JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - The intersection of Knob Creek Road, Mountain View Road, and Claude Simmons Road has become a major shortcut between North Johnson City, Jonesborough, and Boones Creek.
But the problem is a one-lane railroad underpass in the middle of the intersection. "Certain times of the day you wait just a couple of minutes, but that's a short time," says Jeff Snyder.
He is one of nearly 15,000 drivers who uses the road almost every day. For residents like Snyder, they say they feel cut off from the rest of the city because of the intersection. "It's time for this side of the tracks to be able to get back and forth for safety reasons and time," describes Snyder. "Johnson City is so close yet so far away."
The city and county have looked at fixing the intersection for years and it's come up again.
The first federal money was secured by Congressman Bill Jenkins nearly a dozen years ago.
The current plan is to build a five-lane bride and adjoining road linking Boones Creek and North Johnson City. They have roughly $4 million on hand to start construction of a bypass, but that is not nearly enough to pay the $12-$15 million dollar construction bill.
"There is federal money available and will continue to be available, but that money requires a 20 percent match," says public works director Phil Pinzola.
This map shows new road would run from near Lowes along State of Franklin Road to Mountain View Road, then over the CSX railroad to Boones Creek Road.
City officials say they only way around the tunnel is to go over it. "It looks logical to go under," says Pinzola, "but you can't you have to build a bridge for the rail a mile long."
Snyder tells us having a bypass around this 1907 one-lane tunnel would give him peace of mind for his family's safety. "My concern is getting EMS up here," says Snyder. "If I have problem or my family members have a problem."
The city also sees the new road as a priority to help spur residential and economic development.
The next step is to secure the right-of-way, which they hope to start in the fall.
At least three houses will have to be purchased, plus pieces of other property.
Washington County leaders voted to help with fixing the intersection back in 2008. The federal government is asking local leaders to spearhead projects like this one.
The county's budget committee voted this week to recommend the full commission allow Johnson City handle the specifics of building the road.
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