Residents on both sides of Fonde Mountain raise road concerns

Residents on both sides of Fonde Mountain raise road concerns

Posted:
Every day big trucks loaded with coal slowly make their way up the grade and brake their way down the mountain as they travel toward Middlesboro. Every day big trucks loaded with coal slowly make their way up the grade and brake their way down the mountain as they travel toward Middlesboro.
There's a noticeable difference in levels along the road. There's a noticeable difference in levels along the road.
From mile marker 11.2 to 13.4, the asphalt is due to be re-surfaced by October 15. From mile marker 11.2 to 13.4, the asphalt is due to be re-surfaced by October 15.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Reporter

CLAIRFIELD (WATE) - Residents on both sides of Fonde Mountain are concerned about their safety on a mountain road.

Many residents in Clairfield, Tennessee travel north on state Highway 90 across the mountain to shop or go to the doctor in Middlesboro, Kentucky. They say it's closer than LaFollette or Tazewell, Tennessee.

But they're worried about a rain-damaged stretch of the roadway.

The section of Highway 90 in Northwest Claiborne County is fairly smooth. The road is wide. The pavement is solid, and the scenery is spectacular.

But as soon you cross into Bell County, Kentucky onto Highway 74, everything changes.

6 On Your Side stopped outside Jones & Jones Grocery Store in Clairfield recently and spoke with more than a dozen people who live on both sides of the mountain.

"I've never seen that road this bad," Glenn Hudleston said.

"I moved down here three years ago, I've never seen a road this bad," Carolyn VonPein added.

Donna Thacker, a teacher at Clairfield Elementary School, says the road is "basically an obstacle course."

"I actually live in Middlesboro," Thacker said, adding that traveling the road every day is "horrible." She says there are obstacles drivers have to avoid such as big pot holes and large ruts along the way.

"Well it's dangerous because you have to use the whole road. It's one lane instead of two," said Orville Petry, a school bus driver who lives in Clairfield. "You got to go back and forth to try to miss the holes and so forth."

The Bell County Coal Corp. is located off the highway. Every day big trucks loaded with coal slowly make their way up the grade and brake their way down the mountain as they travel toward Middlesboro.

Area residents know that coal brings jobs to the area, but Wilma Mays, from Fonde, questions why the state has let the road deteriorate.

"Over the 71 years you've lived in Fonde, have you see the road this bad?" I asked her.

"Not hardly, no. It is terrible," Wilma said. "Where are the taxes going that all these coal trucks pay? They're not putting it on the roads?"

Many in the group say they've called the Kentucky Department of Highways, but can never get an answer about repairs to the road.

"I worry about whenever you go around the bad places you have to go over on the other side. It's double lane all the way and when you do that, you take your life in your hands," Carolyn VonPein said.

"Did you know that kids drive that mountain to school?" asked Darrell Lambdin, of Clairfield.

That's another aspect that concerns people. "Some of the kids are bused over to Cumberland Gap. I wouldn't want my kids to travel it," one said.

6 On Your Side contacted the Kentucky Department of Highways, and learned that side of the road will soon be paved. From mile marker 11.2 to 13.4, the asphalt is due to be re-surfaced by October 15.

From mile marker 6.9 to 8.1, re-surfacing should be finished by November 30.

Next spring, money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be used to repair ditches and drainage problems.

For those who travel the road, the promise of a smoother ride can't come soon enough. "It's not a safe place to travel, and I do it every day," Donna Thacker said.

Some of the Clairfield residents say the repairs that are scheduled will help, but the road has been patched before only to quickly deteriorate. They hope the re-surfacing holds together longer this time.


 If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at (865) 633-5974.

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