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Wanda Smith regularly traveled Airport Road until recently, when Roane County Highway Department closed the road to through traffic.
The Morgan County businesswoman, who owns the Trading Post in Pine Orchard, is anxious to see the road repaired. She cites the inconvenience of traveling extra miles through Westel or taking Interstate 40.
“I have a business on Airport Road,” she said. We have to travel all the way around Westel all the way around to get to the bank in Rockwood.
“I’m not the only one.”
Stability concerns prompted officials to close Airport Road in June. The shifting of the roadway had caused significant cracking and sinking, with pavement separation growing and empty space underneath the widening cracks.
“This morning, the road had opened up another 3 inches,” Roane County Road Superintendent Dennis Ferguson said when announcing the road closure. “We’re concerned we could have a major slide with all this rain.”
Smith, however, contends Airport Road has always had cracks, and “we traveled that road a long time with that crack.”
She added, “We all were traveling that road. Now it is closed, and we don’t know why.”
Officials have said the cracks in Airport Road are worsening, growing both wider and deeper.
The state was called in to study the roadway, and officials said they’ll return in the fall when the leaves are down to study the terrain of the road and surrounding land.
They’ve said it’s possible the entire mountain underneath the roadway is sliding away.
Ferguson said the county and Rockwood would work together to try to fund repairs if the decision is made to reopen the road.
He didn’t, however, see any possibility state funding would become available to help with those costs.
That’s of little comfort to Smith, who says she owns property and pays taxes in all three counties — Morgan, Roane and Cumberland — that lie near the affected road that’s in Roane County.
“There is a crack on the interstate, too,” she said. “Are they going to close the interstate down?”