Hwy. 68 in Rhea County plagued by erosion; officials seek solutions
RHEA COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- Leaders in Rhea County say more has to be done to fix a state highway plagued with erosion problems.
County officials say Highway 68 serves as a main evacuation route from Watts Bar nuclear plant and it is only a matter of time before the road caves in.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation says it is well aware of the problem and they are doing what they can to make short-term fixes. But county officials say those short-term fixes are not good enough.
"It is a major, heavily traveled road in the county," says Rhea County EMA Director Jacky Reavley.
Highway 68 in Rhea County has seen better days. As state crews start to repair one section of road another starts to cave. County executive George Thacker says the condition of the road leaves him and other county residents on edge.
"All it would take is one accident here and the whole thing's down, because there's no shoulders, there's no anything," says Thacker.
Highway 68 serves as a main artery in the county and more importantly, the main evacuation route if there is ever an emergency at Watts Bar nuclear plant.
Thacker is not convinced the road will hold up over time.
"It's not a matter of if it's going to happen, it's when," he says.
"In case this road is shut down, then we have alternate routes that we can use," says Reavley.
Reavley says while there are alternative routes, they add at least 30 minutes of driving time. On top of that, there are other issues if the road is ever blocked.
"We have a fire district out on top of the mountain, Grandview fire district, so that cuts them off from the rest of the county."
"It's a constant battle, the road cracking, the danger of people coming across the guard rail or somebody getting killed," says Karen Fine.
Fine has lived on Grandview Mountain for decades. She has shored up her home to solve run-off issues, but says the state is not doing enough.
"They just come along and patch up a crack and call it done. The more it's patched the worse it gets. And somebody's definitely going to get hurt."
TDOT is currently conducting a roadway safety audit on a three mile stretch of Highway 68. It says plans are in the works for a $129,000 project that will start in July. Crews will be repairing more sections of the road, cleaning out drains adding signage.
TDOT is also looking at long term solutions, but says right now budgets are tight.