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Ribbon cutting officially opens railroad overpass

Traffic delays due to trains on the railroad tracks on Second Street in the town of Erwin have nearly become a thing of the past.
State and local government officials, along with members of the Unicoi County community, took part in a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially celebrate the opening of the long-awaited railroad overpass on Monday, Aug. 10.
The railroad overpass that connects Second Street to Main Avenue off the interstate was completed in the summer for use. It is a project that had been decades in the making, according to City Recorder Glenn Rosenoff.
“It is a great opportunity,” Rosenoff said Monday. “This is one of those projects that was seen from start to finish and has solved the safety issues of crossing the railroad.”
Rosenoff seconded the sentiments of Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer, who mentioned the project was able to be seen all the way through after changes to the representatives and senators who serve the town and county.
“There are not a lot of projects I’m able to be part of start through the finish,” Schroer told the crowd on Monday. “This has been an exciting project with great community support. We’ve had two sets of senators and representatives be part of this project. Projects like these are imperatives for communities. This is a community that embraces the railroad industry.”
The project, contracted by Blalock and Sons, was completed with a $10 million price tag. The overpass is also paid off, Schroer said, but there is still work to do over the coming years.
“Now that the bridge is here, we need to maintain it,” he added. “Good roads help bring jobs into the community.”
Rosenoff said the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen were able to rezone parts of Main Avenue for commercial use a few years ago for potential business locations once the overpass was completed.
“The fact that the train is not impeding traffic is a great benefit,” he added. “We’re able to say (to business owners), ‘You’re not getting stuck on the railroad tracks; there is an overpass and there is another way to connect you with roads in town’.”
The BMA also voted in March to have the overpass named after Pat Brown, who sold the land where the overpass is located to the state for $397,380 in 2012. Officials during Monday’s ceremony announced there will be a special event for the naming of the overpass in the coming weeks. Officials also thanked members of Brown’s family who were in attendance.
Different government officials were instrumental to the completion of the project, Schroer added.
Joining the commissioner at the microphone were state senators Steve Southerland and Rusty Crowe and state representatives David Hawk and John Holsclaw Jr., who each played a part in the construction of the project.
Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch also addressed the crowd giving credit to the town for their work with the overpass and talked about the assistance of the county officials. Also in attendance was former Erwin mayor Don “Brushy” Lewis, who was credited as one of the leaders who pushed the project along with former State Representative Zane Whitson, after bringing a video to Nashville, Hawk said.
“When I was in office, we put a lot of work into this,” Lewis said at the conclusion of the meeting.
The amount of support from community members on Monday was nothing too surprising, Lewis added, by saying, “Erwin is that way and it always has been.”