Tenn. 75 work almost done, work on Tenn. 36 continues (Dave Boyd/ Johnson City Press)
Two major state road projects in Washington and Sullivan counties costing an estimated $68 million are rolling along, with the link from Gray to the Tri-Cities Regional Airport set for completion in August.
This project is aimed at making travel to and from the airport a lot easier, as well alleviating traffic congestion and laying the literal groundwork for future growth and development.
Originally scheduled for completion near the end of this month, this project is about 97 percent complete, Mark Nagi, Tennessee Department of Transportation Region 1 community relations director, said Thursday.
The adjusted completion date is now near the end of August.
Since the airport first opened in 1937, the main access point has been Bobby Hicks Highway. It just so happens that route, Tenn. Highway 75, is undergoing a more than $26 million renovation that will widen the road to five lanes and ease vehicle congestion to and from the airport.
Work began in April 2011 to widen Tenn. 75 in Washington and Sullivan counties from two lanes to five lanes from Tenn. Highway 36 to Tenn. Highway 357. Elizabethton’s Summers-Taylor was awarded a $26.3 million contract for the job.
This, and another major road construction project that will widen a stretch or roadway from Tenn. 36 to Tenn. 75, have been slightly delayed because of recent rains, but workers are pressing on, Nagi said.
“During grading projects the weather does hinder the earthwork operations in some aspect,” he said. “However, we do not use weather as a means of extending project time. The contractor on both of these projects has worked on other aspects of the project when they have not been able to work grading operations. Crews on both projects have been working on utility relocations during these times.”
Nagi said crews on the Tenn. 75 project are working on some of the final tie-overs on the communications lines, and the job should wrap up soon.
This was the only route until Interstate 81 was put in 1972. Shortly thereafter, Tenn. 357 was constructed, tying into I-81 and running southeast in a straight line directly to the airport.
The project begins at the Tenn. 36 and Tenn. 75 intersection and will be known as Airport Parkway. The five-lane thoroughfare has been fitted with relocated underground utilities, a center lane and 10-foot-wide shoulders. Summers-Taylor also has tied this project in to the completed bridge project over the Holston River.
Grading and excavating from Herron Drive to Hamilton Road nearer the airport created big cuts on the left and right sides of the center line. Work in this area includes the installation of new curb and gutter and storm sewer, as well as two retaining walls.
New construction will end at the intersection of Tenn. 75 and Tenn. 357 located at the airport’s entrance, where it will be connected to a short stretch of existing four-lane road just south of the airport.
Work also is under way to widen Tenn. 36 from Boones Creek Road to Tenn. 75 — a shortcut, and an alternate route for passengers coming mostly from the southeastern portion of Kingsport. Tenn. 36 also is know as North Roan Street, and the Kingsport Highway.
This project is roughly 22 percent complete. The expected completion date for this project was September 2014, but that has been pushed back to mid-December 2014, Nagi said. Once done, the road will be five lanes with a curb and gutter. Work began in late January 2011. It is expected to cost about $41.9 million.
Completion of this project will allow more cars to get through the area when there are incidents on I-26. If that happens, traffic will be moved over from Boones Creek Road or from the Gray exit onto Tenn. 36 to bypass potential traffic jams.
Nagi said crews currently are working on power, sewer, water and communications relocations.