CLINTON (WATE) – Hundreds of people in Anderson County, just north of Clinton, are wondering when repairs will begin on a crucial railroad bridge that’s been closed for a year. They say they can’t get answers from the railroad company.
This is one of those bridges you see in old time movies. It’s a wooden structure that was declared unsafe during an inspection by the state last year.
Anderson County closed the bridge and established a detour, but little information has been given to anyone about a timetable for repairs, until we called for some answers.
The CSX rail line through Anderson County is a busy corridor for freight trains hauling goods in and out of its Knoxville terminal.
The Johnson Gap Bridge, just northwest of Clinton, is one of the freight carrier’s oldest wooden structures, built in 1914.
“It’s a pretty busy area. They come through about every hour, the trains do,” said resident Terry Steil, Jr., who added that the bridge is convenient for residents.
The one-lane bridge closed a year ago this week, and no one has seen any progress toward repairs since.
Oney Bean, who lives on the wrong side of the bridge, lost a leg to cancer a few months ago. With the Johnson Gap Bridge closed, it takes her an extra 15 minutes to get to her doctor in Oak Ridge.
She says the detour adds miles to her trip and she’s fed up.
“We need our road back. It should have been fixed right after it broke,” said Bean.
Bean’s mother Opal is a heart patient. She always used the Johnson Gap Bridge to drive to her doctor’s office. She says the detour is too far of a drive.
“I just don’t go ’cause I can’t handle it,” she said.
People who traveled over the bridge understand why it’s closed, but they don’t understand why there is a long delay in fixing it.
“It’s breaking up right here in the wood. It’s rotten right here where it is coming up over here. It has spikes that need to be replaced,” said Steil. “What is going on? Why they haven’t done nothing?
We talked with Anderson County Road Superintendent Gary Long who agreed that the bridge is long overdue for repairs.
“The railroad is aware of it. They own it. They say they are going to fix it, but I have not heard nothing from them since June. Been over a month,” said Long.
Residents are frustrated they can’t get answers from CSX.
“I’ve called. They won’t talk to me about it,” said Oney Bean. “They just say we can’t talk about this and hang up.”
6 On Your Side called CSX. Their response was quick.
We were told by spokesperson Carla Grouleau that the railroad is “currently working with a design engineer drawing up documents for bridge repairs.”
She said the CSX “bid to replace timbers and other needed repairs will go out at the end of July,” and CSX “expects construction to begin by the fall and to be completed by the end of the year, if all goes as planned.”
The railroad company emphasized to us that it appreciates the patience of its neighbors.
“I just want my road back, and I know all of them around here would be happy to have our road back,” said Oney Bean.
The old structure has been repaired several times over the last hundred years, according to the road superintendent.
There had been some discussion about replacing it, instead of repairing it this time and eventually turning it over to the county, but Long says the county did not want to be responsible for a railroad bridge and foot some of the bill for it.
Therefore, the bridge will be closed for at least another five months.