Alcoa Highway between Knoxville and Maryville handles between 40,000 and 50,000 vehicles daily, and that number is expected to increase in coming years. The route, officially known as U.S. Highway 129, is an important artery connecting Blount and Knox counties, and accidents along the road's curves are a common occurrence.
State transportation officials are now looking at possible improvements to the highway that they hope will improve traffic flow and safety. Thursday night, areas residents will be able to comment on two proposals at a public meeting. The event will take place from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Sevier Heights Baptist Church.
One option being considered would widen an 8.4-mile stretch of the highway from four lanes to six (three northbound, three southbound). The plan would also transform some of the road's intersections into interstate-style exits. Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Nagi says the project is still in its early stages, and no firm decisions have been made yet.
“We’re still years away from seeing construction begin on any of the four sections," Nagi said Wednesday. "It isn’t something that would take place throughout the entire 8.4-mile stretch at the same time.”
A second option under consideration would simply maintain U.S. 129 as is, with no widening or construction. But Nagi said that's not a long-term solution.
"That's a very busy stretch of roadway," he said. "It will just get busier in the years to come, and by doing these improvements, I think this would be a safer, more efficient roadway for travelers."
Nagi also said any significant construction on U.S. 129 would hinge on the availability of funding. A 2012 estimate put the project's price tag at $190 million.