Summers-Taylor awarded Exit 17 reconfiguration contract

Zach Vance • Apr 25, 2019 at 7:51 PM

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has awarded the long-awaited Interstate 26 Exit 17 “diverging diamond” project to Elizabethton-based Summers-Taylor Inc.

Summers-Taylor submitted a winning bid of $15,268,841 during TDOT’s March 29 bid letting to complete the project, which has to be completed on or before Sept. 30, 2020. 

Only one other company, Jones Bros. Contractors, LLC, submitted a bid on the project, but its offer was roughly $1 million higher than Summers-Taylor’s.  

“We will know more information about the exact construction timeline once the pre-construction meeting is held. This will likely be held late May (or) early June,” TDOT communications officer Mark Nagi said. 

Once construction is underway, Nagi said the main impact on traffic will be various lane shifts on Boones Creek Road, otherwise known as Tenn. Highway 354, as Summers-Taylor phases in construction.

“There may need to be temporary lane closures, but these will likely take place during non-peak hours,” Nagi said. “All of the construction is taking place within existing right of way, so the impacts will be on the highway and some impacts to the on- and off-ramps of the interstate.”

The contract awarded to Summers-Taylor calls for the grading, drainage and paving of the Exit 17 interchange, as well as the construction of a concrete box bridge and retaining walls. The bridge over Tenn. 354 and Boones Creek will also have to be repaired. 

The project length is estimated at 0.634 miles, but once finished, Boones Creek Road will look vastly different. 

In February 2018, transportation officials confirmed Exit 17 will be made into a diverging diamond, 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 I-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.

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