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New Clinch River bridge opens to traffic

The new Clinch River bridge connecting to South Clinton was opened to traffic Tuesday morning (Oct. 12) in both directions, although part of the west side is still being worked on. The bridge had been under construction since September 2018. The old bridge will soon be removed.
After three years of construction, traffic jams and anticipation by Clinton motorists, the new Lewallen Bridge over the Clinch River opened to traffic on Tuesday morning.

That followed some final work over the weekend by crews putting finishing touches on the roadway connections.

They caused some problems for weekend travelers in the area because of lane closures, which limited the existing bridge to one lane in each direction.

Paving of the connectors from the new bridge to Clinch Avenue and Seivers Boulevard, followed by realignment of the traffic signals and painting of lane markers, were the final pieces of the work necessary for the shifting of traffic to the new bridge.

Not all of the new bridge is open, however.

About two lanes on the west side were still closed off and undergoing final work even as traffic flowed on the bridge on Tuesday.

Surprisingly, traffic was moved to the new bridge flowing in both directions Tuesday morning. State highway officials and the city of Clinton had been saying for weeks that northbound traffic would be moved to the new bridge first, with southbound traffic from Charles G. Seivers Boulevard following in a few days.

Construction of the new bridge – whose cost is coming entirely from state funds – began on Sept. 17, 2018, and was scheduled to be completed by Aug. 31. But there were disruptions and delays in the construction schedule for a variety of reasons, including some caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and unanticipated problems found in excavating for the bridge approaches.

Demolition of the old (Green Bridge) will begin shortly after work is completed on the new bridge, but no exact timetable has yet been announced. There were some attempts early on to find ways to preserve the old bridge for a park walkway, or to find another location for it. But ultimately it came down to costs, and there was no entity willing to assume the financial responsibility for preserving or relocating the historic Green Bridge.

The new bridge will carry the same official name as the one it is replacing: The Hon. William Everett Lewallen Memorial Bridge, or Lewallen Bridge for short.

Rocky Top Fire Department Chief Ronald “Ronnie” Gene Spitzer was named a “Three Stars of Tennessee” honoree he Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security the Three Stars of Tennessee Award and First Responder Recognition Ceremony in September.

The Three Stars of Tennessee Award honors public servants who have sacrificed their lives or suffered a career-ending injury in the line of duty. Governor Bill Lee, First Lady Maria Lee, Commissioner Jeff Long, State Senator Becky Massey (Knoxville), and Greg Mays, Director of the Tennessee Office of Homeland Security joined recipients, their family members and agency representatives to honor seven recipients with the “Three Stars of Tennessee Award.”  

“This event is special and important to the Department of Safety and Homeland Security,” Commissioner Jeff Long said. “Especially during these trying times, we are incredibly grateful for our brothers and sisters in law enforcement who have made the ultimate sacrifice to serve the people of Tennessee. Our hearts go out to their families and loved ones and we are honored to present them with this award.” 

Chief Spitzer responded to a medical at 8 a.m. Dec. 11, 2020. It was later determined the patient Spitzer administered to had COVID19.

Spitzer died of the virus Jan. 13, 2021.

Spitzer left behind his wife of 42 years, Sandra, and two children. His wife accepted his Three Stars of Tennessee commemoration during the ceremony.