Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New Bridge Over the Tennessee River (#1)

A very large and significant highway project has just started up in East Tennessee. It’s located just southwest of Knoxville at Lenoir City.  US Highway 321 crosses I-75 at Exit 81.  If you take US 321 east toward the Smoky Mountain National Park, you will find yourself on a 4-lane highway passing through the newer commercial portion of Lenoir City.  After about a mile and a half you encounter a light where the highway turns into a 2-lane road.
This stretch of 2-lane highway is about a mile long…and it crosses the Tennessee River on a bridge that is raised up directly over the top of the Fort Loudoun Dam.  The dam is part of the TVA system, generating power and with its adjoining lock for shipping, it represents the upper end of the navigable portion of the river.
US 321 is the most direct route from west to east to the Smoky Mountain National Park as well as to Maryville and Townsend Tennessee… 
The state of Tennessee recently awarded a $69,361,720.70 million contract to a Sevierville Tennessee contractor to build a new, 4-lane bridge over the Tennessee River at Lenoir City.  The contractor will also widen the existing 2-lane highway. (I wonder what the 70 cents is for…)

The view above shows the start of construction as viewed looking west toward Lenoir City.  Part of the waterway is just below the equipment shown in the photo.
This view is from the TVA park area on the west side of the connecting channel between Tellico Lake and Fort Loudoun Lake.  Tellico Lake was formed by daming up the Little Tennessee River and it has a separate dam.  However, the Tellico Dam is basically a water control structure only…with the Fort Loudoun Dam doing most of the work. 

The bridge shown in this photo is a 2-lane structure that will remain in place.  A second 2-lane bridge will be built over this channel right along side of the existing one.  
They have also started some preparatory work in the median adjacent to US 321 where it intersects with County Road 444.  In the distance, you can see the bridge over the Fort Loudoun Dam that will be completely replaced.  If you turned around and looked back, you would see the same scene as shown in the previous photo of the channel between the 2 lakes.

You might ask the question… When will this project be completed?  The answer is that it’s supposed to be completed on May 31, 2015!  With no completion date penalties built into the project, I’m not taking any bets on the target date…  The good news is that this infrastructure project will employ many local workers for about 3 years.
About 10 days ago, this was a heavily forested area…with a meadow toward the right rear of the photo.  The woods were overloaded with deer and by now they’re searching for a new home… Most of the logs were loaded on trucks and taken away but they did create quite a stack of sawdust from the remnants. 

The Tennessee River itself is straight ahead, right between those trees on the other side of the meadow and those power lines on the other side.  If one was to drive down that road shown in the middle right portion of the photo, you’d end up at the foot of the dam right on the river.  Quite a few fishermen drop a line from the concrete walkway along the channel below the dam.
In addition to the 4-lane bridge over the Tennessee River and the new 2-lane bridge over the channel between the two lakes, the contractor will have to build a 4-lane bridge over the railroad tracks on the Lenoir City side of the river.  One of the major challenges for the contractor will be building the bridges without stopping the flow of rail traffic plus barge and leisure craft traffic, not to mention the 21,000 + vehicles that cross the existing bridge every day.
Other updates will follow… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. I love the $0.70, how is that even possible? How can it be estimated down to the penny?

  2. Wow! That's quite a project! And even more so with keeping the traffic flowing. It will be great in 2015 when completed. Can't imagine what the job involves for the civil engineer!

    There is so much road work around here this summer. Lots of jobs provided, but it's a nightmare trying to figure out a route to get anywhere that won't leave you sitting in a long line of traffic waiting to get through. Interesting post!

  3. May we use these pictures for a story we are doing on the project? Please contact me at