ROGERSVILLE — On June 14, Rogersville’s Armstrong Road Bridge officially reopened as a one-way street until the bridge can be completely replaced. The bridge currently allows traffic to flow only from South to North. In other words, traffic can flow from West Broadway Street onto Armstrong Road.
The bridge has been completely closed since June of 2017 due to its condition and weight-bearing ability. The safety of those traveling over the bridge is of the utmost concern, and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) has approved the move.
In 2017, TDOT presented the Board of Mayor and Alderman (BMA) with three options: repair the bridge, completely close it, or take it down to one lane.
According to Rogersville Alderman and Hawkins Co. Commissioner Mark DeWitte, the BMA felt the safest option at the time was to close the bridge. However, TDOT has not yet set a completion date for the bridge’s replacement, so the BMA voted to reopen the bridge in the interest of convenience and ease of access to Ballad Health’s Hawkins Co. Memorial Hospital.
The reopening comes after a long period of working with TDOT to find a solution for the repairs needed for the bridge. In the fall of 2017, the city of Rogersville received a grant from the IMPROVE act, which is managed by TDOT, that would pay for 100 percent of the bridge’s replacement. However, the city of Rogersville does not directly receive the money, as TDOT is ultimately responsible for the project.
“For a project like this, there are several steps, each one needing completion before moving on to the next,” DeWitte said. “The state doesn’t move from one step to the next unless the one they’re working on is completed.”
TDOT is currently working on the preliminary design of the replacement bridge. The department is also in the process of a right-of-way review, during which TDOT determines whether there is any additional property, other than that of the current road and bridge, that is needed for construction of the replacement bridge. TDOT plans to begin appraising and acquiring any additional property in August. The entire right-of-way process can take anywhere between 9 to 12 months for a project of this size.
It is important to consider the magnitude of this project, as the process is not as simple as it might appear, DeWitte said. “Every utility that serves Rogersville from one end to the other has to be temporarily moved from under the bridge during construction and placed back afterwards. Water, sewer, electricity, and more all run under the bridge, making the project much larger than first meets the eye.”
The BMA encourages all motorists to exercise caution while getting used to the new traffic pattern of the bridge.
More information can be found through City Hall or by attending Board of Mayor and Alderman meetings, which take place on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in City Hall, located at 106 E. Kyle Street in Rogersville.