Date set for Anderson County bridge work to begin after yearlong closure

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By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

CLINTON (WATE) – It’s been more than a year since a railroad bridge in rural Anderson County was declared unsafe and closed by the state. It’s taken the railroad that long to come up with a plan to fix the bridge.

The county has gotten word repairs will begin within weeks, information lots of people had wanted to hear.

Previous story: Anderson County residents want answers about unrepaired bridge

When 6 On Your Side first reported the story early last month, Anderson County road superintendent Gary Long expressed his frustration in dealing with CSX, the railroad company,

County commissioners told us it was tough for them to get information as well, so they could inform their constituents when repairs to the Johnson Gap Bridge will begin.

6 On Your Side got some preliminary information and now the railroad has sent word to the county.

In about four months, bicycle riders and cars will be able to cross the Johnson Gap Bridge. The 100-year-old wooden structure in Anderson County has been closed since June 2013.

County Commissioner Robert McKamey got the official word from CSX a few years ago.

“The good news is they are going to let a contract for a private contractor to repair or replace the bridge. They’re not sure yet what they are going to do,” said McKamey.

McKamey says several wooden poles that hold up the bridge were declared unsafe during a state inspection last year, closing the bridge immediately.

People who live north of the closed bridge asked to speak with us in early July because they had heard nothing from CSX since the bridge closed.

Oney Bean, who lost a leg to cancer in January, told us last month that since she lives on the wrong side of the Johnson Gap Bridge, 10 to 15 minutes is added to her trip to the doctor’s office in Oak Ridge.

The yearlong detour had her fed up.

We need our road back. It should have been fixed right after it broke,” said Bean.

When 6 On Your Side called CSX four weeks ago, a railroad spokeswoman told us they are currently working with design engineers to draw up documents for bridge repairs.

Now that a start date for repairs to the one lane bridge is official, people who live in the area north of Clinton are pleased.

“It will mean a lot for my family and other families too, who are on the other side of the bridge who come this way to try to get to Oak Ridge or Clinton. It will be a lot easier for them,” said Terry Steil Jr.

Brenda Van Iwarden stopped by and talked with Commissioner McKamey when he and 6 On Your Side were at the bridge the other day. Like many people, she could never get an answer from CSX when repairs would get started.

“I think it is long over due as a community we have been dealing with this for over 13 months now. It is just highly inconvenient,” she said.

By the end of the year, the annoying detour around the bridge will end. For many, repairs to the old structure can’t come fast enough.

“I think it is fantastic. The sooner the better. I can’t wait. It’s been too long,” said Oney Bean.

Apparently the delay in repairs, according to Commissioner McKamey, had to do with an internal labor dispute within the railroad company. Fortunately, those issues have been ironed out.

There had been talk about widening the bridge. However, Commissioner McKamey says that is not likely. The span will likely be able to accommodate heavier traffic.

When you are used to traveling a certain route, year after year, and then that pattern is disrupted, getting information that your old route will soon be back to normal is good news.

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