ROGERSVILLE — Rep. Gary Hicks told the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board Thursday that land acquisition for the proposed Route 66 “super two-lane” upgrade could begin in a year, but it depends on the availability of funding.
Last month, the Tennessee Department of Transportation hosted a public meeting at Bulls Gap School to present its updated plans for the improvement project on Route 66 from the Highway 11-E intersection north about five miles to the Speedwell Road intersection.
The $32.4 million project will straighten that narrow, curvy section of road and add shoulders.
TDOT held a meeting to reveal its original plan in March 2017 at Bulls Gap School.
“A lot of folks weren’t happy with the way the road looked (in 2017),” Hicks told the IDB Thursday. “TDOT took those concerns, went back to the drawing board, so to speak, and really kind of redesigned the whole project. That’s what we did a couple of weeks ago, was get back together (with the public) so that everybody could see the new plans for the design.”
Hicks added, “I think everybody is going to be pleased with it. I think everybody is excited. Of course, now the question is, ‘When are you going to get started?’ We’re probably looking hopefully somewhere about a year out they’ll start purchasing land.”
Tennessee is a “pay as you go” state and doesn’t borrow money for highway projects.
“We’ve still got a little bit of a way to go, but when the Improve Act was passed, this particular project was in the Improve Act, so now it’s just a matter of waiting for funding to come available,” Hicks said. “It’s not if it’s going to be funded. It’s when the funding becomes available we will proceed, and I hope that’s going to be within a year.”
After land acquisition is completed, it will take about three years to finish the environmental and engineering aspect of the project, followed by the letting of bids.
Actual construction could be about five years in the future.
The Route 66 super two-lane upgrade has been high on the IDB’s priority list for 20 years due to the high level of commercial traffic on that road and the presence of Hawkins County’s biggest industrial employer, Barrette Industries, on the highway in Bulls Gap.