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Widening at 58/70 gets a go

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By Mike Gibson
It’s a project that’s been on Troy Beets’ to-do list ever since he took the mayor’s seat in Kingston six years ago, and now it’s finally on a fast track.

At a recent Kingston City Council meeting, Beets reported that the perpetually problematic intersection of Hwys. 58 and 70 is scheduled for widening by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Beets said the project would probably be let in the latter half of 2012.

The cost, probably $450,000- $500,000, will be absorbed by the state, because state highways are involved.

“I’m extremely pleased,” Beets said. “This is a project we would have like to have had years ago. It’s something I’ve been working on from day one.”

Beets recently received this latest news from an official at the Project Safety Office at TDOT.

Kingston residents are likely all too familiar with the problems caused by the intersection.

Due to small or nonexistent turning lanes in the two-lane highways at that intersection, traffic backs up in several directions during peak hours, especially through the middle of Kingston proper.

“It’s real bad, especially when school lets out and we’ve TVA turning out and Oak Ridge turning out and we’re getting hit with it all at one lick,” said Kingston City Councilman Don White, who serves on the city transportation committee.

“It backs up from 70 and Kentucky Street all the way City Park at times. People have to wait four or five red lights sometimes. And as we get built up south of the river, it’ll only get worse.”

White, who’s also long been active in campaigning for state help for 58/70, said a state surveyor told him “it’s one of the most congested two-lane intersections he’d ever seen.”

He added that official traffic counts register about 16,000 vehicles per day there.

According to White, Beets — who serves with the state’s Rural Planning Organization — has been key to getting the project prioritized by state authorities.

“He helped up the timetable, from 13 years to one year, through his committee,” White said.

“Our legislators helped, too. Everybody pitched in to get something
here.”