What's all that work off I-81 about?

J. H. Osborne • Updated Jul 3, 2017 at 10:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Have you been wondering about the grading work going on beside Interstate 81’s northbound lanes between the bridge over Fort Patrick Henry Lake and Airport Parkway?

It’s the first phase of construction of a truck climbing lane, which will begin just north of the bridge and continue to Exit 63 (Airport Parkway). It has been sought by various elected officials for at least 15 to 20 years.

The project includes the widening of the bridge over Buttermilk Road.

“The contractor has placed temporary asphalt along the inside shoulder of this section to allow us to shift traffic over to maintain two 11-foot travel lanes and begin excavation of the old shoulder and construct the new slopes and new lanes,” Tennessee Department of Transportation Region 1 Community Relations Officer Mark Nagi said Friday. “Upon completion, there will be three travel lanes from the Fort Patrick Henry bridge to Exit 63 with the newly constructed lane becoming the deceleration lane to Exit 63.”

The nearly $8.39 million project has an estimated completion date of Halloween 2018, according to TDOT records. As you see it when you drive by today, it’s considered about 25 percent complete, according to information provided by Nagi.

Summers-Taylor, Inc. is the contractor for the project.

As construction continues, TDOT urges motorists to be alert for possible lane closures between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. as crews are working; use extreme caution in the area; and be prepared for lane shifts, reduced speed limits and potential delays.

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