published Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Corker: New Polk highway is state concern


by Adam Crisp

BENTON, Tenn. -- A massive highway project that could lessen the impact of rock slides for residents of Polk County, Tenn., is a state and local matter first, though federal funds will pay for most of the work.

That's the word from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who spoke briefly on the proposed Corridor K project Tuesday during a town hall meeting in Black Bear Cove Resort.

"The state has not yet said that Corridor K ... is something they think should happen today. I think they are looking at some other alternatives," Sen. Corker said. "We will pay attention to the federal appropriations, which is our responsibility, after the state and local government decides where they want roadways to go."

A Nov. 10 rock slide on U.S. Highway 64 in Polk County prompted questions about the Corridor K issue in a forum dominated by talk of health care reform.

The highway closure cut off residents in the eastern part of the county. Commutes to Cleveland and Chattanooga now take 45 minutes to an hour longer each way.

Residents say the rock slide highlights the need for an alternate route. That highway, the final leg in the Corridor K highway system, would provide residents with a safer, more reliable route from home to work, proponents said.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation estimates the cost of Corridor K to be about $1 billion, of which about $300 million already has been secured, department spokeswoman Julie Oaks said. The project is in the initial study phases, she said, with a citizens panel researching ways to provide a new route. Recommendations are expected to be ready early next year.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Patrick Smith U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks to residents of Polk County during a town hall meeting at Black Bear Cove Resort in Benton, Tenn., on Tuesday. Sen. Corker addressed several issues including health care reform, the automotive bailout and the economy.

Denny Mobbs, a Polk County attorney and member of the citizens panel, asked Sen. Corker to ensure that the 80 percent federal, 20 percent local funding for the project will continue.

"We have to have a road in Polk County where our young people can get to a four-year school, to a good-paying job and home in a reasonable amount of time," Mr. Mobbs said.

Sen. Corker said he'll keep an eye on the project, but he doesn't see a need to step in to get it moving faster.

"I know there is a federal portion of the funding ... but it really is a local issue," Sen. Corker said. "I think what I heard today is that people don't want the federal government too involved in their lives. This is an issue that can be resolved at the state and county level."

Cleaning up the rock slide and repairing the roadway could take at least two months and cost about $2 million, according to TDOT figures.

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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rdecredico said...

For the same money, one could move the residents into another location (closer to jobs) instead of defoliating the entire area to pave a four-lane highway.

If people choose to live in the nether reaches of the boondocks they need to understand things like this will happen.

Corker sure likes spending other people's money, doesn't he?

November 25, 2009 at 9:35 a.m.
srbeak said...

A road like Corridor K shouldn't go through public national forest. If the money is going to be spent fix the existing road bed that is already there, another road isn't the answer and it will just destroy the area north or south of the Ocoee gorge. The local people who have to use this road every day need a better and safer road but don't seem to appreciate what they have in there very own backyard and a new road other than what is already there that can be improved at a much cheaper cost to the tax payers is what needs to be done.

November 25, 2009 at 11:23 a.m.

I think TDOT should dry up the river and divert it over to the Hiawassee. Then they can fill it with rock and pave it. Would make a nice 4 lane road and wouldn't have to worry about the rafters anymore!!!

Of course that would be too easy! TDOT has been talking about putting a road over the top by Benton Falls for years. It takes a rock slide and almost getting people killed for this to be a reality?

The project would put a great deal of "stimulus" money into the region. Far more than what Polk county is getting now from rafting on a seasonal basis....

November 25, 2009 at 6:21 p.m.
thesauves52 said...

It's good to see Bob Corker doing something on this all important rock slide issue...Too bad he couldn't have tried harder to save the jobs at GM in Spring Hill...The state is losing thousands of high paying jobs because of his political stance opposing the government bailout of the auto industry.

November 25, 2009 at 8:23 p.m.
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