Staff photo by Tim Barber/ GSI construction employee's perform soil nailing with a track hoe and drill beneath the roadbed in the stretch of U.S. Highway 41 in Marion County. "Soil nailing uses hollow rods filled with grout to stabilize the ground," James Pietrzycki said.

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Highway 41 stabilization project


Of the two state road projects in Marion County, Tennessee's Guild community, one is ahead of schedule and wrapping up a month before its completion date, while the other's completion date has become a big question mark.

The contractor on the $17.4 million slope stabilization project on U.S. Highway 41 on the north slope of Aetna Mountain is still working on the mile-long project, where the work area has completely changed the landscape as Dement Construction Co. crews work at four separate slide sites along the route. Problems began in December 2018, repairs started in January and the bids were opened in May.

"The contractor is working on excavation, soil nail installation, 'shotcrete,' horizontal drain installation and soil nail grouting at three of the four sites," Flynn said. Inside the project area "the roadway is reduced to one lane with temporary traffic signals controlling the one lane traffic."

Although most traffic on that segment of highway usually is local motorists, it is an important route when needed as a detour for incidents on Interstate 24, Flynn said.

"TDOT has been dealing with slope stabilization issues on this route for years. We are pleased that this project will alleviate those issues in the future, making the route easier for our crews to maintain," she said.


U.S. 41 slope stabilization project

Contractor: Dement Construction Co. LLC

Current Project Cost: $17,383,253.95

Completion Date: Nov. 30, 2019 (this is being revised)

SR-156 bridge rehabilitation project over Running Water Creek

Contractor: Mid-State Construction Co. Inc.

Project Cost: $2,292,734.34

Completion Date: Oct. 15, 2019

Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation

Meanwhile, motorists should use caution and expect delays when traveling through the construction zone.

The new bridge at State Route 156 over Running Water Creek at Lake Nickajack, on the other hand, was reopened Wednesday as the contractor, Mid-State Construction Co., continues work on the final details of the almost-$2.3 million bridge replacement project, according to Flynn. Its original completion date was in October.

"The bridge should be striped and the traffic light will be turned off today and two-way traffic will be restored. The project will be completed one month ahead of schedule," Flynn said.

The two projects "are important to Marion County and to the regional transportation network," reads a statement from TDOT Region 2 Director Joe Deering.

"The SR156 project was made possible by the IMPROVE Act," Deering said. "The U.S. 41 slide project was a result of the historic amount of rainfall in late 2018/early 2019 that caused over $130-million in damages to the state transportation network. We were fortunate to be able to let the U.S. 41 project to contract in June."

Passenger cars have been able to pass through the work zones with relative ease since the projects started, but it's sometimes a different story for big rigs, according to Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Alan Bailey.

"We've not had a lot of problems, but we had a couple, especially when it first started," said Bailey, who said he queried dispatchers who take the first calls. "It's not so much that truckers were not seeing the signs, it's that Nashville's routed them that way."

Truckers pulling oversize loads have to get a permit issued in Nashville that gives them a route to take, he said. Bailey said he suspected the Nashville permit office didn't realize at first that the emergency stabilization project on Highway 41 had restrictions.

If a wide load needs to come through that section, because of the permit's restrictions TDOT has had to move barriers once the truck got there, he said.

"That can take 30 or 40 minutes to do that," Bailey said.

Recreational vehicles are narrow enough to pass through the construction without problems, he said.

He said all motorists should be sure to read signs on Highway 41 informing them of conditions in the work zone.

Contact Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at