After years of discussion and planning, what officials feel is the solution to a quandary that many traveling through Erwin encounter daily appears to be on track for completion in fall 2014.
This week, officials with the Tennessee Department of Transportation will hold a pre-construction meeting to discuss the railroad overpass project in Erwin, after which more information on the project’s start date will be known.
The need for the project has been discussed for more than two decades, as trains running along Second Street often lead to lengthy waits and traffic backups for motorists.
The project, which is designed to relocate Tenn. Highway 107 from the John Sevier Highway to Main Avenue, calls for the construction of an approximately one-half mile “bridge” that will pass over the CSX rail lines which often delays traffic along Second Street. The overpass is to be built between the Duncan Mechanical building and Shell service station on Second Street and connect with Main Avenue near the Sixth Street intersection.
While the definitive start date for the project has not yet been determined, a completion date for the project has. The construction contract was previously awarded to the Sevierville-based Charles Blalock & Sons, Inc., with a bid of approximately $9.4 million. The completion date for the railroad overpass has been set for Oct. 31, 2014.
According to TDOT, the bridge will consist of a multimodal facility with 12-feet travel lanes, bike lanes and a sidewalk. The overpass itself will be lighted with street lamps. Improvements are also planned for the intersection where the overpass connects with Main Avenue. These are to include the installation of a traffic signal and a left turn lane.
Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley said completion of the overpass could lead to opportunities in the area.
“It’s going to make for more convenient access to the downtown area, and I think that will help the businesses in the downtown and, hopefully, it will encourage some other businesses to locate on Main Street and in the downtown area,” she said.
Hensley said county officials have heard public comments for a number of years about the inconvenience waiting on the trains has caused residents trying to get to school or work. But Hensley said the overpass will also address the concern many have about emergency responders being impeded by crossing trains. She said the project will provide them with a quick outlet to respond to emergency situations.
“Lots of times, the police, the fire, the rescue squads have been blocked from crossing the train tracks because of the train sitting there, and it has hindered them some in reaching their destinations as quickly as they should and could,” she said.