Editorial Roundup: Tennessee

Kingsport Times News. February 23, 2024.

Editorial: Tennessee falling behind on road projects

Some states issue bonds to fund highway projects, but Tennessee isn’t among them. Tennessee hasn’t borrowed money for roadwork for 45 years, and while its pay-as-you-go system supports financial stability, it comes at a price: Needed projects must wait until funding becomes available.

An example is Kingsport’s Memorial Boulevard project. In the 1950s Memorial Boulevard — State Route 126 — was relocated to follow Reedy Creek, and it’s been a problem since. It was the original U.S. Highway 11W from Kingsport to Bristol, and as the city grew, so did accidents.

During one three-year period there were 367 crashes with more than 200 injuries and two fatalities along just a two-mile section of 126 from its connection with East Center Street east.

Ten years ago, the state finally developed a plan for the corridor.

Three years ago, the state began demolishing buildings along the road as it started acquiring rights-of-way. The plan calls for the road to be improved in three phases for a more than eight-mile stretch from East Center Street to Interstate 81. The first phase of improvements is to be from East Center to Cooks Valley Road.

Last year, at long last, the money was set aside. Next year, work begins.

It will be an expensive project due to the cost of widening the road through property acquisition; 278 properties have been acquired, and the two-mile stretch of work will cost $84 million. The project calls for a four-lane divided road with a grassy median from East Center Street to Harbor Chapel Road. The road will have sidewalks and curbs.

The section from Harbor Chapel Road will become three lanes with two travel lanes and an eastbound truck climbing lane up the steep hill of Chestnut Ridge. The road construction will also include curbs and sidewalks with the exception of no sidewalks on the north side of the road between Woodbridge Avenue and Old Stage Road.

Several design alternatives were considered in an effort to meet the purpose and need of the SR 126 improvement project. TDOT consulted with local, state and federal officials and agencies, identified environmentally sensitive areas, and held several public involvement meetings regarding the corridor project. Initially, two build alternative options were presented.

Meanwhile, Tennessee is growing rapidly, and so is road congestion as projects pile up statewide. TDOT says the state’s current roadways are not on track to deal with growing population — more than 1million new residents over the next 20 years with average commute times expected to increase 50%.

TDOT says the state currently has a $26 billion backlog of road projects.

“We’re one of the few states that does not have any debt on our on our highway system,” said TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley. “And so, we kind of pay as you go, and we make sure that we are building as we go. But at the same time, we know we’re falling behind.”

One possible solution is to build toll lanes along the busiest highways, something the motoring public won’t like. But to date, TDOT has yet to announce a private partner that will construct them, much less determine where they will be built.

We’re glad to see work is about to begin on Memorial Boulevard, but time is running out for the state to even catch up with backlogged work, much less plan for future growth.


Johnson City Press. February 23, 2024.

Editorial: It’s not too late to get your flu shot

Like the chores you should have done yesterday, the package still out for delivery but is missing from your porch and that appetizer you ordered 20 minutes ago, “better late than never” also applies to getting a flu vaccine.

We’re still well within flu season, and health officials in our region said this week that cases are on the rise again.

As Press writer Robert Houk reported Wednesday, Jamie Swift, the chief infection prevention officer for Ballad Health, urged those who had not yet gotten the shot or the illness to roll up their sleeves.

Why some people play Russian roulette with the influenza virus by opting out of the shots is one of modern life’s great mysteries. There’s little worse than the lethargy, high fever, sweats, chills and headaches that sideline you for days.

During the multi-year COVID-19 pandemic, much of the public’s focus turned toward its vaccine — booster shots are now widely available — and the flu has taken a backseat.

If we learned anything from those trying years, it’s that preventative measures like regular hand washing, covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze and staying home from work when we’re sick help stop the spread of infectious diseases like the flu.

Yes, the flu shot’s effectiveness varies year to year — you might still contract the flu even after receiving it — but even if the odds are reduced only a little, you’re better off if you bite the bullet and take the needle.

So are your friends, family, coworkers and anyone else you encounter. Like any virus, the more people who contract it the more it spreads. You could be a walking biohazard. You’re not the only person affected by the vaccination decision.

For some people, it can mean life or death. Infants, elderly people, cancer and HIV patients and others whose immune systems are compromised might not survive a bout with the flu.

The vaccine, on the other hand, won’t make you sick unless you have certain allergies. Some people experience mild reactions to the shot, but any claims that the shot will give you the flu are just nonsense.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that nearly everyone age 6 months and older should get the vaccine every season, especially people at high risk. Children younger than 6 months should not get the vaccine.

Different flu vaccines are approved for use in different groups — some shots are approved for use in children as young as 6 months, while some are approved for use in adults 65 years and older.

If needles bother you, the nasal spray flu vaccine is available for most people ages 2-49. Pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions should not take the nasal spray flu vaccine.

Do yourself and all of us a favor and get your flu shot. Talk to your doctor if you have other concerns, especially if you have questions about allergic reactions.