U.S. Sens. Bill Frist (R-TN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rep. Bill Jenkins (R-TN) today announced that the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) highway bill conference report contains necessary language to extend the designation of Interstate 26 (I-26) from the intersection with Interstate 181 (I-181) to the interstate terminus located past Kingsport near the Virginia state line.
“This alternative language better captures the size, scope and capabilities of the interstate that runs through the Kingsport region,” said Frist. “This new designation reflects Kingsport’s position as an economic hub and better expresses the highway’s design, usage and carrying capacities. I thank Senator Alexander and Congressman Jenkins for their hard work in making this happen, and I’m confident this new designation will reduce confusion while promoting investment, tourism and economic development in communities throughout the region.”
"Kingsport is a unified economic area, and this designation makes it clear to people passing through the Tri-Cities. It's the right thing to do," said Alexander. "I applaud the leadership of Senator Frist, as well as the local citizens and groups, who pushed for this language to benefit Kingsport and the Tri-Cities region."
Congressman Jenkins added, "Not only will the new I-26 designation benefit the region from an identification standpoint, but it will make perfect sense from a national perspective. It was entirely confusing to suggest that the exact same interstate capacity road that we have traveled for years would have been called I-26 on one side while remaining I-181 on the other. Extending I-26 to the Virginia state line appropriately allows for all of Upper East Tennessee to associate itself with the new interstate, and it provides yet another tool that the region can use for economic development. I am thankful for all of the hard work of our local leaders who joined together in accord on this issue, and that support gave those of us in Congress the momentum we needed to make this designation."
The I-26 language included in the SAFETEA-LU bill extends the designation of Interstate 26 past Kingsport towards the Virginia state line. The new designation of I-181 as I-26 more accurately describes the infrastructure capacities of the highway, and reflects the road’s abilities to support the needs of the regional economy.