HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. - A construction project in Hawkins County means a bridge will have to be shut down, forcing some homeowners to take detours, but it also makes for a longer trip for emergency crews.
Construction is moving at Longs Bend Bridge in Surgoinsville. Dispatchers in Hawkins County say they're on 'pins and needles' hoping an emergency doesn't happen on the other side because right now the bridge has a weight limit that prevents fire trucks and ambulances from crossing.
"Our concern is that they're going to have an emergency across that bridge and no one's going to be able to get to them in a timely manner. They're going to have to take another route to get to those areas," says Gay Murrell, the county's 911 director.
But soon the time will come when both the old bridge and the new one will have to be closed, blocking all traffic from crossing the Holston River. "It's bad now; it's going to go to worse," adds Murrell.
TJ DeBord lives right across the river from town and he's worried about some of his neighbors. "The lady that lives next to us out here, she was 93 the other day. Her husband died about a year ago, so I worry about people like that," he said.
But the Tennessee Department of Transportation says the closure is necessary for a few weeks while they construct a roadway tie in to the new bridge.
TDOT doesn't have a date for the closure yet, but it's a period the 911 dispatchers are hoping will quickly come and go without any emergencies.
According to TDOT the project should be finished by May 2014. When the new bridge is complete the old one will be demolished.