Lawmakers fight to save bridge over Fort Loudoun Dam

Lawmakers, citizens, and businesses are joining forces to help save the bridge over Fort Loudoun Dam.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has started construction to widen State Road 73 in Lenoir City and construct three new bridges in its place.

But TVA, who owns the bridge, is ordering the old bridge to be torn down.

"Just leave the bridge," said State Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City. "We think it makes a lot of sense to allow people to get out and enjoy what we already have here."

A group of citizens and businesses calling themselves "Save the Bridge" have gotten their lawmakers on board. Rep. Matlock and State Senator Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, said they want to re-purpose the bridge for pedestrians only.

"We have one of the most beautiful, spectacular opportunities for a walk way. A place where people can travel by foot or by bike to exercise and enjoy the beauty," he said.

A TVA spokesperson said as the owners of the bridge they are responsible for its maintenance.

In a statement, TVA said, "Removing the bridge would ensure dam safety and security, eliminate potential environmental issues from lead-based coatings used on the bridge and avoid continuing, substantial maintenance expenses for TVA -- even if the bridge is used just for pedestrians."

Rep. Matlock said they have the support of local governments and US congressmen. But he recognizes it's an uphill battle.

"Without question we've already got a mountain to climb. It's already in the contract. It's something the federal government seems to be insistent on."

The bridge replacement project costs nearly $70 million and is scheduled to be complete by May of 2015.


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