Construction crews, in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, are under way on a multi-year project to replace the current Fort Loudoun Dam bridge along Highway 321 and build a new structure just downstream from the dam across the Tellico Lake canal.
The project, which will cost an estimated $69.3 million, includes the construction of three bridges - two across the Tennessee River about 2,000 feet west of the dam, and one at Highway 444. TDOT also has plans to straighten a portion of Highway 321 south of the river.
The estimated completion date on the new bridge is May 31, 2015.
TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi said via an email correspondence that the project will have a limited effect on impeded traffic in Lenoir City.
"The new construction will take several years and have minimal impacts to residents and motorists in the area as the contractor can complete the majority of new construction without lane closures," Nagi said. He could not immediately provide details on specific lane closure plans.
Parsons Brinckerhoff, which is overseeing the construction project on behalf of DOT, will conduct inspections of materials and the construction work, Nagi said. Charles Blalock & Sons in Sevierville is serving as the general contractor on the project.
Nagi said the new bridge across the river will include 12-foot-wide shoulders and railings that will accommodate foot traffic and bicycles. He said TDOT had no plans to connect walking space from Lenoir City Park to the new bridge.
The bridge project is being funded with 80 percent contributions from the Federal Highway Administration and 20 percent from the state.
TDOT project manager Kristin Qualls did not return multiple calls at her office seeking comment.
Nagi said the project has been in the planning stages for about 20 years.
"From at least the early 1990s, (Tennessee Valley Authority) has wanted to remove bridges from on top of their dams to provide easier and safer access to perform maintenance to the dams," Nagi said.
While TDOT has released some detailed schematics of the proposed bridge project, an artist rendering has not been produced.
For more information on the project, visit: http://www.tdot.state.tn.us/construction/2012/CNL139_Details.htm