SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — Update (8/12/22): The Tennessee Department of Transportation said it will likely be a few months before it can reopen a portion of Jones Cove Road in Sevier County.
On July 25, heavy rains caused a box bridge on State Route 339/Jones Cove Road to collapse at Wilhite Road. TDOT announced an "indefinite road closure" at the time to come up with a plan to fix it.
TDOT announced on Friday it had awarded a nearly $1 million contract to Charles Blalock & Sons Inc. to replace the bridge.
If approved, TDOT estimates it will have to keep the road closed through at least mid-November, saying it anticipates being able to open at least one lane of traffic by then. If all goes as planned, construction would be completed and all lanes would reopen by early 2023.
Jones Cove Road connects Sevierville and Cosby.
"It's going to be a major impact," driver John Storen said. "Every day, twice a day the whole family [drives that road] back and forth. It's the main access road into Sevierville."
The official detour sends drivers headed eastbound towards Cosby to U.S. 411 to State Route 416, just outside of Sevierville. Then they would need to turn onto State Route 454, near a Shell gas station. Then, they would need to turn onto U.S. 321 and back to the original road — State Route 339.
"Our official detours have to be on interstates and state routes. So we've got that signage in place to direct motorists around," TDOT spokesperson Mark Nagi said. "Now, there are local roads that folks can use as well."
The official detour for drivers headed westbound is State Route 32 to State Route 454, turning onto State Route 416 at the same Shell gas station. Then, they would need to turn onto State Route 35 and then back onto State Route 339.
TDOT said signs were placed to direct drivers. Drivers should use extreme caution in the area while workers try to fix the bridge.
The Sevier County school district told 10News that its director of transportation is working with drivers whose routes are affected by the bridge collapse.
"Though final details have not yet been determined, Mr. Danny Ellis is confident that we can complete these routes utilizing the detours that have already been put in place," Sevier County Schools said. "We plan to communicate final details to affected parents via robocalls next week so that they can prepare for the beginning of school."