Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

Traffic came to a stand still in downtown Franklin on Thursday when crews working on constructing the new town bridge hit a gas line, causing a leak.

Franklin Fire and Rescue was able to block off the area by closing Town Bridge to traffic in both directions. “Crew members from Franklin Fire and Rescue also checked neighboring businesses with gas meters while waiting for Toccoa Natural Gas to arrive on scene to shut the gas off,” said Town Planner, Justin Setser.

According to Setser, the high winds of the day were very helpful in the dissipation of the gas. Franklin Fire and Rescue was assisted by Squad 4 (Fire Task Force), Franklin Police Department and Macon County Fire Marshal’s Office.

David Uchiyama, with North Carolina Department of Transportation Public Relations department said that Buckeye Bridge, LLC a general contractor out of Canton, N.C., is the company hired to construct the bridge.

“Buckeye Bridge, LLC was digging a trench for a new drainage pipe when they hit a service line going to McDonalds,” said Uchiyama. “The road was shut down for precautionary reasons while Toccoa repaired the line.”

The entire bridge project is estimated to cost $3.5 million once complete. Uchiyama said that the overall project completion date is Feb. 15, 2019, and as of Monday, the project is 50 percent complete, although based on the project timeline provided by Uchiyama, the project should be 69 percent complete. If the bridge isn’t completed on time, the NCDOT has the authority to levy hefty daily fines.

Franklin’s town bridge was constructed in 1931 and with little maintenance work done over the last 85 years, the bridge continued to deteriorate. After the NCDOT deemed the structure to be deficient, funding was allocated from the state for repairs. To fully address the issues on a structurally deficient bridge, extensive rehabilitation or replacement is usually required.

Once completed, the new bridge will be similar to the original structure, but will feature larger lanes and a multi use path connecting the two sides of the Little Tennessee Greenway. Town officials approved the design of the multi-use path, which will be both bicycle and pedestrian friendly and will feature a divider between the path and traffic lanes.