IMPROVE Act paves way for 2 projects on Alcoa Highway

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Alcoa Highway has long been known as one of the most dangerous roadways in the state. Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said additional funding from the IMPROVE Acts are going to allow two projects on Alcoa Highway to move forward in 2018.

TDOT estimates 51,560 vehicles travel along Alcoa Highway everyday and that number of drivers is expected to jump up by 49 percent by 2040. Gov. Haslam says when lawmakers were crafting the IMPROVE Act, the Alcoa Highway project was one of the big ones that stood out.

“We like it that the people who use our roads, pay for them. So whether it’s a truck driver from California or a family from Kentucky or somebody who lives here, you pay for your fair share of the roads. We like that principle rather than borrowing money or having it all be paid by Tennesseans,” added Gov. Haslam.

The Health Factory opened four years ago and traffic has been bad every day. Coaches at CrossFit Rhema say it was a concern at first.

“We tried to route our athletes and patients out one side of our parking lot, so they’re not accessing both ends and that’s worked to some degree,” said Dusty Holden.

One project is located in Knox County and will improve the 2.5 mile section of Alcoa Highway from north of Topside Road to north of Maloney Road. The 1.4 mile section of Alcoa Highway from Maloney Road to Woodson Drive has been under construction since spring 2016, and is expected to be complete in November 2019.

Previous story: Alcoa Highway widening among road projects funded by gas tax increase

The other project is located in Blount County and will improve a half mile section of Alcoa Highway from SR 35 (Hall Road) to the proposed interchange at Tyson Boulevard. TDOT said the two projects are estimated to cost nearly $75 million.

“Well there are just so many cuts on this road. people can go in and out, cross over and there’s too much traffic for that to happen. So we’re going to make it have a lot less access, we’re going to have some fly-overs at intersections and other things that’ll make a difference,” said TDOT Transportation Commissioner John Schroer.

“Making improvements to an entire corridor like Alcoa Highway is a big and expensive undertaking, but one that is crucial to improve safety and reduce congestion,” Haslam said. “The IMPROVE Act has literally cut the time it would take to complete these projects in half.”

“It’s long overdue, way overdue. They should’ve done something about this highway a long time ago,” said Tonie McClure of Louisville.

McClure got into a wreck at Singleton Station in 1986 before it was rerouted. “I spent seven days in the hospital with it,” she said, adding that she always worries about another accident.

There’s a sense of relief for those who work, live and drive on this busy highway that change will happen soon.

“We know that work is being done and it’s a huge project and it’s just going to take time,” said Holden.

Gove. Haslam signed the IMPROVE Act into law in April. The law brings the state of Tennessee’s first gas tax hike since the 1980s. On July 1, the gas tax increased to 20 cents per gallon. It will rise to 25 cents per gallon in 2018 and 26 cents in 2019. The IMPROVE Act is expected to raise around $150 million for infrastructure needs in fiscal year 2018.

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