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Local legislators: Exit 17 project to be completed in the next 18 months

Zach Vance • Feb 6, 2018 at 10:49 PM

State legislators are promising the long-awaited Exit 17 project in Boones Creek will be completed over the next 18 months, although no dollars have actually been appropriated to the road improvement.

Rep. Matthew HIll, R-Jonesborough, Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, and Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, issued a press release Tuesday saying their constituents should begin seeing progress made on the long-awaited project in the growing northern part of Washington County.

“The Boones Creek community has grown tremendously in the past few years. With new industries making plans for the Boones Creek area and a new school being built, it is very important that we plan for this growth from a transportation perspective,” Crowe stated in the press release.

“I appreciate the help of the Department of Transportation and our governor as we move forward toward completion of this project hopefully sometime in the next year or so. This new interchange is greatly needed and I am pleased that the project is moving forward.”

Projected to cost $12.3 million, once the exit improvement is completed, drivers will surely notice a difference as transportation officials have committed to constructing a diverging diamond interchange at Exit 17, similar to the Interstate 40 Exit 407 interchange in Sevier County.

The first of its kind in Washington County, the diverging diamond at Exit 17 will temporarily shift traffic moving along Boones Creek Road to the left side while crossing underneath Interstate 26, allowing for direct left turns onto the entrance ramps without waiting at an additional red light.

Created by a graduate student in the early 2000s, the concept has become a growing trend among transportation departments in the United States. In addition to being more cost efficient, a study of the diverging diamond in Springfield, Missouri, showed a 60 percent reduction in collisions compared to the traditional design.

Tennessee Department of Transportation Project Manager Eric Wilson said engineering plans for the diverging diamond at Exit 17 are nearly finalized.

“Project Development staff is currently finalizing engineering plans to begin the utility coordination process,” Wilson said.

“With no right-of-way acquisition needed for the proposed improvements, this process is anticipated to take up to nine months. Once completed, the project can be let to construction, pending available funding. At this time, we anticipate construction activities to begin in early 2019.”

Wilson said bidding on the project could take between four to six weeks for the contract to actually be awarded. Once the contract is signed off by TDOT’s commissioner, chief engineer and legal department, construction will typically begin eight weeks after the contract is awarded, Wilson said.

That timeline is all dependent on Gov. Bill Haslam and TDOT Commissioner John Schroer awarding funds towards the Exit 17 construction this spring, when the annual three-year transportation improvement plan is released.

This project was just one of the 962 total road projects written into law after Gov. Bill Haslam’s IMPROVE Act was passed in 2017. The legislation increased the gas and diesel taxes to fund a backlog of transportation projects across the state while decreasing various other taxes, including the grocery tax.

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