TDOT solicits input for Interstate 26 study during public meeting

Zach Vance • May 9, 2019 at 8:26 PM

Information gathered during a Tennessee Department of Transportation public meeting Thursday could steer Interstate 26 projects and improvements for the next two decades.

But those who missed the meeting at Memorial Park Community Center still have a chance to submit their feedback through an online survey.

The meeting is part of an 18-month Interstate 55, 75 and 26 Multimodal Corridor Study, the first comprehensive, long-range study TDOT has conducted on Interstate 26 since it became an interstate.

“Interstate 26 has never been looked at like this on a comprehensive (level) functioning as an interstate,” Troy Ebbert, Region 1 planning supervisor for TDOT, said.

“This is really a big deal on what we’re doing. Because the improvements we’re going to make on interstate corridors over the next 15 to 20 years are going to be based on this survey, and this information that we’re gathering over the next several months. This is huge.”

Ken Taggert, who lives just off Highway 36 near Gray, attended the meeting to discuss the large amount of traffic diverted from Interstate 26 to Highway 36 when a wreck occurs between the Boones Creek and Gray exits.

While attempting to pull out of his driveway onto Highway 36 to come to Johnson City on Thursday, Taggart said he had to wait on exactly 30 cars to pass.

“Every time there is an accident on (Interstate) 26 or 81, guess where it goes to? Highway 36,” Taggart, who recommended Highway 36 be widened by two lanes, said.

“That needs to be finished. Also the new (Sullivan County) school is going up there. Now the kids south of (Interstate) 81, guess what road they’re going to use.”

Senior Transportation Planner Matt Meservy of AECOM, the company TDOT contracted to assist with the study, gave a brief presentation about the data compiled since the study began in October.

“What corridor planning does is it tries to forecast population employment, look for deficiencies both now and into the future and tries to find ways to fix those problems before they actually become problems,” Meservy said during his presentation.

Using federal and state data from the past five years, Meservy and his team found that crash rates along 40 percent of the Intestate 26 corridor were significantly above the statewide average.

The stretch of interstate through Unicoi County, Flag Pond and up to Sams Gap accounted for most of the significantly above average crash rates, while that area also had the longest stretch of free flow traffic when looking at traffic volume and interstate capacity.

The study will wrap up in March 2020 and a list of project priorities will be developed based on a screening process.

While an interactive map allowing citizens to submit feedback is currently being developed, users of Interstate 26 are encouraged to fill out an online survey by visiting: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QZHRQJ7.

For additional information about the study, contact Joan Barnfield via email at [email protected] or by phone at 615-253-2418.

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