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Tennessee DOT Improves SR 63 for Greater Efficiency and Connectivity

by: Debra Wood
The SR 63 widening will enhance connectivity in eastern Tennessee.
The SR 63 widening will enhance connectivity in eastern Tennessee.
Responding to residents’ requests for improvements to a main arterial road between Campbell and Claiborne counties, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is widening and reconfiguring State Route 63.

“It’s to make this roadway as safe and efficient as possible,” says Mark Nagi, Community Relations Officer for TDOT. “We worked with local partners on the project.”

SR 63 is part of the National Highway System and the Appalachian Development Highway system. It was constructed in 1971 through a rolling, hilly terrain. The road currently has two 12-foot lanes and 11-foot paved shoulders.

The road serves as a rural principal arterial, and when needed, it also can act as a redundant corridor for Interstate 75. About 4,755 vehicles travel on the road daily.

The department’s goal is to increase capacity on SR 63, correct deficiencies in the road and improve safety.

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“The folks in Campbell and Claiborne counties have been very appreciative of what is going on,” says Jason Farmer, Operations District Manager for TDOT. “The fact is, we are doing something the people want.”

Widening Rather Than Realigning
Portions of the project were engineered and designed in house by TDOT. Palmer Engineering of Nashville, Tennessee, worked with the department on the section from west of Old Town Creek to SR 32. Thompson Engineering of Knoxville, Tennessee, designed the 5.3-mile-long section being widened to five lanes.

TDOT is widening portions of the two-lane SR 63 into a five-lane roadway and reconfiguring the rest – the section from west of Old Town Creek to SR 32 – into a three-lane road with two 12-foot travel lanes and a 12-foot center lane, which can be used for turns. In some locations, there is a truck climbing lane that will allow motorists to pass slower vehicles.

The decision to widen one section to five lanes rather than realigning all of the road to three lanes was based on traffic projections, Farmer says.

The department will widen the road from Myers Lane in Campbell County to Hall Lane in Claiborne County to four 12-foot travel lanes and a 12-foot center turn lane. New traffic signals are planned at Myers Lane and Middlesboro Road/Wildwood Circle.

“This improvement will enhance the level of service and safety of the route while being an important link in the corridor connectivity,” says Maysoon Haddad, Senior Consultant with Thompson Engineering.

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The improved road follows the current alignment. In two locations, the department is adding retaining walls to reduce the need for additional right-of-way in the section being widened to five lanes.

The department relocated and restored a stream at Cawood Branch that was flowing adjacent to a portion of SR 63 in Claiborne County.

“By meandering the stream, a natural environment is established for the native wildlife,” Haddad says. “By planting almost 7,000 trees, the runoff and sediment are prevented from entering the stream and a natural stream canopy is created. Filtering the sediment will also improve the habitat for the aquatic organisms. It is interesting to note that this on-site restoration of Cawood Branch will generate mitigation credits, which will offset impacts from not only this project, but for future projects in the area.”

Construction Activity
Reconfiguring SR 63 from west of Old Town Creek to SR 32 in Claiborne County began in March 2020 and except for some signal work was completed by Kay & Kay Contracting of London, Kentucky. The company provides an array of construction services. This portion of the improvements could finish later this year or in early 2023.

Rogers Group of Nashville, Tennessee, received the contract to complete the SR 63 improvements from Frontier Road/Woodson Lane in Campbell County to Hall Lane in Claiborne County. The family-owned firm, founded in 1908, provides construction aggregate and crushed stone in addition to construction.

Because the existing pavement is well maintained and in good condition on the portion being widened to five lanes, the department is keeping it and widening on either side of the existing road. Crews will mill the existing top layer off and put a fresh coat of asphalt over it, Farmer explains. Asphalt overlays will be placed and any elevation issues addressed.

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“It saves time, saves money, and saves hardships on the motorists in the area, not needing to be diverted with new construction,” Farmer says.

Crews have installed box culvert extensions and roadside ditches at many locations along the corridor. From Frontier Road/Woodson Lane in Campbell County to Hall Lane in Claiborne County, 28 box culvert extensions are being placed. The water flows under SR 63 toward Norris Lake.

The widening and grade work has been completed on the section from west of Old Town Creek to SR 32. And work on the section from Frontier Road/Woodson Lane in Campbell County to Hall Lane in Claiborne County started in February 2022, with clearing, grubbing, utility relocations on the southern side of the road and box culvert extensions.

A beaver dam on one of the creeks that is interfering with the flow of the water posed a potential challenge for the team, which is trying to work around the dam, Farmer reports. Crews also had to coordinate disruptions in water flow with a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency fish hatchery attached to one of the creeks.

Rogers is using GPS-controlled dozers and motor graders to achieve the profile needed to build the roadbed.

Traffic management has not been an issue, since most of the work takes place outside of the existing road template, Farmer says. Looking ahead, the department plans to close the shoulders and shift traffic to the shoulders as work progresses on each side of the roadway.

“Right now, motorists are not seeing much of an alternative pattern within the corridor,” Farmer says.

Another 4.92 section from Meyers Lane to Frontier Road/Woodson Lane, which is also currently under construction, and was designed in house and let in June 2020 to Potters South East of Huntsville, Tennessee. The typical section is the same as the other widening projects. The project included three signals: SR 63 at Myers Lane, SR 63 at Wildwood Circle and Middlesboro Road, and SR 63 and Old Middlesboro Highway. The project is anticipated to be complete in September 2025.

“The projects are moving along really well and the working relationships between the contractors and TDOT have been excellent,” Farmer concludes.

Project Partners
Owner: Tennessee Department of Transportation
Hall Lane and SR 32 (US 25E)
  • Consulting Engineer: Palmer Engineering, Nashville, Tennessee
  • Contractor: Kay & Kay Contracting, London, Kentucky
Frontier Road/Woodson Lane in Campbell County to Hall Lane in Claiborne County
  • Consulting Engineer: Thompson Engineering, Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Contractor: Rogers Group, Nashville, Tennessee
Meyers Lane to Frontier Road/Woodson Lane
  • Engineer: Tennessee Department of Transportation
  • Contractor: Potters South East, Huntsville, Tennessee

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