Editorial: The pace of progress

Highway 66 work has been slow, frustrating, but the finished product will be great
Jun. 16, 2013 @ 06:08 PM

The pace of progress can seem painfully slow at times. In these days of short attention spans and a desire for quick solutions, it can be difficult to be inconvenienced for a long time even if the reason makes sense. Traffic on Highway 66 has been difficult a times over the last several years, as construction has affected the flow of cars.

It’s not going to be clear of road work anytime soon. Progress can come slowly. And not on the time schedule first announced. Construction is about 40 percent complete across Highway 66, with crews moving into the third and final phase of the project, the resident engineer says. The completion date for the current $32.5 million phase — which includes the new bridge over the river —  is scheduled for January 2015, a few months after the original completion date.

“Oct. 31, 2014 was the original date, but we had to push that back a little because we’ve had to make changes in the foundations on the northbound bridge,” said Jennifer Stone, resident engineer for the project. Phase III, from Boyds Creek Highway to Douglas Dam Road, involves widening the bridge over French Broad River.

“They have substantially completed northbound bridge widening and they are making preparations to continue progress on southbound bridge widening,” Stone said.

Two of the four piers have been constructed on the southbound side, and crews are waiting until utilities are moved to construct the other two piers. Stone said crews have relocated 57 percent of electric utilities, 45 percent of water utilities, 37 percent of sewer utilities and 66 percent of gas utilities. Grading and slope stabilization are also underway in sections, but weather has made work on the bridge difficult.

Meanwhile, motorists using 66 can expect short delays to allow for construction. Those headed to Sevierville and beyond should find the going easier. It’s those leaving, headed to the interstate, who may face the delays, Stone said.

The first two phases widened the highway from four lanes to six lanes. It has made a big difference in traffic flow and the speed at which visitors can reach their destination. Having to slow down the the middle phase is frustrating. But think of the finished product, when January 2015 rolls around and we can go from Interstate 40 to downtown Sevierville with three lanes of traffic to improve the ride. That’s progress.