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TDOT sets new completion date for long delayed I-75 widening project in Campbell County

The project to add a an extra lane on interstate 75 was initially supposed to be compete in two years.

CAMPBELL COUNTY, Tenn. — A road project that has frustrated drivers north of Knoxville for almost five years has a new completion date at the end of this year.

Work to add an additional lane to a 4.6 mile stretch of I-75 on Caryville Mountain in Campbell County began in the spring of 2016. It was supposed to take two years to complete.

Instead, the project has dragged on. TDOT had to change contractors in October of 2018. A new completion date was set for September 2019, and the new contractor started work. It appeared to drivers that workers tore down all that had been accomplished, including a concrete barrier wall, and started over. The completion date was pushed back again, to December 2020.

Both that date has also come and gone, and drivers have endured years of narrowed lanes, reduced shoulders, and traffic delays. In addition, because of the narrowed lanes, tractor-trailer traffic is supposed to use the left-hand lanes in the construction zone. That change from the norm and lack of enforcement has caused additional confusion and frustration for drivers.

Many areas have no shoulder to pull off on, and especially for truck drivers, the narrow passageway can be nerve wracking.

"You've barely got enough room, most of the time you're riding the mustard line right there to keep from putting your trailer off on a car," truck driver Jacob Harness said.

It's not just the narrowness of the road that presents danger to drivers. Harness says potholes are also to blame for many incidents.

"It's just been a big mess. They need to hurry up and get it done," said Harness.

Mark Nagi, a spokesperson for TDOT, told 10News Thursday that the current contractor "encountered several unforeseen issues with the storm drain system within this portion of the interstate. These unforeseen issues have resulted in additional work to the contractor and as a result delayed the completion date of the contract." 

Right now, Nagi said the contractors are working to re-install reinforced concrete pipe and have started gradework for both the northbound and southbound inside shoulders. 

If the weather cooperates, workers should begin paving the shoulders and constructing a new concrete median barrier wall.

So if the work remains on schedule, Nagi said, the contractor should complete the work by late 2021.

This week, TDOT crews are working to patch a number of potholes that have opened up in the construction zone.