TVA to repair lights on Fort Loudoun Dam bridge

Hugh G. Willett


The lights on the Fort Loudoun Dam bridge might be coming back on soon, but there are no guarantees from the Tennessee Valley Authority as to how long the lights will keep working.

TVA said this week it is working to repair the lights on the bridge and might have some of the lights working by the middle of next week.

The lights went out following a short-circuit in June and were deliberately disconnected in November. For months, TVA has said it has no plans to repair the lights because a new bridge, now under construction, will be completed in June 2016.

TVA said last week repairing the lights would require shutdown of one lane, which could cause a disruption in traffic and a possible safety hazard.

Local officials including state Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City have been concerned the lack of lighting on the bridge could lead to crashes, such as one that occurred in the early morning hours last month. Loudon County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Tony Aikens said the bridge has a history of crashes caused by black ice and other weather conditions.

Matlock said he was pleased to learn TVA is addressing the problem.

"It's great news for those who have to travel that road," he said.

TVA had never given up on the lighting problem and has been looking at various options, according to spokesman Jim Hopson.

Because of the condition of the electrical system on the 60-year-old bridge, repair has been difficult and still might be only temporary, Hopson said.

"Almost every light has some sort of short, but it's a different type of short in every light," he said.

Electricians are having to troubleshoot every light that is malfunctioning.

Even if a light is repaired, there is no guarantee another short won't take the light out of service at some time in the future, he said.

Hopson said that there is no state law that requires lights on bridges. He said it's important that drivers crossing the bridge are paying close attention to their lanes and travelling at the correct speeds.

Matlock said he's been informed that it might not be possible to get all the lights working.

"It's still a much better situation," he said.

He said he's also been in contact with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to increase the frequency in which the road over the dam is treated with salt.