BRISTOL, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Transportation has set a schedule to begin work on a highway that would link U.S. Highway 11E at Bristol Motor Speedway to U.S. 11E in the area of Bristol Regional Medical Center and The Pinnacle.
When TDOT released its 2020-2022 comprehensive multimodal program in April, it scheduled environmental studies to start in 2020 and preliminary engineering to begin in 2022 for the project, which has long been a dream of local officials.
At its Thursday meeting, the Bristol Tennessee and Virginia Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to send a letter to TDOT expressing its continued support for the connector project and belief that it should be treated as a priority.
The project will widen existing Bethel Drive, Carden Hollow Road and Walnut Hill Road to 12-foot lanes and 10-foot shoulders and widen Exide Drive and state Route 126 to three 12-foot lanes with 10-foot shoulders. Rex Montgomery, the city’s transportation engineer, said the total cost for the project is estimated at $86.15 million, but the city will not pay any of it since it is a state project funded through the IMPROVE Act.
Though the first stages of the project are set to begin soon, construction probably won’t start for nearly a decade. Montgomery said they would like to see right-of-way acquisition occur in 2025 and construction start in 2028.
“I won’t be working here by the time this happens,” Montgomery said.
The goal of the project is to make the existing corridor safer and provide a more direct route.
A study commissioned by the city on segments of Bethel Drive, Carden Hollow Road, Exide Drive, state Route 126 and Walnut Hill Road, which would create the connector, found that from 2014-2016, there were 76 crashes there. The segment on Walnut Hill Road was found to be the most dangerous, with a rate of severe crashes greater than the statewide average.