ROGERSVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Transportation has scheduled right-of-way acquisition for Hawkins County’s long-awaited Route 66-S “super two-lane” improvement for 2022.
That was good news for the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board Tuesday, although some members could be seen rolling their eyes upon hearing the news.
That project has been a priority for the IDB for about 20 years and has been promised by a couple of administrations, only to be moved to the back burner each time.
Gov. Haslam’s administration had taken the project further than any of his predecessors, having completed plans for the project and held two public hearings in Bulls Gap in 2017 and 2018 to present those plans.
And now the project has been listed in TDOT’s three year plan released April 18, and it is scheduled for right-of-way funding in 2022 by the IMPROVE Act — as was pointed out by Calvin Clifton from Mattern and Craig Engineering Service during Tuesday’s IDB meeting.
“Design work is proceeding, environmental is proceeding, and the next step would the right-of-way acquisition, so it is slated for funding,” Clifton told the board. “It is still sometime down the road, but at least we’re on the schedule and it is moving forward, as is 11-E from the Bulls Gap Exit 23 (on I-81) back towards Morristown.”
After land acquisition is completed, it will take about three years to finish the environmental and engineering aspect of the project, followed by the letting of bids.
Actual construction could be about five years in the future, and the overall cost is projected at $32.4 million.
The Route 66-S “super two-lane” upgrade would take place from the Speedwell Road intersection south to Bulls Gap at the 11-E intersection.
That narrow, curvy section of highway has been high on the IDB’s priority list for 20 years due to the high level of commercial traffic on that road and the presence of Hawkins County’s biggest industrial employer, Barrette Industries, on the highway in Bulls Gap.
More transportation issues for Barrette
IDB Chairman Larry Elkins told the board Tuesday that Barrette has asked for assistance in acquiring access to the Norfolk Southern Railroad for transporting its goods.
“We’ve been working with our state representative and congressional office about trying to help them out,” Elkins said. “Barrette, as you may or may not know, is the largest employer in Hawkins County. They’ve had issues with transportation going and coming. Their product all comes in by rail, and they’d like for some of it to go out by rail. After we encouraged them to build two railroad spurs over there so that could happen, they still are not able to ship by rail because of the size of the train cars the Norfolk Southern supplies them.”
Elkins added, “We’ve got a real issue over there. We’re trying to work with them and the railroad and put some pressure to bear on them (NSR) to work with them (Barrette).”