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It's time to widen I-26 in Johnson City

Johnson City Press • Nov 29, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Work is continuing on a key upgrade to Exit 24 of the Interstate 26 interchange at University Parkway. The $2.6 million project will add an auxiliary lane and widen the interstate’s eastbound travel lanes near the on and off ramps.

This project will hopefully convince the Tennessee Department of Transportation to take a fresh look at another proposed project that has been at the top of Johnson City’s wish list for many years. Local officials have asked the state to consider adding as many as four new lanes in sections of the interstate through the heart of Johnson City.

The state should not only approve this request, but also include a new and less-confusing interchange for downtown and State of Franklin Road as part of the widening project.

We ask our local legislators to push this project with great vigor when the state General Assembly returns to work in January. Lawmakers should also vote to close the so-called “pass the bottle” loophole, which would go a long way to securing more road funds from Uncle Sam that could be used to improve the infrastructure of Northeast Tennessee.

While no driver may drink alcohol or possess an open container of an alcoholic beverage while operating a motor vehicle in Tennessee, passengers are allowed under state law to consume booze in that very same vehicle. Tennessee is one of just one of just a handful of states that doesn’t specifically outlaw alcohol for passengers.

This loophole allows a driver to simply pass the bottle to a passenger if he or she is stopped by a law enforcement officer. This costs Tennessee between $6 million and $12 million annually in lost federal highway funds.

Finally, we remind motorists to exercise extra caution when they drive through highway work zones like that at Exit 24 in Johnson City. Here’s some simple advice for drivers to follow whenever they encounter an orange cone or see a “Work Zone” sign by the roadside: Slow down and begin merging into the proper lane.

More than 1,100 Americans are killed annually in work zone accidents caused by drivers who speed or fail to yield the right of way.

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