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School year ends with bridge project ongoing

By Jill Penley
Freelance Writer

Since mid-November, parents, teachers, and students have accessed the Johnson County High School campus by an alternate route impeding traffic flow and congesting the entire area particularly at the beginning and end of the school day. Many parents remain concerned with the traffic pattern, and the time it is taking to see the bridge project completed.

“Unfortunately the bridge will not be open for graduation,” said Dr. Mischelle Simcox, Director of Schools. “We hope that the bridge construction will be completed over the summer. We appreciate the patience of our students, parents, staff, and community while the bridge construction has been occurring.”

The entire bridge project, which has been in the making for nearly five years, has been plagued with issues. When construction finally got into full swing in mid-January, operations came to a halt just a few weeks later when a sinkhole appeared as the contractor was excavating to footer grade. Immediately, all heavy equipment was removed from the area, and the bridge construction halted as TDOT Geotechnical Division and TDOT Environmental Division were consulted for remediation.

Utilizing the remediation plan, the contractor began working to clean out the hole, which, according to Community Relations Officer, Mark Nagi with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, had then expanded to approximately 10 feet wide and at least 25 feet deep. “Requirements for Erosion Prevention and Sediment Control (EPSC) measures were upgraded per recommendations from TDOT Environmental and TDEC,” said Nagi. On April 29th, the contractor began implementation of the upgraded EPSC measures and prepared to resume work on the project, but reportedly, as the contractor worked on the sinkhole, the size and extent of the cavity became more apparent.

Nagi explained that TDOT Geotechnical was requested, and a representative visited the site last week, on May 2. With the recommendation of TDOT Geotechnical, the contractor proceeded with filling the sinkhole with several loads of stone.

“The stone seems, at this time, to have stabilized the bottom of the sinkhole, and is starting to fill the hole,” said Nagi.

While a positive step for the project, residents will have to deal with construction-related issues including vehicles not been able to enter at the front entrance of the school. The detour route to enter the high school/middle school/vocational school area begins on Fairview Avenue, near the track, and continuing up the hill from there. Traffic has been instructed to exit by the vocational school making its way down East Hillcrest Drive. Nagi is promising to stay on top of things when he said, “We will continue to monitor the situation as the repair process continues and make any necessary adjustments to the plan as appropriate.”