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Improvements made to Interstate 26 interchange

Robert Houk • Updated Feb 11, 2018 at 12:03 AM

While work continues near the University Parkway interchange — Exit 24 — of Interstate 26, Johnson City officials say the improvements are already yielding valuable dividends.

City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said last week the project has helped improve traffic flow around the busy interchange. He said the work has also reduced rush hour traffic backing up on the interstate from Exit 24, which has improved safety in the area.

“We’re already seeing a drop in the number of accidents as a result of the work,” he said.

Crews from Elizabethton-based Summers-Taylor Inc. are currently working to connect the on-ramp from Exit 23 — Main Street — eastbound on I-26 to the Exit 24 off-ramp at University Parkway. They are now building retaining walls and will soon begin concrete paving to connect the two exits.

New lighting and overhead signage will also be installed. The $3.2 million project is expected to be completed by the end of May.

Officials with the state Department of Transportation say this project will also connect the Exit 24 off-ramp to the on-ramp for Milligan Highway/ Legion Street on Tenn. Highway 67. Modifications have already been been made to the I-26 westbound off-ramp to Tenn. Highway 67, and a new traffic signal has been installed.

Johnson City Police Lt. Becky West said her department has seen a noticeable reduction in the number of accidents at Exit 24 since work to improve the University Parkway and Tenn. Highway 67 off-ramps was completed more than a month ago.

“People are better able to watch the traffic instead of the construction crews,” she said. “Most of the accidents we’ve seen there are from people following too closely.”

Meanwhile, Pindzola said city officials have asked TDOT to look into adding another left-turn lane to the westbound on-ramp at University Parkway. He said the current configuration lacks sufficient storage to handle rush hour traffic.

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