forward on US 411
The Sevier Co. Commission passed a resolution to accept a proposal by the Tennessee Department of Transportation for an extension of U.S. 411 from Sims Road in Sevier County to the Jefferson County line and on to Grapevine Hollow Road in Jefferson, which goes across Chestnut Hill. While the resolution didn’t draw any comment during the commission meeting, commissioners on the Transportation Committee had several comments about the project when they met earlier in the day.
“This thing has been on the drawing board since I was a kid,” said Road Superintendent Jonas Smelcer to the committee. The transportation committee recommended the acceptance resolution to the full commission after they noted the plusses and minuses.
On the upside is the straightening out of 411, which now abruptly turns at Sims Road and merges with Highway 35 before heading to Newport at the county line. A new bridge at mile marker 25 will also be a plus. The downside will be the current two-mile section of road that will fall back into county maintenance from the state when the new route is completed.
According to TDOT’s report to Smelcer, U.S. 411 will be a four lane road with median green strip separating the two lanes of traffic in each direction. It will replace the current winding two lanes that meander for several miles between Sevier and Jefferson counties. The new section will only have about a half of a mile in the county, with the bulk of the project lying across the line in Jefferson County. Much of the archeological work and public hearings have been completed over the last three years. TDOT has indicated it currently has money in the budget to begin purchasing property and hopes to be at a point to bid the project in 18 months. Smelcer believes that the earliest point commuters might see a bulldozer working on the new section is two years away.
The committee heard from the Road Superintendent that the increased traffic on the highway has led to the long-time project moving toward reality. “The traffic is unbelievable on 411 in the mornings with people coming in to work in Sevier from Jefferson and Cocke counties,” said Smelcer.
The improved route will eventually open up another major artery for traffic entering the county. Visitors to the resort area will be able to exit off I-40 in Jefferson County and take the improved U.S. 411 into Sevierville where they would have the option of taking the new Middle Creek Road, when it is completed, to enter Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.