SUNBRIGHT — If the East Tennessee Development District has its way, another portion of two-lane U.S. Hwy. 27 south of Scott County might soon be on the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s drawing board.

The ETDD — an association of local government bodies in 16 East Tennessee counties, including Scott and Morgan counties — is preparing a Community Transportation Planning Request (CTPR) for U.S. Hwy. 27 between Sunbright and Wartburg, which will be submitted to TDOT later this month, Oneida Alderman Jeff Tibbals said.

ETDD Transportation Planner Don Brown last week emailed a number of government officials in the region, including representatives of each of Scott County’s three municipalities and county government, along with the Scott County Road Department, seeking support for the CTPR, which will call for U.S. Hwy. 27 to be widened from two lanes to four or five lanes between the two Morgan County municipalities.

The CTPR process provides a way for TDOT to assess the need for transportation projects not funded by the Tennessee Improve Act. Upon completion of a CTPR, the Department of Transportation assesses the proposed project based on its needs and, if it determines the need exists and funding is available, the project is forwarded to the preliminary engineering phase.

In his email, Brown told officials that letters of support from both local governments and from businesses are needed as part of the CTPR process.

In reality, such a project would require years to become reality as it moves through the various stages required by TDOT.

Currently, the curvy, two-lane highway — which is currently mostly two lanes from Huntsville to Harriman, with the exception of brief three-lane sections in Robbins, Sunbright and Wartburg — is in various phases of improvement. Contractors are in the midst of a project to straighten and widen the highway just north of Harriman, while a stretch of the highway from Robbins south to Glenmary is likely to be up next. 

The Improve Act included $24.7 million for improvements to a 3.2-mile section of U.S. Hwy. 27 from Robbins to Wolf Creek Road south of Elgin. That project is currently in the preliminary engineering phase and is still years away from reality. The Improve Act also included $111.9 million to complete the highway improvements from the current project near Harriman north to Wartburg. The first phase of that project, covering 2.45 miles from S.R. 328 to the Mossy Grove community, is currently in the right-of-way stage. The second phase, from Mossy Grove to Wartburg, is in the preliminary engineering stage.

The Improve Act did not address U.S. 27 from Wartburg to Glenmary.

State Sen. Ken Yager, who serves on the ETDD’s executive committee, has stated on multiple occasions that improvements to U.S. Hwy. 27 are among his top priorities.

“We will see Highway 27 widened to four lanes all the way through (the 12th District),” Yager once said. “I may not be around to see it completed, but it’s going to happen. I’ve told the Commissioner of Transportation that I’m not going to let him rest until it happens.”

In addition to U.S. Hwy. 27 south, another section of U.S. 27 is likely to get a facelift much sooner. The bottleneck portion of U.S. 27 through Oneida is on the drawing board, with a reconfiguration of its intersection with Depot Street currently in the right-of-way acquisition stage. 

A long-discussed bypass of Oneida was scrapped, with TDOT instead opting to make improvements of the 2.9-mile section of U.S. 27 in Oneida that is only two lanes wide.