of Highway 321. We do have lots of tourists and visitors traveling through. We want them to get off the interstate at (Highway) 321 at the Lenoir City exit and utilize the (Highway) 321 corridor all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains.
“We believe that this bridge will encourage that even more so making it an easier, more accessible way of doing that as an alternative of going the interstate the entire way to the Great Smoky Mountains,” she added.