Terry Allen, with Charles Blalock & Son in Sevierville, puts up 'Road Closed' signs Friday on Observation Knob Loop Road off Netherland Inn Road. Ned Jilton II photo.
KINGSPORT — After more than five years on the state’s to-do list, work to replace the Rotherwood Bridge is expected to begin next week.
Kingsport Public Works Director Ryan McReynolds said barriers were put up Friday afternoon to close off Observation Knob Loop Road — located just before the bridge on Netherland Inn Road, on the Kingsport side.
This area will be used as a “lay down” site for the heavy equipment used during the construction of the bridge, such as track drills and hoes, bulldozers and a dump truck or two.
McReynolds said the road would be closed during construction. The Tennessee Department of Transportation has until December 2009 to complete the work, but McReynolds said the city anticipates work being complete much sooner.
The first signs of work will be crews bringing down some of the rock ledge that separates Observation Knob Loop Road and Netherland Inn Road and using the material to build coffer dams in the Holston River near the bridge.
“This gives them an area in the river that’s dry, and then they’ll begin building their piers for the new bridge,” McReynolds said.
The Rotherwood Bridge has been slated for replacement for more than five years, ever since TDOT discovered structural problems with the bridge during an annual inspection in early 2002. TDOT ordered the bridge closed, and in response the city paid $500,000 to fix the bridge so it could be used until a new bridge is built.
TDOT plans to construct a new concrete girder-type bridge that would be an aesthetic match to the area. The new bridge will be located to the left of the existing bridge if you’re coming from Kingsport. It will be two lanes with much wider shoulders than the Rotherwood Bridge. Work will also include a minor relocation of Netherland Inn Road.
Once the project is complete, the old Rotherwood Bridge will remain intact and be used as a pedestrian bridge.
The Rotherwood Bridge on Netherland Inn Road crosses the North Fork of the Holston River and is one of only two primary routes across the river into Kingsport from Hawkins County. The Rotherwood Bridge opened in 1937, replacing another bridge that collapsed after a heavy truck crossed it.