Information from WYSH Radio
Following up on a story we first brought you last year, the state is still in the planning stages of making safety improvements to an 11-mile stretch of Highway 116 in Anderson County from Frost Bottom to the Campbell County line.
A safety audit conducted in 2012 by state and local officials showed that in some spots, lanes are too narrow, in others there are no guardrails, and in still other areas, the shoulder is actually less than a foot wide. Slope stability issues were also blamed for some cracking and uneven settling of the pavement. Some spots that have been resurfaced do not have pavement markings and in other areas, rock outcroppings and other hazards are “too close to the roadway for comfort.”
The Tennessee Department of Transportation has recommended paving the entire stretch of Highway 116, widening the shoulders in some places, and adding guardrails, pavement markings, and signage to the roadway as part of the effort to make the road safer. TDOT says that it will also reduce the speed limit on that sometimes-dangerous stretch of road to 35 miles per hour.
The project was delayed late last year to add additional guidance and clarification to the construction plans, which officials said improves the contractor’s ability to install the appropriate safety countermeasures.
County Commissioner Tim Isbel, who played a large role in setting up the safety audit, has heard from Tennessee Rep. John Ragan that TDOT has spent money on some facets of the project that can be taken care of quickly and are waiting on bigger-ticket items to go through the budget process. State law prohibits TDOT from borrowing money, and officials said they have requested federal funding to help make the roadway safer.
Last month, an emergency project to correct problems discovered in February was undertaken. TDOT officials said that engineering firm Geotech was called to investigate a site on SR 116 in Anderson County at log mile 3.8 that was affected by a moving slope that caused approximately 140 feet of the northbound lane to subside with cracks extending into the southbound lane. After reviewing the problem, officials decided that the best way to proceed was to remove the top two to three feet of asphalt and surface material, and replace it with stone and crusher run, which officials say gives motorists a solid surface to travel on but also will be less expensive to repair if the slide that caused the cracking continued.
Without removing the buttress and rebuilding it, the slope is expected to continue to move. At least three layers of asphalt were removed along with soil to a total depth of approximately 30 inches. A one-foot stone base was laid and rolled. Then, crusher run was added and rolled in layers until it was back up to grade.
The recommended plan would have been to have traffic run on this surface and allow for further movement of the slope and easy repairs, but officials decided they would rather pave it for the safety of motorcyclists who routinely ride that stretch of Highway 116. The work was completed in late March, and TDOT said the area appears to be much more stable.
We have reached out to TDOT officials, and when we hear from them, we will pass along any new information about the much-anticipated project.
Information in this story brought to you through an agreement between Oak Ridge Today and WYSH. See more local news headlines on the WYSH website at http://www.wyshradio.com/local_news.html.