DOWNTOWN KNOXVILLE - A large pile of railroad cross ties are sitting underneath the James White Parkway Bridge at Riverside Drive.
To nearby residents, it's a troubling reminder of how the Interstate 85 fire started that caused a heavily traveled bridge to collapse in Atlanta.
"So after the Atlanta fire, it really became apparent we shouldn't have that there," said Peggy Glenn, who drives along and underneath the bridge every day.
Glenn said she first noticed the cross ties back in the fall because they were omitting a "gas-like" smell.
"It's strong if you have your windows down," said Glenn.
What Glenn smells is creosote, according to M. Scott Ogle, general manager of the Knoxville and Holston River Railroad, a subsidiary of Gulf and Ohio Railways, who owns the railroad that runs underneath the bridge.
He explained the cross ties were installed back in the 1970s and that usually "railroad cross ties are treated with creosote".
Creosote is used for wood preservation and is flammable.
Ogle told 10News in a statement:
"The old cross ties located along the railroad by Riverside Drive were part of a tie change program we just finished up, these old cross ties were most likely installed back in the 1970s. We typically give local landscapers first look to utilize these for flower gardens and/or driveways etc.
As a company we dispose of any and all items such as cross ties in an environmentally friendly manner that complies with all local, state and federal regulations. The old ties in this location have been slated to be removed by a contractor we utilize and should be removed by mid to late week this week."
TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi told 10News that TDOT is getting in touch with KHRR and "appreciate them working with us to have that material relocated."
Nagi said as a general rule of thumb, companies are not allowed to store equipment under bridges. However, in this case the line is blurred.
"The material might be located on the railroad right of way as well as TDOT right of way," said Nagi.
Meaning, the railroad may not have broken any rules.
Glenn will be glad to see the cross ties go.
"It's a disaster waiting to happen and we need to get it cleaned up and moved out so it doesn't happen," said Glenn.
Ogle said the cross ties will be removed by "mid to late week this week".
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