$86.9 million in road projects approved

By Bob Robinson
STAR Staff

   Eight road projects, totaling $86.9 million, have been approved by the Metropolitan Planning Organization for Elizabethton and Carter County.
   The northern connector, Highway 91 and engineering for Gap Creek projects, all totaling more than $28.3 million, have been funded, according to state Rep. Ralph Cole of Elizabethton.
   "We hope to have funds included in next year's Tennessee Department of Transportation budget to purchase rights-of-way for the Gap Creek project," Rep. Cole said.
   Elizabethton City Manager Charles Stahl said he was appreciative of the hard work of Rep. Cole and the support of Gov. Don Sundquist and Tennessee DOT officials in making the projects a reality.
   "All residents of Elizabethton will benefit even though the projects are in various stages of development," according to Stahl, who also serves as vice chairman of the Metropolitan Planning Organization.
   The funded projects are:
   * State Route 91 Extension (northern connector), construct four or five lanes, 4.0 miles. Total project cost $19.6 million;
   * State Route 91 from State Route 37 (U.S. Highway19E) to West of Green Valley Road, widen to five lanes, 2.5 miles. Total project cost $8.7 million;
   * Engineering has been funded for State Route 362 (Gap Creek Road) from State Route 361 to State Route 67, reconstruct to 2/3 lane roadway, 5.8 miles. Total project cost $13 million.
   Projects which have been approved but not yet funded are:
   * Bridge over Watauga River and county road on State Route 400, bridge replacement, total cost $2.5 million;
   * Elizabethton Signalization and Traffic Management System upgrades, totaling $450,000;
   * Route 3938 West G Street widening Hudson Street to State Route 362, improve to three lanes, 1.65 miles. Total cost $3.1 million;
   * State Route 400 from Northern Connector to State Route 67 (Broad Street); Lynn Avenue from Broad Street (State Route 67) to G Street, improve to four or five lanes, .8 miles, $4.1 million; and,
   * U.S. Highway 321/Interstate 26 connector: From U.S. 321/19E near Industrial Drive to State Route 67 Freeway in Elizabethton, construct a four-lane freeway eligible for interstate designation, 4.8 miles, $35.4 million.
   "The eastern portion of U.S. 321 provides the poorest level of service of the region's routes; it is heavily congested within the Elizabethton City limits (Elk and Broad Streets) and is a narrow, mountainous two-lane highway between the State Route 67 intersection, east of Hampton, and Boone, N.C.," according to Metropolitan Planning Organization's long range transportation plan.
   The MPO, established by the federal government through the Tennessee Department of Transportation, is a regional clearinghouse of prioritization of road projects for urban communities with populations greater than 50,000, including Elizabethton, Johnson City and Kingsport.