New Bridge Coming

New bridges closer to reality
Greg Wilkerson News Herald
Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely made a stop in Loudon County Friday to set foot on the land where a series of new bridges are set to be built over the Tennessee River, Tellico Lake channel and Norfolk-Southern railroad tracks.

Nicely was joined by various state, county and city leaders below Fort Loudoun Dam to make a public announcement on the progress of the project. "It will be the biggest project we start this fiscal year," Nicely said.

He said the total cost to remove the old bridge from the dam and complete the new bridges is estimated at $58 million, and joined in recognizing the various people in local and state government who have worked to make it a reality.

Currently a two-lane bridge sits on top of Fort Loudoun Dam. The new bridges, combined with other widening projects along the corridor, will create four lanes of traffic through Loudon County on the popular route between Oak Ridge and Maryville.

Not on the list of projects is the once-proposed fly over at the intersection of Highway 11 and Highway 321.

Lenoir City Mayor Matt Brookshire said the intersection will see significant improvements, coinciding with the state's bridge project, but will continue to stay at the current grade.

Brookshire said once the corridor is four-lane through Loudon County it will impact more than just traffic flow, and will help in  creating improvements in tourism, economic development and economic growth in the county.

The new bridges are part of the state's four-year bridge bonding program, which identified several bridges to be built in various communities in Tennessee. The state is entering the second year of the program, which is where the new bridges in Loudon County were placed. "This is probably one of the biggest things to ever happen in Loudon County as far as a road project," said County Mayor Doyle Arp. "This is something that's long overdue."

The need for a new bridge has been in discussions for more than a decade, and now appears to be becoming a reality. The current bridge is maintained by Tennessee Valley Authority, but Nicely said the federal agency will not have any oversight of the new bridge, which will be located off the dam.

When asked by a member of the crowd about a timetable, Nicely said construction should begin in the spring, and be completed in about 3 years. "So it will happen in our lifetime," the attendee said.

Nicely said the project is expected to be bid out in December.

State Representatives Dennis Ferguson and Jimmy Matlock and State Senator Randy McNally were also on hand at the event. "It's just a great day for the community coming together," McNally said.

Each elected official echoed the same sentiments of the value of working together on the project and of its positive results in the community. "It's way beyond anything that's ever happened before," Matlock said earlier in the week of the progress now being made. "I really think we're going to see some action after all this time."