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Gray exit isn’t only interstate problem that needs work

Staff Report • Jul 13, 2012 at 8:28 AM

State Transportation Commissioner John Schroer announced plans Monday to make major improvements to Exit 13 of Interstate 26 in Gray. Construction on the $12.3 million project, which has been in the planning stages since 2010, is expected to begin next summer.

The work is expected to take two years to complete.

As Press Assistant News Editor Rex Barber reported in Tuesday’s paper, state officials say the project will improve safety at the interchange, which has seen a dramatic increase in daily traffic — with even more vehicles expected to travel the area in the coming years.

We are pleased to see the state addressing this pressing need. We hope they will also look to address other serious safety and growth issues along the I-26 corridor between Johnson City and Kingsport.

One such project should be the reconstruction of the Interstate 81 and Interstate 26 interchange. The current configuration of the interchange is blamed for the high number of truck accidents that seem to occur daily at the intersection of the two interstates. These accidents often create monstrous traffic jams between Johnson City and Kingsport.

Another proposed project that has been at the top of Johnson City’s wish list for far too long is widening I-26 in the city. Time and time again, city leaders have asked the state to consider adding as many as four new lanes in some sections of the interstate.

A majority of the funding for this project — which is estimated to cost as much as $200 million — could come from federal dollars the state receives for interstate and bridge maintenance.

The state should also include a new interchange for downtown and State of Franklin Road as part of the widening project. We hope the state will listen to the city’s pleas for a less-confusing interchange in the downtown area.

It’s often been a struggle in the past to convince the Tennessee Department of Transportation that there are interstates east of Knoxville that are in need of improvements.

Work on the Gray exit is a good start in addressing those needs, but much more is needed.

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