New road projects begin

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   With two major highway projects nearing conclusion, state transportation officials are focusing their attention on the Elizabethton Connector and a major redo of the north Lynn Avenue area.
   The Tennessee Department of Transportation expects construction crews to complete the $11.5-million widening of State Route 91 later this month. Built by Baker Construction Company of Bluff City, the project extends 4.9 miles from Maury Price Road to Panhandle Road. The U.S. Highway 91 expansion provides a four-lane highway through the Hunter community of Stoney Creek.
   The highway project has been almost five years in the making. With funding approval granted in 1998, the project bid was awarded in October 1999.
   Coinciding with that long-awaited project is the widening of Green Valley Road from State Route 37/U.S. Highway 19E. TDOT awarded the contract to Summers-Taylor, Inc. in February 2002 after the company submitted a $7 million bid.
   Road improvements to State Route 37 near the Valley Forge area are expected to be completed in October. Commuters traveling from Elizabethton to Johnson City have met highway crews resurfacing the four-lane State Route 67 from Roan Street in Johnson City to the Milligan Highway. The paving project covers four miles between the two cities and should be completed by September, according to TDOT.
   Summers-Taylor won bids for the road work along State Route 37 in Valley Forge (bid price $958,000) and the Highway 67 resurfacing ($838,000). Both projects were awarded in March.
   While several transportation-related projects in the county are nearing completion, others are just getting started.
   The north section of Lynn Avenue in Elizabethton will undergo a series of roadway upgrades in preparation for the Elizabethton Connector project. Engineering work is underway to replace the "old Bristol Bridge" linking Lynn Avenue to the Bristol Highway. The bridge will accommodate future traffic flow generated from the connector.
   TDOT reports engineering is also ongoing to widen a portion of Lynn Avenue from Mill Street to Broad Street and reconstruct a quarter-mile portion of Lynn Avenue from Broad to East Elk Avenue. Engineering work has also begun to replace a bridge on Wilbur Dam Road that extends over the Watauga River.
   Engineering has begun for the expansion of Gap Creek Road. That project would widen the winding two-lane highway from West G Street to Dry Creek Road. Motorists frequently use Gap Creek Road as a bypass from the county's west end to the east end of Hampton where the road intersects with U.S. Highway 19E.