Motorists traveling State Route 68 in Rhea County, Tennessee, just can’t get a break.
Settling problems on the curvy mountain highway west of Spring City fixed just a year ago are now reappearing a half-mile away in another section that is doing almost the same thing.
“An area of the slope beneath the roadway near log mile 5.5 settled in February because of heavy rains,” Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said in an email. “This is not the site near log mile 5.0 that was the site of the project that took place from late April to mid-July 2018.”
There has been work done at the current site, but it was some time back.
“This is the site of a previous repair that was done by GeoStabilization International, LLC. several years ago,” Flynn said. “The area that is currently settling and in need of repair is below the slope repairs that were made by GSI.”
Last year, TDOT contractors spent months repairing a major collapse at log mile 5 where the mountain fell away in April 2018, taking one lane of State Route 68 with it. Repairs began immediately and continued into July 2018, when the road had to be completely closed at one point because materials deliveries needed to streamline as construction came to an end.
Now, it’s something of a rerun, although the new settling problems aren’t nearly as severe as last year’s collapse.
“Currently, the roadway at this area is open to one lane and controlled with a signal until we can get the permanent repair project underway,” Flynn said Tuesday.
The problem is, TDOT contractors are swamped after the rains in December and February dealt out road damage across the state, she said.
“We hope to begin the repairs within the next several weeks,” Flynn said. She apologized, saying she couldn’t give an exact date for the work to start.
Spring City Mayor Billy Ray Patton said most people can tolerate the project as long as it moves quickly and they can still get through.
“We just have the one lane. Of course, they’ve been complaining about that,” Patton said, noting that complaints haven’t been too numerous yet. “But in the event they do have to shut down the road completely, that’s when we do hear the complaints. Then, it is an inconvenience.”
Patton noted that there is no good route to bypass the work and that a meandering secondary road up the mountain isn’t even friendly to passenger cars, much less big rigs.
“As long as they don’t close but one lane, we can live with it and I don’t think we’ll hear too many complaints,” Patton said.
Flynn said TDOT wants to reassure motorists that there are no plans to shut down the road, despite worries to the contrary.
“We plan on keeping the roadway open to one lane during the repairs,” she said. “We want to reassure people that we plan to keep one lane open at all times.”