KINGSPORT — The Tennessee Department of Transportation pitched a new design for State Route 126 on Tuesday, a proposal that aims to improve the troublesome 8-mile stretch of highway without affecting East Lawn Cemetery or the historic Yancey’s Tavern.
The SR 126 project — more than a decade in the planning — calls for major safety and access improvements along an 8.4-mile stretch of Memorial Boulevard, from roughly East Center Street to Interstate 81. The initial recommendation for the road calls for four lanes from East Center to East Lawn Cemetery, three lanes to Harr Town Road and then two lanes with widened shoulders and improved curves to I-81.
Earlier this year, TDOT completed a draft environmental study for the project, which estimates the impact the widening project would have on homes, businesses, wildlife and waterways along the route, including the cemetery and Yancey’s Tavern. At that time, the study had two build options — one at $99.6 million affecting 162 homes, 30 businesses and 90 graves and the other at $120 million and impacting 241 homes, 43 businesses and 350 graves.