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Should Interstate 26 have six lanes?

Editorial Board • Apr 23, 2019 at 3:00 PM

If you’re an Interstate 26 daily commuter who especially dreads the Friday rush hour trip between Johnson City and Kingsport, now’s the time to speak your piece.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is engaged in the first study of I-26 since it became an interstate. As is usual practice, the study will take more than a year, analysis perhaps another year or so, and recommendations many more months after that. And even when solutions are proposed to troubled highways (126 as an example), years may go by before work is undertaken.

But there’s always a starting point, and this is it. To that end, TDOT wants to hear from you.

TDOT is in the midst of an 18-month study to maximize the potential of the interstate in the Tri-Cities, as well as Interstates 55 and 75 in West Tennessee and East Tennessee, respectively. The entire study will span 22 counties and cover more than 200 miles of highway. Its objective is to produce a prioritized list of longterm and short-term projects for TDOT and local transportation planners to consider in the years to come.

In these parts we well know that I-26 needs to be six-laned. Based on traffic count data, the highway averages roughly 60,000 daily traffic trips.

As part of the study, TDOT and contractor AECOM Technical Services Inc. will investigate possible solutions to future travel demands, safety concerns and traffic congestion. The study also aims to determine ways to maximize the potential for freight diversion and enhance the economic benefits of the interstates.

A timeline breaks the study down to six tasks: data collection, deficiencies, solutions, project priorities, project management and public involvement. TDOT is expected to wrap up the study by March 2020 and publish the report online.

While the study officially began in September 2018, TDOT officials will spend the remainder of 2019 gathering data from stakeholders, identifying deficiencies and generating solutions. To encourage more public input, TDOT has created an online survey where drivers can answer a variety of questions about the interstates, such as what other transportation options would travelers consider using and what improvements travelers might want to see.

That survey can be found by visiting www.surveymonkey.com/r/QZHRQJ7 and we encourage you to visit and make your thoughts known.

The public is also encouraged to attend meetings in their respective communities. Johnson City will host the I-26 meeting May 9 at Memorial Park Community Center, 510 Bert St., from 5:30 until 7 p.m. For information about the meetings, contact Calvin Abram at calvin. [email protected] or (901) 684-5447. And to learn more about the study, contact Joan Barnfield by email at [email protected]

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