• 1965: Date original bridge was constructed
• June 18, 2010: New bridge project awarded to Dement Construction Co.
• Sept. 30, 2012: Estimated completion date
BY THE NUMBERS
• $13.57 million: Original winning bid
• 45,000: Number of vehicles traveling Interstate 24 east of Kimball in 2011
• 10,000: Number of vehicles using Kimball interchange each day in 2011
• 16 feet, eight inches: Minimum clearance of new bridge
• 19,550: Number of bridges on Tennessee public roads
• $1.81 billion: Spending on state bridge replacement and repairs from 1982 to 2008
Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation
KIMBALL, Tenn. -- For some business owners at Interstate 24's exit 152, the $13.5 million bridge-raising work on the overpass at U.S. Highway 72 can't be finished soon enough.
"It wasn't that bad, but we're glad to see them go," said Jayne Pasnell, who manages Big Daddy's Fireworks store with her husband, Rex.
The store's driveway on Main Street/U.S. 72, Kimball's main drag, is about five feet from the end of the on-ramp to westbound I-24 and at the middle of the 2-year-old construction project. Orange barrels still stretch out of sight to the south as the work winds down.
A big rig on Highway 72 struck the westbound side of the I-24 bridge on Sept. 18, 2008, damaging it and triggering the launch of a project already planned for raising the interstate's spans to allow more clearance. State and local officials say the bridge has been hit repeatedly over the years.
Kimball Mayor David Jackson said Tuesday that local business owners are ready for a return to normal.
"There's going to be a progress meeting this Thursday," he said.
Kimball officials expect no surprises to delay project completion by the end of September, Jackson said.
Over the past two years, construction backups at times blocked the entrance to Big Daddy's and its competitor across the street, Tennessee-Alabama Fireworks, Jayne Pasnell said.
The project is down to just a few pieces of equipment and small groups of men.
Business owners know the work is not the crews' fault, and it needs to be done, she said.
"A lot of them were customers," Jayne Pasnell said of work crews.
"But it's time to move on," Rex Pasnell chimed in.
The Pasnells said the project dramatically improved clearance for big rigs and other large vehicles passing under the bridge on their way south on Highway 72 through South Pittsburg.
But "it has hurt sales, especially last year during the Fourth of July," Rex Pasnell said.
It was hard to tell what slowed sales most this year; the midweek holiday, the extreme heat or the ongoing construction, he said.
Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said the project is "101 percent" complete, meaning everything is done but some extras were added that weren't planned initially. The project is about 92 percent of the way through the anticipated construction period, she said.
Extra items included pipe, overhead sign structures and added erosion controls, Flynn said.
Crews -- now about a dozen or fewer workers -- are working this week to restore the original median and upgrade drainage structures at the exit, she said.
Traffic can be shifted into the completed driving lanes when the median work is done, Flynn said.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Subscribe to his Facebook posts at www.facebook.com/benbenton1 or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/BenBenton.
Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...