During a weekly sit-down interview with Knox County Judge-Executive Mike Mitchell, several projects both completed and ongoing were discussed. Among the many projects proposed one stood out that will correct a major issue affecting motorists in regard to the tunnel at Manchester Street and U.S. 25E.
“We’re ready to start the projects (started) back,” but Mitchell warns that officials have told him “don’t count on it” due to budget constraints and cutbacks. “We’re going to go forward… you don’t anything if you don’t ask for it.”
Projects in the pipeline include providing flooding mitigation on Manchester Street, from Judge Street to U.S. 25E. The stretch of road is known for flooding several times each year, blocking traffic “through the tunnel” under the railroad, and creating safety hazards for motorists. In 2016, a Union College professor attempted to ford the flood waters at the Manchester Street underpass when his car left the roadway and began to submerge. Another Union College employee, Sean Trinque, witnessed the situation and jumped in to rescue the professor. The event heralded Trinque as a local hero, having saved the professor’s life.
That project would see the road going to the highway raised out of the flood zone to free up traffic during flooding and eliminate the safety hazard of motorists driving into floor water. The construction would put the road running over the railroad track instead of under it through the tunnel.
According to the Six Year Highway Plan filed with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the Manchester Street project is budgeted to cost $8,000,000 from 2021 through 2023.
Other proposed projects include turn lane constructions on Cumberland Gap Parkway to mitigate congestion at a cost of $48,000 and a two-year project improving safety along Hwy. 830 from U.S. 25E to KY 1629 including widening and new turning lanes at a cost of $3,900,000.
“We’ve completed some stuff. Due to budget constraints, we’ve had to use our road department personnel to do some work typically would’ve been contracted out in the past… it’s saved us a tremendous amount of money,” said Mitchell, concerning a new bridge replacement off Hwy. 459. “We’ve got some very qualified people to do the work. One bridge project we saved over $30,000 of what it would it would have cost us. That’s very significant.”
“We’ve just completed some paving in the fourth magisterial district that was held over from last year, and we’re going to be resubmitting requests. I’ve notified magistrates to put a list together,” Mitchell said, adding, “I’m proud of our road department and the job that they’re doing.”