The Tennessee Department of Transportation is one step closer to beginning a part of the Relocated Alcoa Project, which is set make driving to and from the airport easier.
The Blount County section of the project will address three different sections of Alcoa Highway with three different plans of action. Construction on the stretch from Tyson Boulevard to Pellissippi Parkway will mean drivers coming to and from McGhee Tyson airport will notice significant changes once that work is underway, but more specifically after.
"The new roadway will be a controlled access facility with access coming from ramps and new interchanges located along the route," TDOT spokesperson Mark Nagi said.
The project has been in the works for a few years. In 2014, the Federal Highway Administration approved the Finding of No Significant Impact for the project, making it in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
"Certainly this is a project that has been anticipated for a long time," Nagi said. "Alcoa Highway is one of the busiest roadways in all of East Tennessee you get so many people who are traveling in that area."
There are four different phases each project must go through before completion. That includes planning and environmental, design, right of way, and lastly, construction.
The proposed interchange between Tyson Boulevard and Pellissippi Parkway is still in the 'right of way' stage, meaning TDOT is waiting to acquire funding to begin construction.
Nagi said getting that funding could take up to 18 months, but as of now there is still a good amount of planning to do on both TDOT and the airport's end.
"I know that folks get concerned about how they can into and out fo the airport and we will certainly maintain those entrances while construction is underway," he said.
Airport Spokesperson Becky Huckaby said these concerns are something the airport has discussed with TDOT for the last couple of years.
"We've been talking in preparation for what impacts that may have at McGhee Tyson Aiport and what we can do to better educate the public on how to get in and out of the airport especially in the middle of construction," Huckaby said.
She said as of now, the airport officials and engineers are still evaluating the effects of the work but once construction does begin, they plan to make sure drivers know the best way to get to the facility and the amount of time they should carve out to do so.
"We have stressed the importance of having open communication so we can communicate with our passengers so that they can get here ahead of time if there's a lane closure or something like that," Huckaby said.
Whether the new roadways could mean new or changed entrances, Huckaby said it's still up in the air. At this point both TDOT and McGhee Tyson are focusing on working out the kinks and determining the best ways of communication before this section of construction even begins.
"This is a project that I know folks have been looking for, for a long time and you're gonna see a lot of construction in this area for years to come," Nagi said. "We just want people to get where they need to go as safely as possible."