This report was from a trip up to Cumberland Gap I took from scout camp, on June 22, 2007.
Felt like including this as a separate trip report (hence the 3.1/4 listing).
One of the other scoutmasters and I took a half-day trip up to Cumberland Gap
from camp, mainly along US 25E. Below are a few notes from along that route:
- First, US 25E is all 4-lanes between I-81 and I-75 except for a 12 mile gap from north of TN 131 to the southeast edge of Tazewell...more on that gap later.
- North of Morristown is 4-lane divided, weaving through higher ground through Cherokee Lake. As I noted in an earlier report, the lake level was very low due to the drought in the region.
- There's a roughly 3-mile "wrong-way duplex" between US 11W and US 25E near Bean Station. US 25E is the through route at both route junctions, with a trumpet interchange at the eastern junction and a modified directional interchange at the western junction...modified in that the ramp from northbound US 11W to northbound US 25E crosses the southbound US 25E lanes at-grade. Also at the western junction was a sign warning of no wide loads wider than 12ft on US 25E North.
- North of US 11W, US 25E has a long climb up the side of Clinch Mountain. The median narrows here, with a concrete median barrier in the middle with the occasional median opening. The grade is fairly consistent, though there are a lot of small curves/weaves back and forth heading up the mountain. Near the summit (at Thom Hill Gap) is a scenic overlook looking southward across Cherokee Lake...we stopped there on the return trip.
- The 4-lane ends about 2 miles north of TN 131 (near Dry Valley Rd), and traffic came to a very abrupt stop at that point. This was the start of the 12-mile gap in the 4-lane, and TDOT has two projects underway to fill in that gap with a 4-lane highway. There's *A LOT* of rock blasting going on near the southern end (south of the Clinch River), and this is what had traffic stopped for about 15 minutes on this day.
- TDOT appears to have split up the 12 mile widening into two separate projects, each about 6 miles long. The northern half is much further along than the southern half...grading of the roadway itself was well underway, while the southern half has a lot of hillside rock blasting yet to accomplish, especially south of the Clinch River. That said, the new bridge across the Clinch River has been built, but of course not open to traffic until the rest of the 4-lane is built. The new bridge is just east of the existing bridge and sits on an embankment about 15-20ft higher than the existing bridge.
- Similar situation with the bridge across NOrris Lake/Big Sycamore Creek just south of TN 33. The bridge across the lake/creek is completed, but it doesn't appear that there will be a bridge over TN 33 here.
- North of the Clinch River, enough blasting and roadbed grading has been done to get a general idea of the route the new 4-lane will take. Here, the new 4-lane is being built just east of the existing highway, then the new alignment crosses over to the west side and straightens up a bit near and west of Springdale. West of Springdale, there's a bridge over the existing highway and the new alignment follows just east of the existing road to the end of the existing 5- lane section approaching Tazewell.
- Through Tazewell, US 25E is a 5-lane undivided section, largely without shoulders within the city limits. Shoulders return a couple miles out from the city center, and the route remains 5-lanes undivided most of the way to TN 63, becoming 4-lane divided a couple miles short of TN 63.
- The left turn that southbound US 25E takes in Tazewell is still poorly signed. There's no indication that you need to be in the left lane until you're past the TN 345 intersection, at which point you're almost at the turn anyway. I missed the turn the first time I was there 3 years ago, and the signing situation hasn't changed since then.
- There's a short US 25E/TN 63 duplex near Harrogate, about 1/4 mile.
- Harrogate, meanwhile, is home to the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Lincoln Memorial University.
- There were a lot of motorcycles in/near the town of Cumberland Gap (and also in Middlesboro, KY across the state line), and some sort of festival going on within Cumberland Gap. We were on a tight time schedule after hiking up to Tri-State Peak so didn't get a chance to stop and see what was going on.
- In Cumberland Gap, the old US 25E reassurance shield still remains, but the SR 872 shield at the state line (heading back up towards US 58) is gone.
- Taking the tunnel into Kentucky, we were stopped for about 5 minutes so that Hazmat trucks could proceed through the tunnel under escort.
- Heading back south to camp, we noticed, as we did heading north, that there was a lot more northbound traffic along US 25E than there was southbound traffic. Presumably because it was Friday.
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(C) 2007, Adam Froehlig