The section of Rittertown Road from the bridge to U.S. Highway 19E will be closed for about eight months to a year, when the new bridge will be completed.
Carter County Highway Superintendent Roger Colbaugh said the project had encountered several difficulties over the past eight years, including a problem with right of way. He said he has been working since he took office two years ago to get the project going.
After obtaining approval from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Tennessee Valley Authority and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Colbaugh said the project was finally ready for the bidding process. Simpson Bridge Company of Cleveland, Tenn., was the low bidder at $593,399.25. The county will be responsible for 2 percent of the cost, while the state covers 98 percent.
Colbaugh said the new bridge will be a big improvement over the current one-lane structure. Among the improvements will be two 12-foot wide lanes and a more direct approach instead of the S-curve of the current approaches and crossing.
Colbaugh said another big improvement is the elimination of the arches crossing the water. Colbaugh said such arches are used on many bridges in Carter County and cause problems in times of flooding because debris tends to get carried by the swollen river until it reaches the arches. The upstream side of the bridge gets clogged with debris, causing a dam which aggravates the flooding.
Instead of the arches, the new bridge will use 75-foot beams to cross the river in one span.
On Wednesday afternoon much of the preliminary work had been accomplished, with the Elizabethton Electric Department, Hampton Utility District and Charter Cable already temporarily relocated to other locations to cross the river.
Colbaugh said the old bridge was once part of Tenn. Highway 37, the main highway between Hampton and Roan Mountain. A lot of water has gone under that bridge since those days, but no more cars will cross it after Monday.