Taking Bald River Falls bridge down to one lane "not possible," says Tellico ranger

TELLICO PLAINS, Tenn. (WVLT) — The bridge at Bald River falls is expected to be closed for several months as crews work to demolish and replace it, according to park officials.

Bridge at Bald River Falls / Source: (WVLT)

The Forestry website showed the expected start date for the project was set for March 2020. However, Cherokee National Forrest Public Affairs Officer Terry McDonald told WVLT News that no exact start date is set, but they expect the project to begin sometime in 2021.

Tellico Ranger Stephanie Bland said they hope to begin in the spring. She said officials have safety concerns about the bridge as it is starting to deteriorate.

Bland said early designs for the bridge hoped to take it down to one lane, but engineers determined that would be impossible. In order to make a safe bridge with the planned additions, it will need to be torn completely down and started from scratch.

McDonald said the project won't begin until details about necessary detours are worked out.

"The bridge will be closed for six to eight months during the project so we need to find the best way to maintain the gravel roads drivers will need to use while the road is closed," McDonald said.

Officials said they intend to replace the entire bridge with a similar structure that meets current safety standards.

The new structure will also feature a sidewalk and a viewing platform for the falls.

McDonald said the current bridge was built in 1933.

Construction on the bridge is likely to interfere with peak tourism season as McDonald said conditions for bridge construction are not good during winter.

Bland said visitors will be able to get across on an alternate route, but exactly how many miles and how much time it will add to the trip hasn't been determined.

View the project on the Forestry website here.

View the Forestry's schedule of projects here.

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