The Tennessee Department of Transportation(TDOT) plans to construct a five-lane by-pass in Oneida, but not as soon as previously said by House Representative Kelly Keisling. The city can look forward to a smaller less expensive form of construction to the roadways.
House Representative Kelly Keisling spoke on numerous occasions and in front of many committees in Scott County about the TN Improve Act, a little piece of legislation that outlined 962 highway projects across the state to be completed in a three- year time. A five-lane Oneida bypass was one of the projects. Although rumors circulated that the bypass had been scaled down, Keisling still spoke in front of many ensuring the full project would be done, and soon.
On January 22, Keisling told the Scott County News there were “fiery debates” in Nashville regarding the misleading information that had been presented to him. He is still fighting for the full projects completion.
In a letter dated November 30, 2017, Keisling addressed Paul Daugs, Deputy Commissioner for TDOT scolding him for making him unaware that the five-lane bypass had been scaled back. Keisling writes, “Throughout the previous two legislative sessions your department promoted the pressing issue of additional funding our state needed for new highway construction as well as bridges, and I believed you. So, for the past two years whenever I had an opportunity to speak before the Scott County Commission, the three city councils within the community, both boards of education (Scott County and Oneida Special School District) or Chamber of Commerce, I not only conveyed your department’s message, but distributed the project lists which you provided (see attached exhibits A & B).It isn’t necessary that I remind you I openly supported and voted in the affirmative for this legislation throughout the committee process as well as the House Chamber which knew would improve traffic efficiency in Oneida. Suddenly, however, in late summer I began hearing rumors there wasn’t going to be an Oneida By-Pass, but a tweaking of US-27 (SR-29) on the south side of the city. When confronted, I immediately began dispelling these rumors stating this project was now officially within our Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 67-3-912 (added by Public Chapter 181-Section 23), and it would continue moving forward. But, then on September 28, 2017 I was a party to a conference call which included Danny Oliver, Region One Project Development; Steve Borden, Director Region One; and Jennifer Grissom, assistant to Senator Yager. During the 38th District Clay Fentress Macon Pickett Scott Counties conversation both Oliver and Borden confirmed the project had been redesigned and a 5.03 By-Pass was no longer being planned. They further stated, “Within the act(Improve) the project is listed as a ‘Five Lane By-Pass,’ but that is just the title of the project and does not necessitate the exact work that will be done” (see exhibit C). I couldn’t believe what I just heard … needless to say, it was shattering to hear such a statement. Now, place yourself in my position, and try explaining that to all those who have trusted that I’ve told them the truth … that there will be a By-Pass. To conclude, it is my request that any project design other than the one that is currently in statute be stopped immediately and continue with the original plans for Project 792 for the benefit and safety of the constituents I serve.’”
Despite Keisling efforts, the five-lane bypass was estimated to cost, at most, 93 million dollars, and the scaled down version 3.5 million. Daggs responded to Keisling on December 22, 2017, confirming there would be a five- lane bypass, but with no time frame given. Only responding with, “The department understands the community’s interest in the full bypass project and we will move forward with its development. Please note that the larger more involved project will take longer to develop, although some of the preliminary work has already been completed”. Daggs additionally confirmed the smaller project would proceed the larger one. This once-only rumored project is now a certain one that will involve some of Oneida’s oldest structures.
According to the latest reworking, three intersections will be affected. Press Avenue will be completely restructured intersecting with Alberta Street where the Scott County News Building is now located. Depot Street will intersect with Alberta Street where the Marcum’s Parts Building is now located. A slight restructuring is expected where Alberta meets Bilbrey Street and West Beets Avenue. It’s unlikely this project will fix the traffic woes of Alberta Street, especially the after-school traffic issue.