CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A Carter County bridge on an old state route road could be closed for another year and a half to two years. A routine bridge inspection by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) led to Carter County closing the bridge on Gap Creek Road.
This bridge is located between Big Springs and John Taylor Roads. The bridge was closed nearly a month ago.
Interim Road Superintendent Shannon Burchett says Gap Creek Road used to be a state route until Mary Patton Highway was built. TDOT then gave the road to the county but knew at the time that the bridge needed to be worked on.
“[It’s an] old bridge, over time deteriorated,” said Burchett. “The beams underneath it have rusted away. They’ve got holes in them. The concrete’s deteriorating, washing out one of the footers. Just unsafe for anybody to be on.”
Since the bridge has been closed, signs showing the closure and detour routes have been put up.
Cindy Emmert likes to come visit her father who lives on Gap Creek Road before she goes to work. The detour has caused her trip time to double.
“I have to go all the way up Mary Patton and down Joe Elliott and back around and it’s like probably three or four miles to do that out of your way,” said Emmert. “And it’s crazy.”
People say the signs aren’t enough.
“Oh yeah, we just sit and watch every hour on the hour, car after car after car come here and they don’t see any signs I guess down that way until they get on top of the closure down here,” said Emmert’s father’s caretaker, Mark Wesselman. “And then, do a U-turn and everybody’s speeding coming back this way because you can tell they’re agitated.”
“My neighbor’s yard is torn up very badly because people drive down our private driveway and miss the barricade and go back out on Gap Creek Road beyond the bridge and barricade,” said Steve Lewis.
Lewis’s driveway sits just before the southern side of the bridge. He’s frustrated knowing the bridge could be closed for much longer.
“Can they not do something temporary so that people can use the road? I mean this is a tremendous inconvenience,” said Lewis. “My neighbor is elderly. Her husband’s sick. He needs medical treatment. She has a difficult time getting to the hospital.”
“That’s horrible,” said Emmert, hearing how long it could take before construction starts. “I mean because this really is a main road for Carter County.”
Additionally, people say the roads provided as a detour cannot support the traffic.
“[The detour roads are] a nightmare,” said Emmert. “I mean, they’re glorified goat trails.”
“This is just the way it will have to be until they open it back up,” said Burchett. “We have no other alternate route off anything.”
TDOT plans to replace the bridge. A spokesperson with TDOT told News Channel 11 that they do not have construction scheduled to begin until late 2024 or early 2025.
Right now, the bridge is in its early design stages. TDOT is including in its design plans to straighten the bridge.
A TDOT spokesperson says they understand the inconvenience and the department are working as quickly as possible to get the process going.