Slow progress on U.S. 321 project

Construction is still underway at the intersection of U.S. Highways 321 and 11. Recent updates include painted turn lanes, greenery and welcome signs.

Drivers traveling at the intersection of U.S. Highways 321 and 11 in Lenoir City have noticed recent updates and should see more additions later this month.

Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Nagi said the project is on time and should be fully completed by late spring or early summer.

The project includes improving the intersection with signage, greenery and sidewalks and widening two miles of road of U.S. 321 from U.S. Highway 11 to Simpson Road East.

“The contractor has completed paving and striping, and traffic has been placed in the final configuration,” Nagi said in an email correspondence. “The only remaining work on the widening section is placement of permanent signs. The contractor has been installing curb, sidewalk and landscaping on the northern side of the intersection. They have also installed two of the Lenoir City welcome signs.”

The next phase includes the addition of new utilities and storm drainage systems at the intersection.

“The contractor will mobilize equipment to begin installing storm drainage and utilities,” Nagi said. “This work will begin the week of Jan. 5, 2020, weather permitting. No lane closures were allowed from Dec. 20, 2019, to Jan. 2, 2020. Once utilities and drainage are in place, the contractor will begin grading operations for the widened lanes. Once grading is complete, the contractor will begin installation of curb, sidewalk and signal foundations. They hope to begin paving early spring, weather permitting.”

The project was originally scheduled for completion June 30 but was previously extended due to unforeseen delays, including a “sinkhole remediation and several utility conflicts with roadway features and the local water main,” Nagi said.

Another delay involved the relocation of AT&T fiber optic cables that crossed underneath U.S. 321, which required 255 days of reinstallation and testing. Nagi said that phase was completed Dec. 20.

“The (U.S.) 321 itself, they’re finishing up the lighting and finishing up with some signage,” Tony Aikens, Lenoir City mayor, said. “The fiber optic signalization, the state actually has the paperwork now and will be getting that approved, and people will start to see better traffic flow once the fiber optic signalization is installed. We think that will be early to the middle summer when that’s completed. That fiber optic signalization will be on 321 and Broadway, so you’re going to see better improvement once that’s installed, and, of course, the intersection will be completed by then.”

Aikens admits the process has been long and frustrating for drivers, but he believes the project will be well worth it in the end.

“Anytime they complete one phase of it, and they’re beginning to put up landscaping and it’s going to be nice when it’s completed ... and look, I know it’s been very painful to people,” he said. “I go through there a dozen times a day myself, but once it’s completed and people are just a little more patient and once the finishing touches are done and everything’s completed, they’re going to be very satisfied with it. People, I think, are really going to be impressed with it once it’s completed.”