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Bridge deck gets grooves; permanent lane markings next

Most of the traffic jams associated with construction of the new Clinch River bridge in Clinton should essentially be over now – except for when crews complete the permanent lane marking and striping work.

The last big disruptive project was the grooving of the traffic lanes on the new Lewallen Bridge, which was completed on Saturday, Jan. 15, according to Lynn Murphy, the city of Clinton’s liaison with the state Department of Transportation on the bridge project.

Traffic was restricted to one lane in each direction over the bridge during the grooving work, which led to backups.

Grooving of the concrete deck was “designed to channel stormwater off of the road surface (similar to tire treads), and to provide a higher-friction contact surface,” Murphy said last week.

As for the permanent lane striping, the state’s engineers are working on a solution to make the lanes easy for motorists to negotiate, Murphy said.

“TDOT is now exploring options for pavement markings on the bridge, as well as lane markings at the State Route 9 (Clinch Avenue) and State Route 61 (Charles G. Seivers Boulevard) intersections,” Murphy said.

“There have been numerous complaints from motorists about the alignment of the new lanes connecting to the existing lanes, and TDOT traffic engineers have been reviewing this for several weeks, at the request of the city of Clinton government,” he said.

Completing this phase of the work might be delayed as long as winter weather persists, Murphy suggested.

“Pavement markings, whether paint or thermoplastic, require certain minimum temperatures to ensure adhesion, so winter weather has been a challenge for scheduling pavement marking installation,” he said.

“Also, the light color of new concrete does not provide a good contrasting background against the white paint currently in use.”

Also still to be completed are the streetlights, Murphy said.

“The electrical contractor has installed the underground conduit and wiring for street lighting along the southbound side of the Lewallen Bridge,” he said. “The lights should be connected and be operational soon.”

Demolition of the old bridge structure continues, Murphy said.

“Crews are focused on clearing the north end of the old bridge, because the old bridge piers conflict with construction of the new section of Riverside Drive,” he said. “Once the old bridge piers are taken down, construction of the new sections of Riverside Drive and the Lakefront Park walking trail, as well as an additional parking area, may proceed.”

As for the pavement grooving, Murphy said “the spacing between the grooves varies in width.”

“This is by design, and is supposed to reduce the ‘humming’ of tires rolling across the surface, as compared [with] having an equal width between the grooves,” he said.

Murphy said earlier that the grooves help “prevent vehicle hydroplaning by allowing stormwater to drain toward the gutters within the grooves, rather than sheeting across the road surface.”

The current painted pavement markings are to be “replaced with thermoplastic pavement markings, which are much more visible and durable,” he said.

“The demolition of the old bridge is well underway and should be complete by the end of April,” Murphy said. “Then, construction will begin to rebuild the section of Riverside Drive affected by the new bridge. A new section of the Lakefront Park walking trail will be built, as well as a new parking area and boat dock.

“Finally, demobilization of the cranes, barges, equipment, and materials will begin. This should all be completed sometime in the summer (my estimate, not theirs),” Murphy told The Courier News.

“When all the bridge steel is removed, the two concrete piers will be removed from the river by sawing them off a few feet above the water surface level,” he said in December. “The remaining concrete pier sections in the water will be drilled vertically and then broken apart using low-level explosive charges. Once detonated, any concrete and reinforcement steel in the water will be removed using a clamshell bucket attached to a crane cable.”

The state opened part of the new bridge to traffic Oct. 12, but some of the lanes on the south side of the span remained closed as workers finished building bike lanes, sidewalks and the center dividing lane.

The remaining lanes were opened to traffic in mid-December.

Work on the new bridge began in September 2018. Contractor for the $27.6 million dollar project is Charles Blalock and Sons, Inc. of Sevierville.