Road projects make big strides

Vehicles drive along a recently widened East Simpson Road in Lenoir City.

Local drivers have likely noticed roadwork that is slowly but surely getting done.

Other than some touch-ups, the East Simpson Road widening is “essentially complete,” Amber Scott, Lenoir City administrator, said.

“They’ve got some thermoplastic work to do with the arrows and I think the thermo guys are coming in the next week or so, but yeah, they’re pretty much done there, too,” Scott said. “There’s a little small correction that needs to take place there just past the Habitat area — there’s a little hump — but ... they’ll repair that little area. It was just a hump in the asphalt.”

Both lanes opened to traffic flow Monday.

The $1.6 million project has taken years, but Scott believes the wait has been worth it.

Work included widening the road from 18 feet to 26 feet, adding a sidewalk opposite First Baptist Church in Lenoir City and fixing a hill coming from Shaw Ferry Road. The project was financed through an 80-20 split with Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Local Programs Surface Transportation Program.

Loudon County Road Superintendent Eddie Simpson, who also serves on Lenoir City Council, said he hopes to soon focus on widening the intersection onto Shaw Ferry Road a little more and adding a turn lane. Those improvements weren’t included in plans with the state.

“We’ll be redoing that entire intersection there and what we’re probably going to do immediately is to make it an easier turn to the right or left there,” Simpson said. “Kind of put a widened shoulder because a lot of people, especially when they take trucks through there, they can’t quite make that turn. The state had already calculated all of that and we have enough funding in it to be able to do that intersection, because eventually what I want to do is to make a turn lane there on Shaw Ferry where they can turn left to go down Simpson Road without blocking traffic.”

A start date is undetermined.

Work on the Old Highway 95-Town Creek Road intersection is also nearing completion. Scott said “loose ends” were being tied up.

“There’s potentially a guardrail that would take place along Kingston Street and they’re widening out the driveway there at the church,” Scott said. “All things considered, I would say it’s substantially complete. As you can tell, the sight distance is much, much better.”

Both lanes were open to traffic over the weekend.

Signalization begins, traffic light coming

Drivers on U.S. Highway 321 within months should notice a more smooth traffic flow after Stansell Electric Company makes signalization improvements to several traffic lights in Lenoir City.

Scott said Stansell began work Monday, which should take 9-12 months to complete. Improvements will involve Highway 11 from G Street to the intersection of Highways 321 and 11 and on Highway 321 to the Interstate 75 exchange.

“The short of it — just to simply improve upon the traffic congestion that we see on Highway 321 and Highway 11,” Scott said. “Improve and flow the movement of traffic, allow more interconnectivity between the signals and a smarter way of moving traffic through the town. Hopefully that will make people happier and moving about more expediently.”

Lenoir City Council approved the $1.3 million project in June.

Council approved in April a contract with TDOT to install a traffic light on Highway 321 at the intersection of Elm Hill and City Park drives. The city has since learned work could take until fall 2023.

“Of course, we’ve been staying on TDOT on why in the world it would take that long to install one intersection traffic signal,” Scott said. “They explained they have to go through an intense design process, an environmental process, and those things can take a year or greater. I even brought up the question of TDOT recently just went through and put a bridge in and widened that whole corridor, why couldn’t they build upon the environmental document that they had to do for that and their answer was that they just couldn’t do that, that it was expired and it’s a different type of project because it’s a traffic signal project and not a roadway project, it’s a different process, which I get it, but still. Two years is quite a while.”

County paving

Simpson hopes to soon pave about seven miles in the Martel area utilizing $1.3 million of state and federal funds through Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization.

“It goes all the way up Dunn Ridge and all the way to the end and then we paved the rest of it in-house just a month ago, so it’ll all be paved all the way to the lake,” Simpson said. “Then we’re also going to take a left there, take Martel, after you go under the underpass, all that goes all the way to the Knox County line. Then we go down the next road and do the same thing there. We’ll be doing that all way to the lake at Lakeland is where it’ll end.”

Simpson hopes to start soon before asphalt plants close for the season.

“If everything works out and we go to bid on it in the next two weeks, and that’s what we think’s going to happen, then we’re going to do our best to get it done before they close the plants,” he said. “Our goal is to try to get it done before fall gets real bad.”