With the Tennessee General Assembly's approval of an increase to the state's gasoline tax expected to generate additional revenue for road projects, the state Department of Transportation has earmarked long-awaited improvements to the U.S. Hwy. 27 bottleneck in Oneida for next year.
In its three-year plan, released Tuesday, TDOT said that the construction phase of the U.S. Hwy. 27 plan is slated for 2018. Additionally, projects are looming along U.S. Hwy. 27 south of Robbins and S.R. 52 from Elgin to Rugby.
TDOT said its three-year plan for years 2018 through 2020 is more robust than in past years, due to increased funding through the Improve Act, which is expected to generate an additional $150 million in fiscal year 2018.
"Many of these projects would not have moved forward for several years without this additional infrastructure investment," said Gov. Bill Haslam, who spearheaded efforts to increase the gas tax by six cents per gallon. "With this additional funding, TDOT can keep our transportation network safe, reliable and debt-free for the next generation of Tennesseans while spurring economic growth in communities across the state."
While the Oneida project appears to have been given a priority status, it remains to be seen just how much the project will actually improve the traffic flow through the heart of town.
The project targets the 2.9-mile section of roadway from the Oak Grove intersection on the north end to about the Boys & Girls Club on the south end. Five-lane segments of highway on either side of the bottleneck narrow to two lanes of travel with a turn lane through that 2.9-mile section, resulting in traffic headaches for motorists, particularly during the afternoon school rush.
The state originally planned for a bypass through West Oneida, which would have taken U.S. Hwy. 27 through the Verdun Road neighborhood before reconnecting with the existing highway at Oak Grove. Alternately, the state considered a bypass to the east of town, roughly following the Norfolk-Southern railroad line before reconnecting with the existing highway near the Bear Creek intersection.
Ultimately, the state chose to make improvements to the existing highway as a cost-saving measure that was promised priority. However, the state has not indicated exactly what measures the improvement project will entail, and it is considered unlikely that the highway will be widened due to right-of-way restrictions. It is instead expected that the state will make signalization improvements while also working on intersections and perhaps addressing the 90-degree turn at the Paint Rock Road intersection.
TDOT has earmarked only $3.5 million for the project.
In addition to the Oneida project, TDOT says it will move forward with the construction phase of a project to improve S.R. 52 in 2019.
The 4.8-mile project is expected to make improvements to the existing highway from Elgin to the Scott-Morgan county line near Rugby. TDOT has earmarked $1 million for the project.
Finally, TDOT says it will begin purchasing right-of-way in 2019 for a substantial project to improve U.S. Hwy. 27 from about the Wolf Creek Road intersection in Glenmary to the current three-lane section of highway just north of the South Scott Volunteer Fire Department. The 4.8-mile project is expected to cost $29 million to complete.