Unexpected discovery stalls Elizabethton road project

Published 9:18 am Thursday, July 27, 2023

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By Lynn J. Richardson
A road project in the heart of Elizabethton is stalled, due to “an unanticipated addition to the project,” says TDOT spokes person, Mark Nagi.
Since the Spring of 2022, the long anticipated road construction which will widen East Elk Avenue in Elizabethton, has been full steam ahead. But in late spring this year, work came to a screeching halt at the intersection of E. Elk and North Roan Street, leaving local residents puzzled and frustrated.
Nagi, the Region 1 Community Relations Officer for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, explained that the situation is the result of a discovery by work crews  – an “issue that has to be dealt with before work can continue.”
“In late April 2023, field crews were beginning the excavation and grade work for the new North Roan Street alignment at Elk Avenue,” Nagi said. “At that time, crews discovered that the sidewalk along the south side of Elk Avenue at this location was in fact the top of a 4’ x 4’ box culvert (box pipe used to carry rain water from the curb drains along the roadway).”
The presence of this box culvert is preventing crews from proceeding with excavation work, Nagi says.
“At that time, TDOT Construction staff began reviewing the situation with TDOT Design staff and TDOT Structures staff,” he added. “Over the past few months, TDOT has been working to review the situation and develop a new design to replace the existing box with a drainage pipe system to allow for the new roadway alignment to be constructed.
“This pipe system is a full unanticipated addition to the project and required a full design process,” Nagi said. “Although this is typically a lengthy process, TDOT staff have worked collaboratively to expedite the process as much as possible. We are nearing a final design and hope to be working with the contractor soon to begin obtaining materials and scheduling the work.
Nagi did not provide a timeline for the construction to resume and says unfortunately, the remaining work at this location is dependent on the removal of the existing box structure and installation of the new pipe system.
“Once the new pipe system is installed and the existing box is removed, crews will be able to proceed with the original planned work constructing the new roadway alignment,” Nagi said.
The SR-91 project has been slow to develop; it was at least eight years in the making. The Elizabethton Star first reported plans for the project in its September 22, 2014 edition, saying the “earliest” residents might expect to see construction begin would be Fall 2017.
The project started five years later, in Spring 2022. It brought about some major changes, including the demolition of many structures in the 200 and 300 blocks, making way for the wider lanes and a turning lane on the heavily-traveled thoroughfare.

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