A project that has been in the works for 15 years is closer to a reality as the Knox County Commission is scheduled to approve funding for phase two of the Karns Connector.
The project would create a route for drivers from Hardin Valley Road to Oak Ridge Highway. Phase One of the project already connected Oak Ridge Highway north to Emory Road back in 2007.
"We have got some positive feedback, but I think once the second phase is complete and the whole link functions as what it's designed to do, I think the Karns residents and folks who travel in that area will see a huge benefit in travel time to and from their destinations," said Jim Snowden, Deputy Director with the Knox County Department of Engineering and Public Works.
Snowden said the county studied roads that needed improvement. He said Karns topped the list due to the windy and narrow roads in the area between Karns and Hardin Valley.
"This road will be designed for a design speed of 45 miles an hour. Whereas most of our existing roads, you know you were driving on, is 30 at best," said Snowden. "This will have relatively flat curves, relatively easy grades, so it will be able to accommodate a lot more traffic at a higher speed."
Snowden said the thoroughfare will ultimately cost between four and five million dollars. There will be a stoplight at the busy intersection of Oak Ridge Highway and Karns Valley Road.
"It'll be a nice road for those folks. It'll have wide shoulders, there will be an area for bicycles for those folks to ride on in that area, so it'll be a huge benefit," said Snowden.
Local drivers were relieved to hear the project is moving forward.
"When people come into my store and ask me how do I get to someplace, I have to go 'Well...you can do the dive-bomb on Pellissippi, or you can try to do this little twisty, turny thing that I may be able to draw on a map for you.' And I'm sure lots of those people get lost," said Wendy Myers, who works at Pet Quarters on Oak Ridge Highway.
Myers said Karns is also known for having few direct routes, especially heading South to Knoxville. The 'dive bomb' she was referring to is one reason Snowden said the Karns Connector will improve traffic in the area.
"To get southbound on Pellissippi you essentially have to cross two lanes of traffic and make a U-turn against a lot of high speed traffic," said Snowden. "This will be a better option."
"I avoid trying to go south on Pellissippi. Lots of people use other ways to get over there because it's just dangerous," said Myers.
But, Myers said she was not convinced the Karns Connector is the best solution.
"I think it will help some. but it's still not as helpful as really just building an on ramp that goes south on Pellissippi."
The Knox County Commission is scheduled to meet on March 25th. The agenda lists approval of a professional surveying and engineering services contract for $222,000 with Cannon and Cannon Inc. for the development of phase two of the project.