Johnson City

Construction project giving business owners headaches

Highway 36 Construction Impacting Business

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - A major road construction project in the Tri-Cities is creating major headaches for some businesses trying to keep their doors open.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is widening Highway 36 through Boones Creek from two lanes to five lanes.

We found out Thursday that the construction is starting to hurt businesses owners along Highway 36

Bobby Sims, owner of Sims Hardware, says, "I think the crew made a great decision on widening the road, I just think the pain on getting it done is the biggest thing right now."

Bobby Sims told us his family flooring business has been here for more than 30 years. Right now his business is in the heart of the more than $40 million construction zone.

The last few months have been the worst they've ever seen. "It's probably off $50,000, for sure. We are hoping once the road is done it will get back to normal and we're sure it's going to be a great asset when it's complete," he said.

Traffic tends to back up for long periods of time in both directions.

The construction is something folks will contend with for a while to come -- the project is less than 50 percent complete and construction will last into at least late 2014.

Just up the road, we met with Frank Underwood, the general manager at Our House Restaurant. The business opened less than two months ago; Underwood says opening a new restaurant while a road is being built out front isn't easy. "One day the traffic will be moving nice, the next day they will be lined up all the way in to Johnson City," he said.

At times they've taken to Facebook to let diners know what the traffic is like, and they have even altered their hours because of the construction. "The dinner crowd is fine, and that's one of the reasons we chose not to be open for lunch during the week," Underwood says. "We realized the ability for people to get in was going to be hindered."

The restaurant has delayed paving their parking lot and are relying on a temporary sign until the work is finished.

Business owners along Highway 36 say they are just trying to make it until late next year when the work should be finished and this will be a new five-lane highway. "In the long-term it's a plus," Underwood said. "The old saying goes, short-term sacrifice for long-term gain. That's how we are looking at it."

Once the construction is complete, Highway 36 will be four lanes with a center turn lane stretching from Boones Creek Road in Boones Creek to Bobby Hicks Highway in Gray.

The project is slated to wrap up in December of 2014.

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