Crews hoping to repair storm-damaged Riggs Chapel Road by December


HARRIMAN, Tenn. (WATE) – By the end of December, Roane County hopes to open a main road that has been closed since February.

That was when the record rain storm caused rock slides and washouts along Riggs Chapel Road.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare spoke with Roane County’s road superintendent.

Currently, stabilizing a ridge filled with loose rocks is underway.

The storms in February badly damaged roadways in Roane County. There were hillside washouts along the Emory River and surface road failures on heavily traveled thoroughfares.

The county commission appropriated $10 million in emergency funding to repair those roads.

Riggs Chapel connects Harriman in Roane County with lots of people who live west near the Morgan County line.

By the end of the year, Riggs Chapel may reopen if all goes according to plan.

Heavy excavating equipment is moving tons of dirt outside of Harriman. Work is underway to stabilize a steep rocky hillside on Riggs Chapel Road that was damaged during February’s heavy rains and flooding.

A two-mile section of Riggs Chapel has been closed for more than half a year after a large swath of Walden Ridge collapsed onto the roadway below on Feb. 23.

Road Superintendent Dennis Ferguson says the reconstruction project along Riggs Chapel is one of the most ambitious Roane County has ever undertaken.

“It’s approximately a thousand foot long project is what it is. We’re at the deepest point of it right here where they’re cutting back approximately 100 foot,” Ferguson said.

Six months ago, Superintendent Ferguson showed us where boulders slide down the rocky hillside onto Riggs Chapel. He pointed to where ground under the road collapsed and further down Riggs Chapel there were even more problems.

In late spring, the Roane County Commission unanimously agreed to borrow $10 million to restore several roads torn up last February.

“It’s not for anything else. It’s strictly for disasters, it can’t be used for another project. It can’t be used for paving roads,” he said.

In March, we met with a dozen people frustrated by the road closure who depended on the road to get to downtown Harriman. A long detour has taken them into Morgan County.

“I didn’t want to shut it down, I hated to. I had no choice because I didn’t want anyone to get killed or hurt driving this road,” Ferguson said.

Bowman Bend road damaged in February today remains passable. Repairing it and other damaged roads are part of the big restoration project.

Ferguson says contractors are creating tiers, or benches, that would catch rocks from future landslides along Walden Ridge.

“They’ll be about five foot wide or so that way if something starts at the top it will come down and hit that bench….it won’t fall into the road,” Ferguson said.

Once the ridgeline is stabilized then repaving, striping and installing a guard rail will complete this phase of the project.

“I hope December. I want to give folks a Christmas present. I think it would be a great Christmas present for them. It would make me feel a lot better too,” he said, adding that bids on other road projects are being considered.

He also says with the good weather we’ve had over the last six weeks, he expects contractors to meet their deadline on Riggs Chapel and that should please many people who depend on that road to get to and from Harriman, as well as to Interstate 40.

(Photo: WATE)

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