The giant sinkhole has been repaired and the long-awaited connector from state Route 160 to Interstate 81 should be finished by summer, state officials said this week.

State Sen. Steve Southerland, R-Morristown, said Thursday he visited the road site this week and was pleased with the progress being made.

“There shouldn’t be any more delays,” he said.

The new state Route 66 has been in progress for six years and experienced a major delay two years ago when an enormous sinkhole opened up in the roadway. Once completed, the route will give four-lane access from Interstate 81 to U.S. Highway 11E.

The original start date to the project was May 2016 and the anticipated completion date was supposed to be fall of 2016. But, in the summer of 2016 was when the sinkhole opened up on the route.

The anticipated opening of the four-lane highway has already spurred economic development along U.S. Highway 11E and Merchants Greene. The city’s new community center and Public Works Department is also being built in the area and there is more anticipated growth expected to come.

“We have a lot of businesses waiting to locate to Merchants Greene,” Southerland said. “They’re just waiting on the completion of the road.”

Mark Nagi, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, confirmed that paving of the road should start in the spring. He said remediation of the surface slides has been finished and significant repairs were done between Nelson School Road and state Route 160.

He said so far the project has cost the state more than $54 million since construction began in 2013.

Southerland said during his visit he saw for himself that the sinkhole has been filled in and he’s confident that the road, which has seen more than a half dozen delays in the last two years will be finished promptly.

“It should be completely open by the summer,” Southerland said.