Harrison Road project finally a go

Jeremy Nash News-Herald.net

City Administrator Amber Scott said the Tennessee Department of Transportation in November gave city officials the go-ahead to begin the construction process on Harrison Road.

Bids were opened for the project Dec. 8, and Scott said the apparent low bidder is Charles Blalock & Sons Inc., at a little more than $2.7 million.

Knoxville-based Duracap and Kodak-based Whaley and Sons also presented bids.
Scott said Lenoir City Council must approve the bid at a meeting this month. The next step would be to send a letter of concurrence to TDOT and hold a pre-construction meeting.
“I would say each person that’ll be on the project already has in their mind this is what I’m going to do,” Scott said. “Now, with that being said, at the pre-construction meeting if someone from the city or (Lenoir City Utilities Board) or the schools — this is a chance for them to throw out something that they may not have thought about because of their proximity to the project. So I think after that meeting we’ll have a better idea of the plan of attack for that.”
In total, 18 parcels and 12 property owners are impacted by construction on Harrison Road, Scott said.
The plan is to place turn lanes at the intersection in front of Lenoir City High School heading each direction, widen the road to 20 feet and form three lanes beside the school, with two through lanes heading toward Town Creek.
Completing the right-of-way phase took longer than anticipated in part because TDOT needed to approve every step along the way, Scott said.
“We got into this situation where all of our permits with the federal agencies had to be recertified,” she said. “We got into a waiting period with one in particular (agency) ... but we waited several months on them to get a re-approval. And then it had to be sent to Nashville, from our local agency here, had to be sent to Nashville to be approved.”
Working with property owners through the appraisal process also took a while. Scott said the city deliberately worked slow to be “very sensitive” with residents affected.
Construction is anticipated to begin in February or March and take roughly 13 months. Scott said the contractor will do a big portion of work during school breaks. A “plan of attack” will be better formed after the pre-construction meeting, she said.
“I mean you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet,” Scott said. “We believe that what few inconveniences that will come out of the construction of this improvement will pale in comparison to the future positive impact that will take place on that area with the residential boom that we’re experiencing along Harrison Road paired with the commercial boom that we sort of see the potential for as time passes.
“So we think while, yes, it will be inconvenient, all construction projects are — the benefits will far outweigh the negative,” she added.
The Harrison Road project is afforded through an 80-20 percent grant for $3.2 million, with the city and county paying 10 percent each for the local match.
Councilman Jim Shields said the project will benefit the city in the long run, and getting this widening done has been a “long time in the making.”
“Hopefully, the contractors will work with the school system on controlling the traffic and getting them in and out of the school,” Shields said. “That may be a big nightmare, I don’t think it will be, I think it’ll be move smoothly. It’s supposed to be a good thing when it’s finished.”

Simpson speed bump?

The plan to widen East Simpson Road from U.S. Highway 321 to Shaw Ferry Road is taking city officials longer than anticipated. Scott said the city is having difficulty finding companies able to do title work. The project affects 15 parcels and 10 property owners.
“I want to have that title work completed by February. I mean, that’s my goal,” Scott said. “If I can get somebody to do it, I don’t think it’ll take them that long. And then we’ll have to go in the appraisal and review appraisal phase, and then ultimately meeting with them, with the property owners.”
Hopes are to widen the road from 20 feet to 26 feet, along with improving pedestrian access by installing a sidewalk.