City officials: Construction at Boones Creek interchange will be gateway to growth, development

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – As construction on Boones Creek Road continues, new traffic patterns have recently taken effect.

The changes can be felt the moment you take Exit 17 on Interstate 26 heading towards Kingsport.

Excavators and bulldozers are in the roadway working on the latest part of the project which is a deep sewer tie-in located under the roadway in front of the Bob Evans restaurant.

Construction on this new interchange project has been on-going for over a year. For area businesses, the construction has been described as a “headache”.

Dustin Shaw, the Assistant Manager at Poblano’s Mexican Bar and Grill said they’ve seen a decrease in business since construction began.

“Before the construction, we were booming every night, Monday through Sunday, all the time,” said Shaw.

He said they are grateful for the regulars and steady businesses that are currently keeping them afloat. Shaw said he’s hoping the construction wraps up soon so the business can thrive once again.

The recent changes to the traffic flow are causing some congestion at times, but according to those running the project, this new shift isn’t all bad news, in fact, it’s actually good news.

Grant Summers, the President of Summers Taylor Incorporated, the contractors for the project, released this statement to News Channel 11:

“Right now we’ve completed the majority of the first phase and are currently working on a deep sewer tie-in that’s expected to take a few weeks. We are tracking in line with the completion date set by T-DOT which was recently extended into the winter.”

-Grant Summers

While the construction may be causing traffic headaches now, city officials said it will be the gateway to economic development in the area.

“The new interchange is truly a tremendous asset and will greatly enhance our ability to develop the district,” said Pete Peterson, City Manager of Johnson City.

Johnson City officials are gearing up for retail, entertainment, and restaurants to be developed in the coming years, but are continuing to watch the on-going pandemic.

“The pandemic is going to have an impact on the speed at which future retail is built and developed and I think it will also have a long term impact on the sustainability of some of the existing retail establishments,” said Peterson.

However, he said the ‘fruits of their labor’ on this project will not be seen for a few more years when it comes to physical development.

Although it’s impeding the success of some local businesses, Shaw said overall he believes this project will be good in the end.

“It should be really nice. We’re going to be one of the first businesses off the interstate and we’re really hoping to see a bounce-back afterward,” said Shaw.

Summers told News Channel 11 the majority of the first phase is complete and once sewer work is complete, work will move into phase 2 on the southside of the intersection.

Drivers can expect a few more traffic changes as work on the project continues. Summers said they hope to have permanent traffic patterns set by winter.

TDOT also sent News Channel 11 an update on the project altogether:

With the exception of final paving, all work between Lake Park Dr. and Christian Church Rd is complete.

New ramps being constructed on the west side of the job along with new sections of SR 354.

6 of 8 retaining walls have been completed.

80% of box culvert extension under I-26 westbound off-ramp has been completed.

A mixed-use path for pedestrians and cyclists is being constructed.

I-26 Bridge repair work is now complete.

Once ramps and new SR354 roadway on the west side of the project are complete all SR 354 traffic will be switched to the new alignment, however, traffic will remain one lane in each direction.

Once the ramp and roadway work on the west side, as well as water and sewer work, are complete, the contractor will shift to the east side of the project to construct the remaining new ramps and roadway sections. 

Crews will be completing the box bridge extension and remaining retaining walls when work is moved to the east side of the project.

The project will not be completed by 9/30/2020, the original completion date. A revised completion date is currently under review by the Department.  Delays are due to site conditions, constructability, and traffic control concerns.

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