Readers can find a list of projects taking place in the surrounding counties at the end of this article.
DECATUR, Tenn. — Preliminary engineering for some long-awaited transportation projects in Southeast Tennessee — including a major widening of Interstate 75 — have been funded for the next three years through the state's IMPROVE Act.
Gov. Bill Haslam's IMPROVE Act, signed into law in April, funds early work on at least one additional lane in each direction on I-75 from north of Ooltewah to exit 20 in Bradley County, and around exit 33 north about two miles to the McMinn County line at the Hiwassee River.
Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said the improvements are part of the agency's three-year plan for 2018-2020, which includes about 100 projects across the state.
Preliminary engineering "get the projects through the planning document and the environmental phase," Flynn said. Details are limited on most projects this early in the process.
"Up to 30 percent of the design can also be done under preliminary engineering," Flynn said. Each phase of the projects is funded separately.
In Bradley County, the five- to six-mile stretch of I-75 between exits 20 and 25 isn't on the widening list "because both of the other sections of I-75 are considered to be needed more than the area between exit 20 and the Cleveland Urban Boundary," she said.
The longest regional road-widening project in Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties — preliminary engineering for widening more than 17 miles of State Route 28 between Dunlap and Pikeville.
"It will likely be an improved two-lane road with turn lanes where applicable," Flynn said. Details will be determined during the planning process, she said.
Bradley has most of the remaining projects on the list for preliminary engineering, too. One is a start on widening U.S. Highway 11 between Anatole Lane and Lauderdale Memorial Highway around the southern city limits of Charleston, in 2018.
Preliminary planning also was funded for widening State Route 60 in Bradley, Hamilton and Meigs counties between State Route 306 west and U.S. Highway 58. Construction is funded for 2019 for widening work on State Route 60 eastward between State Route 306 and I-75, Flynn said.
Marion and Rhea counties also have preliminary engineering projects on the list.
Planning is funded for 2018 to design the widening of U.S. Highway 64/72 from Kimball to Jasper, and in Rhea, preliminary engineering is funded for widening State Route 30 between Dayton and the Tennessee River.
An improvement project in McMinn is funded for preliminary engineering in 2018 to modify the interchanges on I-75 at exit 49 for State Route 30 and at exit 52 at State Route 305, officials said.
The IMPROVE Act also identified 526 locally owned bridges, though none have been added to TDOT's three-year plan yet, Flynn said. Bridge projects include a unique case in Meigs County where the state will build a new bridge over Big Sewee Creek north of Decatur while leaving a recently restored, 133-year-old steel truss and wooden plank span in place.
It'll become a pedestrian bridge when the replacement is built, Flynn said. Another small highway bridge in Decatur also is among Meigs' bridge projects.
"The schedule for bridge projects on local roads has not been finalized," Flynn said. "A delivery schedule should be complete in the near future."
There are also IMPROVE Act bridge projects outside Hamilton County in Bledsoe, Bradley, Grundy, Marion, Polk and Rhea counties, documents show.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569.
List of Projects
› Preliminary engineering for widening 8.8 miles of I-75 from exit 11 to exit 20. Includes a significant amount of work in Hamilton County.
› Preliminary engineering for widening 4.4 miles U.S. Highway 11 from Anatole Lane to State Route 308.
› Construction for the widening of 3.2 miles of State Route 60 from I-75 to State Route 306.
› Preliminary engineering for widening 6.3 miles of State Route 60 from State Route 306 to U.S. Highway 58. Includes work in Meigs and Hamilton counties.
› Preliminary engineering for widening I-75 from exit 33 to the McMinn County line.
› Interchange improvements on I-75 at exits 49 and 50
› Preliminary engineering for widening of U.S. Highway 64/72 between Kimball and Jasper
› Preliminary engineering for widening State Route 30 from Dayton to the Tennessee River
Sequatchie and Bledsoe
› Preliminary engineering for widening 17 miles of State Route 28 from Dunlap to Pikeville
Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation
The Henley Mill Bridge
The Henley Mill Bridge — also known as the King’s Mill Bridge — was built in 1884 across Big Sewee Creek a few miles north of Decatur, Tenn., closed in 2014 for structural deficiencies and now is on TDOT’s list for replacement.
But rather than tear the bridge down, TDOT will build a new bridge nearby, spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said.
Meigs County officials restored the single-lane, wooden plank and steel truss bridge in 2015 and want to preserve it.
“According to our bridge manager, the county wants to build the new bridge adjacent to the old bridge and keep the old bridge for pedestrians,” Flynn said.
In the restoration effort, the old bridge’s wooden deck was replaced, new railing was added and new cables were put on the vertical hangars, officials said. Still, nothing larger than a car should cross the bridge, Flynn said.
The county will be responsible for maintaining both bridges.