State Route 66 opening delayed a month

A highway that has been plagued with delays for years is facing another delay and will have to wait another month until it is completely open to traffic, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation said.

Mark Nagi, TDOT spokesman, said Monday that state Route 66 should be open by the end of November or the start of December.

“We do not have an exact date currently,” he said. “We are working with the contractor to provide an exact date the roadway will be open as we get closer to completing this project.”

There is a 1.6 mile stretch of roadway left to be completed and once finished the new highway will connect West Andrew Johnson Highway to Interstate 81, providing a four-lane thoroughfare to the western part of Hamblen County and Morristown.

Four-lanes of the road were recently opened in Jefferson County and Merchants Greene Boulevard was paved from West Andrew Johnson Highway to the bridge over state Route 160.

Nagi said concrete work is being finished and after that the contractor will begin paving from Nelson School Road to the School Connector Road.

A guardrail will also need to be installed in the area, he said.

TDOT officials had said months ago that the project would be finished by the end of October. The road has been beset with issues and originally was supposed to open two years ago. But, during that time, a large sinkhole opened in the path of the roadway and delayed the project as contractors worked to fill the hole and stabilize it.

Morristown Mayor Gary Chesney said he goes to Wuthering Heights at an overlook every Friday to observe the work being conducted.

He said it was disappointing to hear that the project would be pushed back another month.

“They’ve been pushing it back for quite a while,” he said.

But, he said he thinks the end is drawing near.

“I think we can see the light at the end of the tunnel is getting lighter,” he said.

Marshal Ramsey, president of the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce, said he is disappointed to hear another delay as well. He said he hopes the road will open soon to help with industrial and commercial growth in the area.

Since the project was first proposed years ago, there has been exponential growth along West Andrew Johnson Highway in the area of the connector road. There has been a boon of retail stores and restaurants that have sprung up in the area.

“We’re sad to see another delay,” he said.

He said he also thinks the delays point to a discrepancy between rural and urban communities.

“If this was a larger community, this would have been done a lot quicker,” he said.