Erwin Linear Trail tunnel coming into view

Sue Guinn Legg • Mar 4, 2018 at 4:41 PM

After more than seven years of planning, work to connect Erwin's Linear Trail to Fishery Park via a tunnel beneath Harris Hollow Road is finally underway.

Work crews began clearing trees and brush from the approach to Harris Hollow Road at the Old Fishery Road linear trail crossing last week and expect to be ready to begin moving dirt in before the end of March.

To expedite the construction, Harris Hollow Road will be closed just east of Interstate 26 at Exit 36, beginning in the first or second week of April, depending on the weather, and continuing for about four weeks.

During the road closure, Harris Hollow traffic will be detoured along Zane Whitson Drive to North Main Avenue.

While Exit 36 will remain open, flashing signs will be installed to direct westbound interstate traffic to the Tinker Road Exit at Unicoi and eastbound interstate travelers to Exit 37 at Second Street/Tenn. Highway 107 near downtown.

On Friday, a path had been cleared to the Harris Hollow Road embankment at Old Fishery Road where an orange stake marked the spot where the prefabricated concrete tunnel will be set in by crane.

When complete, the tunnel will include interior lighting and an imprinted stone finish. The project will extend the trail about 1,000 feet from the Old Fishery Road trail crossing south of Harris Hollow Road to Fishery Park on Zane Whitson Drive.

The $1.1 million project is being funded through $885,000 in state grant funding and 20 percent grant match funding and nearly $29,000 in engineering fees paid by the town.

The target date for the tunnel opening is July. Summers-Taylor Construction is the project contractor and Tysinger Hampton & Partners is the architect.

In December, the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to temporarily close Haris Hollow Road to expedite the construction and avoid single lane road closures on Harris Hollow that were expected to result in traffic backups from mid-April through the end of July.

In addition to time, the road closing will also save the town an estimated $45,000 in construction cost.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.