A paint truck puts the final markings on the side of Hwy 66 as the widening project finishes. (Source: Kyle Grainger, WVLT)
SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The second phase of a road widening project on Highway 66 in Sevier County is now finished, giving a mostly 6 lane pass between Interstate 40 and Sevierville.
After being on the drawing board for more than 20 years, the latest section of road widening is now finished. Phase 2 cost $23.5 million dollars according to project managers.
On Thursday, crews put the finishing touches of paint markings on the road, and moved orange barrels to the side. Many drivers in Sevier county say the project is long overdue and hope that it will help with traffic issues in the area.
"The orange barrels are getting people confused getting in and out of the store," said Ronnie Myers with Christmas & Collectables on Highway 66. "They don't know where to turn in, the driveway being closed one time and open another. But since they are moved we are busier."
Myers says the construction has hurt business and he's looking forward to people being able to find is store now. However, he says even with the 3 lanes open outbound on Sunday, traffic still backed up from the interstate.
Myers says he believes the traffic issues won't be completely solved until changes are made to the interchange at Interstate 40. The state is working on changes right now that are scheduled to be started in about 2 years.
"2 more years of this, the bridge going into town is not going to be finished until 2014. So 2014 will be clear going into town but towards the interstate probably is still another headache, but still better than it was," said Myers.
Phase 2 was started in September of 2010 and was scheduled to be finished November 30, 2012. Drivers say it's been two years of back ups and confusing cones.
It's horrible! Especially in the summer it's been terrible," said Margaret Jones, who drives the road for work everyday. "It's been hectic, it's been crazy, like it would take 45 minutes to go 11 miles."
Phase 3 has started at the bridge over the French Broad River. TDOT says that part is expected to be finished in 2014.