Construction on the intersection of U.S. Highways 321 and 11 in Lenoir City is nearing completion as workers put final touches on a project that has taken years.
Mark Nagi, Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman, said contractor J&M Grading Division LLC plans to have “all the major items” finished by the first week of June. The final layer of asphalt was finished last week.
“Once the topping is complete, a crew will be on site to grind the concrete paving for smoothness,” Nagi said in an email correspondence. “(This) week they will be placing final striping and stamping the textured crosswalks.”
Alan Hull, TDOT operations district supervisor, expects a final walk-through soon.
“Once they finish up major items, the signals, the striping, paving, all of that, which we’re expecting it into June, we’ll do a walk-through and it’s just picking up little punch list items,” Hull said. “We call it a punch list — it’s just any small things that you could come back and fix. It’s not necessarily a pay item but it’s just any cleanup or any we’ve got all these control measures out here.
“... We’ll put together a list that says, ‘Before you guys are out of here, you need to clean up these items’,” he added. “So you’ll see them a couple weeks after, a couple weeks into June probably, just picking up on the side roads, picking up barrels, cleaning up, doing some little touch-up stuff.”
The project included signage, greenery and sidewalks and widening two miles of U.S. 321 from U.S. Highway 11 to Simpson Road East.
Work began in October 2017. The project was originally projected to be complete by June 2019.
“We are so excited to see this completed to help with more efficient traffic flow, to help access our businesses and to improve the safety of our highway and our intersection,” Amber Scott, Lenoir City administrator, said. “Also, it’s going to add a lot of beauty, a lot of aesthetics to that particular area. I’m sure you’ve seen our marker signs down there, they turned out wonderfully, more than we could have imagined. So I believe this will be really good for Lenoir City and for the county.”
Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens said he knows motorists are more than ready.
“Obviously, it’s near completion and certainly I along with anybody else has had to deal with the traffic issues through there for the last two-plus years is certainly glad it’s over with,” Aikens said. “I can tell you I’ve had a lot of comments in the last couple weeks of how great it looks and such a big improvement and we’re certainly glad it’s near completion.”
Lenoir City officials will now shift focus to improved signalization of traffic lights on U.S. 321 from the intersection to the Interstate 75 interchange and on U.S. 11 from the intersection to G Street downtown.
“Right now the (National Environmental Policy Act) document for the signalization project is being evaluated and I understand that it’s in the queue with TDOT for review right now with that office, and with people working from home, there is a delay, so I’ve been told,” Scott said. “I check with them once a week, but once that’s done we’ll get the notice to proceed with construction and we’ll be able to bid the job. So I would say this summer we’ll be bidding the job.”
Scott said the project would be financed by a $1.6 million grant. Funding was initially $1.3 million, but the state added $300,000 for Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades.
Aikens hopes to have the project done within 180 days.
“Obviously, it’s just like with (Highways) 321 and 11, any time you’re dealing with federal and state funds the Is have to be dotted and the Ts crossed,” Aikens said. “So it’s just a slow process but we hope to get it underway and ... traffic will move better. I guess I get as many complaints about the traffic signals, ‘Why don’t you do something about it?’ Well, we’ve spent thousands of dollars. The problem is it’s a very dated system and we’ll have them synchronized and in a week or two they’ll be back out of cycle, so it’s just a very dated system. ... We understand the issues and we’re doing something about it, it’s just people have to be patient.”