Terry Haynes, Unicoi County road superintendant, oversees the installation of the new Upper Higgins Creek Bridge. Unicoi County Highway Department workers carefully guide a bridge segment as it is set into place. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Kendal Groner)

By Kendal Groner

On Feb. 27 construction crews began installing segments of the new Upper Higgins Creek Bridge. The project began in October, and is expected to reach completion by the end of March.

“We are actually probably a month ahead of schedule now,” said Terry Haynes, Unicoi County road superintendent.

The bridge was built offsite at Permatile Concrete Products Company in Bristol, Virginia. The bridge was transported to Unicoi County in 16 pieces that were placed segmentally onto a concrete foundation. The segmented units are connected by lateral ties and a grouted keyway formed into the foundation, according to Haynes.

The entire project, including the construction of the foundation and installment of the segments for the 48 foot long bridge, will be completed within 150 calendar days. 

“It would’ve taken over a year to build the bridge by hand,” Haynes said. “Since I’ve been in office I’ve seen six of these pre-fastened bridges.”

Each piece of the bridge segments weighed over 48,000 pounds and were positioned using an expensive link belt crane.

Haynes said he is hopeful that the new bridge will generate revenue back into the Flag Pond area, which he says has been negatively impacted by the interstate. It will also provide a more convenient access for the new Rocky Fork State Park.

“We’ve got to do some road widening soon, and we’re hoping this will open the Flag Pond community up, and encourage some kind of convenience center or store of some kind,” he said. “The state park was a big kick to get this bridge put into place.”