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Home Features Road improvements: Changes to S.R. 63 may be coming a bit quicker...

Road improvements: Changes to S.R. 63 may be coming a bit quicker than expected

While one major road project in Scott County — the straightening of “The Corner” on U.S. Hwy. 27 in Oneida — continues to navigate setbacks, two other major road projects are scheduled to begin by about this time next year.

The TN Dept. of Transportation has a number of projects scheduled in Scott County, from bridge repairs to highway rebuilds, but there are two in particular that are about to be front-burner issues: the extension of a southbound lane of U.S. 27 at Oak Grove in Oneida, and safety improvements to S.R. 63 from Annadale to Norma Road.

The Corner: TDOT’s $3 million project to eliminate the 90-degree turn on U.S. Hwy. 27 at its Paint Rock Road intersection is being handled by Huntsville-based Twin K Construction. The local contractor won the bid to complete the road construction project between B&B Metals and Highland Veterinary Hospital. 

The project was originally slated to be completed by this month: August 2020. But it has hit a number of snags along the way. First, there was contaminants found in the soil, a major setback as Twin K had to put the project on hold while the soil was tested and a plan was devised. Later, it was discovered that underground utilities in the construction zone would have to be remapped, which further delayed construction.

“The corner project has experienced delay after delay, from the initial contamination to utility location problems,” Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals said. “Both of which required project procedural and design changes.”

Turn Lane at Oak Grove: TDOT is planning for a relatively simple project to extend a southbound lane of U.S. Hwy. 27 from near Bethlehem Baptist Church to Litton Road at Oak Grove, to be used as a right-turn-only lane. That project will involve the acquisition of just one piece of property — the former drug store and donut shop at the corner of Alberta Street and Litton Road. 

Currently, southbound traffic turning right onto Litton Road often uses the shoulder of the highway to bypass traffic and make the turn when the intersection’s traffic signal is red. The TDOT project will eliminate that hazard and help reduce the bottleneck that occurs as the “Four Lane” is reduced to two lanes. Currently the southbound lane ends just north of the Independent Herald office several hundred feet north of the intersection.

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According to Tibbals, the project is scheduled to for bidding in the third quarter (July-September) of 2021. Once bids are received, it takes a month to certify the bids. Construction typically begins within about 60 days after the advertisement for bids, Tibbals said.

This graphic depicts TDOT’s proposed changes to the S.R. 63 – S.R. 456 intersection at Annadale.

Improvements to Baker Highway: Perhaps the most useful of all the projects that are slated for the near-future in Scott County is one that will see spot improvements made to S.R. 63 on the east side of Huntsville and into Fairview. 

The TDOT project calls for improvements to the dangerous intersection of S.R. 63 with Annadale Road and Winona Road. The intersection is the site of relatively frequent accidents, and citizen requests for action help put the project on TDOT’s roadmap. TDOT’s plans for the intersection won’t include the installation of traffic signalization — due in no small part to the lay of the land. Eastbound commercial traffic would have a difficult time getting back up to speed if stopped by a red light. Instead, the project is likely to consist of a turn lane for eastbound vehicles turning onto S.R. 456 and westbound vehicles turning onto Winona Road, as well as left turn lanes on S.R. 456 and Winona Road — far from a perfect fix, but a far better intersection than currently exists.

While TDOT is making those improvements to the Annadale intersection, it will also make improvements further east with turn lanes around Highlander Estates and Scenic Foods, and from Fairview School to Norma Road just east of DJ’s Pitstop. 

This graphic shows TDOT’s proposed changes to the S.R. 63 – Norma Road intersection at Fairview.

That project, while given priority status by TDOT, once remained open-ended. But Tibbals has a plan to bump up construction, pending approval by County Commission.

Tibbals said that he will propose a contribution of $150,000 from Scott County to help expedite the project. TDOT has given its assurances that if the local contribution comes through to assist with the financial burden of the project, it will be assigned higher priority, meaning that it would be scheduled for bids in the third quarter of 2021, as well. 

The funds would come from Scott County’s share of Covid-19 relief funding recently received from Gov. Bill Lee. Tibbals’ plan also calls for a matching contribution of $150,000 to the Scott County Road Department to assist with repairs on county-owned roadways. 

County Commission will ultimately need to approve the allocation of the funds. Tibbals said that commissioners appeared to be supportive on the front-end and he’s hoping that they’ll ultimately give their go-ahead to the plan, which would see the improvements along S.R. 63 expedited.

That project isn’t the only one on the drawing board along the S.R. 63 corridor. TDOT is also planning a truck-climbing lane just east of the Pioneer post office in Campbell County. That particular improvement was proposed when TDOT abandoned its proposal to make S.R. 63 a four-lane highway from Huntsville to Interstate 75 in Caryville.

This story is the August 2020 installment of Profiles of a 3-Star Community, presented by the Industrial Development Board of Scott County on the second week of each month as part of the Independent Herald’s Back Page Features series. A print version of this article can be found on Page 11 of the August 13, 2020 edition of the Independent Herald.
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Contact the Independent Herald at newsroom@ihoneida.com. Follow us on Twitter, @indherald.
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