CLINTON (WATE) – Hundreds of people in the rural Dutch Valley area of Anderson County, just north of Clinton, are thankful that a vital bridge in their community is finally open.
For nearly two years, an old wooden railroad bridge that local residents call the Johnson Gap Bridge was closed. The state said it was dangerous and needed to be repaired.
As a result, people living north of the bridge had to go way out of their way to get to Clinton or Oak Ridge.
The CSX rail company owns the short wooden bridge that’s taken 21 months to repair.
“Oh, my gosh, I am happy, happy, happy. I’m thankful I can go across and not worry about something falling,” said resident Oney Bean as she surveyed the repaired bridge.
“It’s done finally. I’m glad to see that it’s completed,” said Terry Steil Jr.
Bean, who lost a leg to cancer in January 2014 was frustrated when we first talked with her last summer. At that time, the bridge had been closed for a year and the state said the 100-year-old wooden span was dangerous.
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Steil pointed to wood last July that had not been repaired in years to supports under the bridge that had deteriorated.
The detour around the span added miles of extra driving to the doctor’s office for people like Bean.
“It should have been fixed right after it broke,” she said.
WATE 6 On Your Side last summer contacted CSX asking when the bridge will be fixed. We were told the railroad was working with a design engineer on documents for repairs.
It would take another nearly eight months to finish this job, ending just the other week.
Anderson County Commissioner Robert McKamey lives near the bridge. He says the planks are new and new concrete pads were poured at the foot of the bridge on each side. Under it, new wooden supports were added to provide strengh and stability.
“When they got a contractor out here, the contractor worked diligently. They worked four 10-hour shifts per week and finished this project in three weeks,” said McKamey.
The weight limit still reads 5 tons, but with the repairs, the allowable tonnage is expected to increase.
With the bridge open, travel distance will be cut for hundreds of folks living nearby. The refurbished Johnson Gap Bridge will make life easier for those who depended on it.
“I thank everyone for getting our bridge back,” said Bean.
Part of the delay in repairs, according to McKamey had to to with labor disputes. The railroad’s bridge crew had filed a grievance that had to get that worked out.
Then, wrong materials had been ordered, and that had to be corrected.
McKmey says once the crew got on scene, they worked continuously, even during last month’s snow storms. The job was finished in less than a month.