A future connector road from Interstate 81 to state Route 160 that has been plagued with problems has been delayed again, state officials said last week.
“The due date for this project is late spring 2020,” said Mark Nagi, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Nagi said last week that was due to heavy rains during the winter.
“The massive rains that we had in February have caused smaller slides that will require repair throughout the project, prior to the final surface being placed,” he said.
The new State Route 66 project has been plagued with problems and delays for years. Once completed, the road will run from Exit 4 off Interstate 81 to West Andrew Johnson Highway.
Two years ago, a massive sinkhole developed on the route the highway was supposed to take. That led to a number of delays as construction workers filled the sinkhole in and tried to stabilize the area.
The road will be four lanes except for in the White Pine area where the road will be five lanes.
Last year, parts of the new road in Jefferson County were opened to the public, as well as a new bridge that crosses over state Route 160.
The estimated cost of the project is $48.3 million, Nagi said. Last year, a TDOT official said he thought the cost of the project to the state would end up being an additional $5 million.
But Nagi said there have been no additional costs so far.
“At this time, we do not have estimate of any possible added costs for additional work beyond the original project scope,” Nagi said.
State Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, has been monitoring the project. He said Friday he had been alerted in February by TDOT about the flooding and he said three weeks ago he was updated about the delay.
“This should be the last delay on it,” he said.
Southerland said he was understanding about what has happened over the last year and a half with the project. He said he knows unexpected things can occur.
“You have to do it right, so you don’t have to go back and do it again,” he said.
But, he said once the road is opened, it will help bring an economic boon to the west side of the county, which is already happening with the anticipation of the road opening.
He noted how Merchant’s Greene and the surrounding area is already filing up with businesses.
“That’s going to be a windfall for sales tax money,” he said.