|Road plan update given
Author: Brandon L.
The transportation facelift to revamp the intersection of highways 321
and 11 — a combo project that would also launch a “fly-over” across the
troubled interchange — is still in the works and Lenoir City Council was
provided an update on these matters during a workshop Monday afternoon.
John Hunter, project manager at the Tennessee Department of
Transportation (TDOT), and Bob Bowers, of Wilbur Smith Associates,
addressed council’s questions regarding these ongoing projects, in hopes
of obtaining cost estimates, project completion timeframes and a general
understanding of where the state stands.
Regarding the new bridge that will span the Tennessee River while
concurrently avoiding Fort Loudoun Dam, Hunter noted TDOT has a design
in play for a four-lane bridge to stretch roughly 1,200 feet. The
avoidance of the dam would allow Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to
ditch the headache of having to work around the bridge in order to
handle general maintenance.
Hunter said the predominant hold-up at present revolves around
construction costs, which he said is not in TDOT’s three-year plan. “If
funds were there, we could start construction,” he said, commenting that
it’s an 80/20 deal (80 percent paid through federal funds and 20 percent
through the state). However, no costs were given, save for the general
acceptance of the project branching into the multi-millions.
Hunter noted once construction funds are provided and the projects
actually take flight, the timeframe for construction would be 36 months,
“give or take.”
There will also be a public hearing in due time concerning the
“signature bridge” — which Lenoir City Mayor Matt Brookshire stated the
city indeed wants.
A pedestrian walkway on the new bridge is also being considered. Members
of WATeR (Watershed Association of the Tellico Resevoir) are pushing for
this. Larry Benson, a member of the group, was present to simply ask
about this measure, which council generally agreed with. Benson noted
WATeR has help install roughly 16 miles of trails in the area and this
would be another way for people to enjoy the bridge, without a car and
Hunter, who mostly handled the discussions regarding both the fly-over
and bridge, commented that “[TDOT’s] moving forward with design plans”
for the fly-over, which will greatly reduce the traffic woes the city’s
travelers are experiencing at the current intersection.
And there was more good news. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
said no endangered species would be affected, he said.
He further mentioned that right-of-way (ROW) plans were also in the
works and that, should everything run smoothly, plans should be
finalized by next June. The, essentially three-phase process for the
fly-over breaks down as such: a preliminary design should be in place by
the year’s end; by next spring, a public hearing would then be
scheduled; and the acquisition of ROW plans (which are also in the
three-year plan) for the fly-over should come by late summer.
The funding for the fly-over is also set up on the aforementioned 80/20
plan, though construction costs are not in the current three-year plan,
Bowers, of the transportation and infrastructure consulting firm Wilbur
Smith Associates, discussed the matter of Highway 321 corridor
improvements. The corridor study by TDOT examined Highway 321, from I-40
to the intersection at Highway 11.
On the outside, the corridor’s overhaul seems confusing, especially
financially. City Administrator Dale Hurst questioned whether the city
could financially take the lead, partnering with TDOT finacially. Hunter
said he believed that would be no problem. Hurst said he believes this
would show city leadership in the project thus facilitating assistance
in paying for the various improvements to be made. If so, the state
could then handle construction implementation, in preparation of
contracts and other matters.
One of the projects slated among the corridor improvements is the
intersection of Old Highway 95 and Harrison Road, in front of Lenoir
City High School. Councilman Tony Aikens noted those who deal regularly
with that intersection “have got a tremendous headache . . . [and] we
need to give those folks some relief.”
A private developer is reportedly building around that area and council
members said those plans “mesh quite nicely” with the city’s. Also,
should the developer near completion first, as officials expect, the
developer would be responsible for dealing with the questionable
intersection in order to actually finish the job, allowing the city to
save a little money and move toward other problem areas.