This weekend in Knoxville you can expect a tremendous amount of traffic with more than a hundred thousand UT fans in town for the football game against Florida.
This time of year actually provides a slight break from the traffic for the Great Smoky Mountains and Sevier County. That lull in congestion is a welcome sight for construction crews that continue working to widen Highway 66 between Sevierville and Interstate 40.
"We do see a drop in traffic from the time school starts until the
leaves start to turn in October," said Jennifer Stone, engineer and manager of the Highway 66 improvement project. "They [workers] are making good use of their
time and trying to finish up phase two."
The three-phase project to give Highway 66 three northbound and three southbound lanes from Interstate 40 to Sevierville began in 2009. Phase one wrapped up last November with the completion of a four-mile stretch near Sevierville.
"It has really gone smoothly," said Stone. "Having phase one done, it really gives the businesses and the public an idea of what it will look like when it's finished. Highway 66 has a long history of being backed up and congested and just seeing
the improvements already in traffic from phase one, I think the whole
area is excited."
Phase two adds lanes at the north-end of the Highway 66 beginning at the 407 Exit of Interstate 40. Phase two is on schedule to be completed this November.
Phase three fills in the gap by widening the middle portion of Highway 66, including the bridge that crosses over the French Broad River. Crews have already started phase three and are contending with traffic both above and below the bridge.
"There are boats that come through and create wake from time-to-time," said Stone. "The other interesting thing about this part of the river is TVA releases water upstream to generate power. The water level here can really fluctuate."
Stone said the water level beneath the bridge can rise six feet in a few hours. Despite the ebb and flow of traffic and water levels, she expects the entire project to be completed on-schedule in November 2014.
"It will be a great project when it's done and it'll be worth every month of construction time," said Stone.