OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Hefty equipment passes over the Haul Road bridge in Oak Ridge. Its dark red metal stands out against the lush green East Tennessee hills.
It doesn’t take long to hear the rumble of a work truck, but on this sunny spring day, an unusual vehicle made its way over the bridge. The black van carried a leader who made the bridge possible.
"We called him McCracken. He had a one-name name. You know, a lot of people say, ‘Steve McCracken.’ It's McCracken,” said Susan Walter, one of his friends.
For about an hour, the road was closed. Chairs were set out on the bridge for the friends, family and former co-workers gathered to celebrate with retired Oak Ridge cleanup manager Steve McCracken and dedicate the bridge he helped build. The ceremony took place earlier this month.
View a video about the event honoring McCracken here.
McCracken began working in environmental programs with DOE in 1980 until he retired in 2010. Over that span he led major EM cleanup efforts at Oak Ridge as well as sites in Missouri and Ohio. After retiring from DOE, he continued adding to his resume by leading the Tennessee Valley Authority’s cleanup of a major coal ash spill.
During his tenure as Oak Ridge’s manager, one of his many influential decisions was constructing the private eight-mile Haul Road. That road gives drivers carrying debris from cleanup projects a direct path to disposal facilities without using commercial roads through town. That decision has allowed the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management to safely move more than 100,000 truckloads of waste for disposal to date.
"[The Haul Road was] very big for cleanup in Oak Ridge, but a very small piece of Steve's accomplishments,” longtime friend and co-worker Dave Adler said.
McCracken’s decision to build the road was instrumental in Oak Ridge completing demolition at the East Tennessee Technology Park four years ahead of schedule and avoiding $500 million in costs to taxpayers. It keeps the community safer and helped the site become the first in the world to remove a former enrichment complex.
"He's very, very generous with his ideas and encouragement. You can't compliment Steve without him turning it around. He just has this amazing humility,” Adler said.
Even at an event meant for him, leave it to McCracken to celebrate everyone else.
Sitting beneath a sign bearing his name, McCracken looked out at the crowd and said, “It wasn’t just me that got us to where we are. It was we that did it.”
Karen Shears, his friend and former colleague, said, "Like this project, Steve doesn't seek the spotlight, but he's always steady and reliable getting things done.”
McCracken joined with his friends, family members and former colleagues during the event, and he couldn’t contain his gratitude.
“Thank you,” he said, again and again.
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