Intersection improvements continue to hold

Mary E. Hinds News Herald
As September begins, some county residents are questioning why the long sought improvements to the intersection at Shaw Ferry Road and Highway 11 have yet to begin, but plans for the intersection update are moving forward, albeit slowly.

According to officials, the improvements would include left turn lanes on all four approaches, line of site improvements and red lights.

In June, the Loudon County Commission voted to approve two resolutions to get the project up and running. The intersection has been the site of accidents and concern for neighborhood residents for years. After two decades the state has agreed to fix the dangerous Loudon County intersection.

Drivers and local leaders have long maintained the problem with the intersection is the blind hill on Highway 11. 

Anyone attempting to turn from Shaw Ferry Road is unable to see the cars until they top the hill, which may be too late to stop an accident from happening. 

Many elected officials have worked to keep the intersection on the state's to do list by trying to get the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to fix the problem.  Despite the installation of caution lights and rumble strips accidents are still occuring. County officials and State Representatives Dennis Ferguson and Jimmy Matlock have continued to push for the state to make the improvements.

County Commissioner Wayne Gardin, who has been one of the most vocal and persistent advocates for fixing the intersection before more people are injured, said he is in constant contact with state officials to make sure the project is moving forward. Gardin said the people he's spoken with at TDOT have told him requests for bids for the project will be sent out in November and should be back by February 2010. From what Gardin has heard from state officials, he anticipates the project will be completed by March 2010.

While Gardin said he would like TDOT to move more quickly, he confirmed he is closely monitoring the process. "They kind of led us to believe it would be done this past March but that didn't happen," he said. Gardin said the delays are not unusual for TDOT and he cited the time consuming process of putting the contracts out for bids and the need to have utility companies move power lines and water lines. 

The first resolution passed by the county commission in June contained the standard agreement for the county to give TDOT the land needed, the county's agreement to take any necessary steps to move any utilities or anything else not connected with highway drainage for the project, to maintain the road frontage, to give any land owned by the county for right of ways or easements and to take responsibility for maintenance.  The county commission, after being assured there would be no additional county money involved, voted to approve the first resolution.

The commission also approved a second resolution to be sent to Tennessee Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely. This resolution was the usual agreement for the county to take responsibility for lights on the road, to pay the electric bill for those lights and do standard maintenance. 

County Mayor Doyle Arp said he had a recent meeting with TDOT officials cancelled but "It is my understanding that the bids will be let on that in November."

Gardin said his most recent conversation with TDOT officials had the timetable set back a bit with bids not being let until after the new year. 

The process has been progressing for years. In 2005, the commission voted to appropriate the required 20 percent match, up to $144,000 in funding to realign and make necessary improvements to the intersection of Shaw Ferry Road and Highway 11. At that time, the state's engineering study estimated the cost of the project at $720,000. The county was assured by TDOT if the county would appropriate the required 20 percent match, TDOT would supply the additional funds needed to fix the intersection.  Despite the long, involved process of getting TDOT on the project, Gardin said he is confident the fix is going to occur. "It is moving forward according to what they've told me and I call them every two weeks," he said.