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Haynes: Bridge construction progressing on schedule

Several projects are on the horizon for the Unicoi County Highway Department and some are already in progress.
The department has been working on the new Mill Creek Bridge in the Temple Hill community. In addition, work is looking to begin soon on the Upper Higgins Creek Bridge as well as renovations to Veterans Park. Starting in the spring, crews will begin working around Veterans Park and Gentry Stadium to remove a section of dirt that will allow for more parking.
“As you know, we’re shy of parking up there,” said Unicoi County Highway Superintendent Terry Haynes. “[The removal] is going to help the looks of Veterans Park and Gentry Stadium.”
In addition to the looks, the work to remove the mound of dirt will allow for 40-50 more parking spaces. The dirt that will be removed from the Veteran Park area will be used to provide the bank for the new Mill Creek Bridge.
“We’re basically robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said Haynes. “The opportunity could not have come at a better time.”
Dump trucks and trackhoes will begin clearing out parking at Veterans Park in the spring. Those same trucks will turn around and haul the dirt out to the bridge site.
As for the current status of the bridge construction, Haynes said that crews were out of the water with the first pier and would soon be pouring the cap on that pier. Six additional concrete beams have been ordered that will be used in the bridge supports’ construction.
“Construction has been moving along very well,” said Haynes. “We’re on pace to meet our deadline right on the nose.”
Construction officially started on Nov. 3 and crews have 220 days to complete the project. The bridge is being built on a deal with the state where the state pays 98 percent of the total cost of the project while the county must only pay the remaining two percent. Haynes said that the county is looking to complete as many projects as possible while the deal remains valid.
In addition to Mill Creek Bridge, Haynes said that talks have been ongoing with the landowner near Upper Higgins Creek Bridge to purchase the right-of-way to allow for the bridge to be built. Haynes said that as soon as talks are resolved, construction on the Upper Higgins Creek Bridge will begin swiftly.
It was reported in a previous edition of The Erwin Record that the department is also looking to construct a cover for the monuments at Veterans Park. Haynes said that once he has the blueprints for the structure, construction will commence on that project as well.