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Demolition prepares way for overpass

“I’ll believe it when I see it.”
This is the point of view many citizens have when the long-awaited railroad overpass is discussed – with good reason. For many years, residents have awaited a solution to the traffic gridlock caused by trains stopped on Second Street in Erwin.
A sign that the overpass will soon be a reality appeared last week. Between Fifth and Sixth streets along Main Avenue, crews hired by the Tennessee Department of Transportation demolished three homes to make way for the construction of the overpass.
“That is going to be where the railroad overpass actually ties into Main Street,” Erwin City Recorder Randy Trivette said last week. “The separation distance (at this location) from the railroad tracks to Main Street was the most conducive to get the elevation back down … We couldn’t go any farther north to bring that in because of (Jobe) cemetery and you start getting into commercial properties.
“Plus, the fact that if you went a lot farther north you defeated the purpose of having the railroad overpass downtown. It worked out well where it ended up, between Sixth Street and Fifth Street; you’re only three or four blocks from Second Street and being downtown.”
Trivette said the demolition of the homes, as well as the acquisition of right of way and construction easements from property owners by TDOT near the proposed location of the overpass, makes him “hopeful” that construction will begin soon.
“By (TDOT) purchasing the right of way and investing the money into that and getting the plans drawn, I’m hopeful it will be here very, very soon,” Trivette said. “I feel confident. The money is budgeted for the construction; they’ve already completed the right of way phases and they’re tearing down structures.”
Trivette also said TDOT officials have informed him that the bidding for the construction of the road is scheduled for December.
“Once the bids are received, the state will evaluate those and review the qualified bidders and make sure all the paperwork is in place and correct,” Trivette added. “Hopefully, they will give a notice to proceed with construction by spring or early summer. That’s what our goals are.”
Trivette acknowledged that many citizens are skeptical that the overpass will become a reality.
“I’ve said the same thing. I’ll believe it when I actually see a dozer out there because of how long it’s taken and the work that’s went into it,” Trivette said. “It’s a lot more complicated of a process because of the location, dealing with the railroad and the property owners, plus just the basic design of a bridge going across the railroad tracks that far of a distance.
“I’ll believe it when I see someone grading, but what really makes me feel good is I’m seeing equipment on Main Street right now clearing the way for the new road that’s coming in. I’ve also seen backhoes down in these fields doing some test digs and some other work. It’s coming.”
Once construction begins, TDOT officials have informed Trivette that the overpass will take 18 months to two years to complete.
“I’m hopeful that we could be driving on it by the end of 2014 or the first of 2015,” Trivette added.
The construction of the overpass, as well as all property acquisitions, are funded by TDOT.
Plans for the overpass have drivers accessing it along Second Street between Huddle House restaurant and Duncan Mechanical. The overpass will carry drivers over two railroad tracks before meeting Main Avenue where the three homes were demolished last week.
“It crosses two tracks,” Trivette said. “It’s clear bridge nearly the whole way.”
Trivette also said TDOT plans to widen Main Avenue approaching the intersection of the overpass in order to construct a turning lane and a traffic light will also be installed at this intersection.

By Keeli Parkey
Staff Writer
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