published Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Long-familiar bridge to close

For many years, wagons, cars and trucks were fortunate to be able to board a chugging ferry to cross the broad Tennessee River in Marion County near important U.S. Highway 41.

But how wonderful it was, in 1929, when a fine, high, steel-truss bridge was built in that area to span the Tennessee.

The bridge, for which a toll was charged for crossing, saved lots of time on the trip. (Many youngsters, however, still begged to go "the old way," via ferry, just for the thrill of crossing the river by boat.)

But in time, the toll bridge was paid for, the toll ended, and traffic moved across the bridge free of charge, just as on most ordinary highways.

The nearby Interstate 24 bridge over the Tennessee eventually made the river crossing much faster and more convenient. But the old Marion Memorial Bridge at Haletown, Tenn., still was convenient for many local people.

Nevertheless, the narrow 82-year-old span on U.S. Highway 41 is scheduled to close Jan. 9, about two years before construction is completed on the replacement bridge.

Some difficulties with the new construction -- adjacent to the old bridge -- necessitated the earlier-than-expected closing of the aging structure for safety reasons. That will mean detours for those who wish to cross the river.

The old bridge will eventually come down, and drivers will no doubt enjoy crossing the river on a wide new bridge. But area residents won't soon forget the original.

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