U.S. Route 25E

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U.S. Route 25E

US 25E highlighted in red
Route information
Auxiliary route of US 25
Maintained by KYTC, TDOT, and FHWA[a]
Length112.8 mi[2] (181.5 km)
ExistedNovember 26, 1926 (1926-11-26)[3]–present
Major junctions
South end US 25 / US 25W / US 70 in Newport, TN
Major intersections
North end I-75 in North Corbin, KY
CountryUnited States
StatesTennessee, Kentucky
CountiesTN: Cocke, Jefferson, Hamblen, Grainger, Claiborne
KY: Bell, Knox, Laurel
Highway system
US 25KY US 25W
US 25TN US 25W

U.S. Route 25E (US 25E) is the eastern branch of US 25 from Newport, Tennessee, where US 25 splits into US 25E and US 25W, to North Corbin, Kentucky, where the two highways rejoin. The highway, however, continues as US 25E for roughly two miles (3.2 km) until it joins Interstate 75 (I-75) in the Laurel County community of North Corbin at exit 29. The highway serves the Appalachia regions of Kentucky's Cumberland Plateau and the Ridge-and-Valley section of East Tennessee, including the urbanized areas of Corbin and Middlesboro in Kentucky and Morristown in Tennessee.

US 25E follows the original pathway of early American pioneer Daniel Boone's Wilderness Road,[4] which contributed to the increased settlement of Appalachia given its access through the rugged Cumberland Gap. By 1815, the route became the first state-funded road in Tennessee, and in 1923 as an unsigned Tennessee State Route 32 (SR 32) in the Tennessee State Route System in its statewide entirety. It would be recognized as part of the Dixie Highway, one of the earliest federal auto trails, in 1915. The route was officially established as US 25E with the creation of the U.S. Highway System in 1926.

By 1965, economic conditions in Appalachia remained dire, and the formation of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) provided new incentive for US 25E as part of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS), designated as Corridor S in Tennessee and partially as Corridor F in both Tennessee and Kentucky.[5] Corridor S follows US 25E between I-81 in Morristown to State Route 63 (SR 63, Corridor F) in Harrogate, and Corridor F follows the route from SR 63 to US 119 in Pineville. With its role in the ADHS, US 25E was planned for improvements as a regional limited-access highway between I-75 and I-81.

Initial construction work began in both states around the 1960s and 1970s, but was accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s with additional federal funding for the section of US 25E between I-75 and I-81 with its designation as a federal truck route in the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) National Truck Network by 1982,[6] and as High-Priority Corridor 12 of the National Highway System by the U.S. Congress in 1991 with the passing of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ITSEA).[7] In 1996, the highway received national recognition with its realignment under the Cumberland Gap with the large-scale Cumberland Gap Tunnel project.[8] Considered a civil engineering achievement,[9][10] the tunnel is one of two in the entire U.S. that crosses state lines.[11]

US 25E serves as an arterial expressway for long-distance travelers and truckers connecting central Appalachia to the Great Lakes and Eastern Seaboard regions of the U.S. via access to I-75, I-81, and proximity to I-26 and I-40. Since the completion of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel in 1996, upgrades to freeway-grade standards have been planned and constructed for US 25E in both states to improve regional freight movement.[12][13][14]

In 2009, all of US 25E in Tennessee, along with US 25 from Newport to the North Carolina state line, was designated as the East Tennessee Crossing Byway, a National Scenic Byway.[15]

Route description

US 25E is maintained by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) in the sections located in their respective states. Both states also have access to federal funding through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), given US 25E's designation as High-Priority Corridor 12 from its terminus at I-75 in North Corbin, Kentucky to I-81 in Morristown, Tennessee, and Appalachian Highway corridors F in Kentucky and Tennessee, and S in Tennessee, respectively. In addition, the FHWA contracts the maintenance and operations of US 25E in the Cumberland Gap Tunnel to Tunnel Management, Inc. a subsidiary of Vaughn and Melton Consulting Engineers.[1]


French Broad region

The old J.M. Walters truss bridge, which carried US 25E across the French Broad River, until its demolition and replacement in 2017

US 25E begins in the western portion of the city of Newport in Cocke County where it forks at the signalized northern terminus of US 25 alongside US 25W/US 70. Northbound US 25 and westbound US 70 leave Newport towards Dandridge concurrent with one another. From Newport, US 25E continues as two-lane primary highway, meets the under-construction Newport Bypass (SR 35/US 321),[16] and enters unincorporated Cocke County through a rugged forested area near the community of Gum Spring approaching the Douglas Lake impoundment of the French Broad River. After briefly paralleling the eastern shoreline of the French Broad River at Webb Hollow,[2] US 25E exits Cocke County as it crosses over the French Broad at the concrete bulb-tee beam J.M. Walters Bridge at the McNabb Bluff rock ledge.[17]

US 25E then enters Jefferson County northeast of the resort city of Baneberry, through a rural rolling corridor in the unincorporated community of Leadvale before entering the town limits of White Pine at SR 341 (Roy Messer Highway/Old Airport Road). In the town of White Pine, US 25E becomes State Street, the main thoroughfare in the town providing access to the town's residential areas and central business district. Exiting White Pine at Walnut Street, US 25E passes through farmland, andconnects to the Walters State Great Smoky Mountains Expo Center approaching I-81 at exit 8 near the Jefferson-Hamblen county line.[2][18]

Morristown-Bean Station region

Entering Hamblen County, US 25E widens to a four-lane divided expressway at I-81 exit 8, and is designated Appalachian Development Corridor S and the Davy Crockett Parkway. US 25E then enters the southernmost city limits of Morristown near the East Tennessee Progress Center industrial park at a signalized intersection. It passes through a highway exit-oriented commercialized corridor in the neighborhood of Witt, passing by Witt Elementary School and intersecting SR 343 (Newport Highway), a former alignment of US 25E. North of SR 343, US 25E traverses a rural commercial area and meets the western terminus of SR 113 (Spencer Hale Road). US 25E ascends the forested Bays Mountain ridge and becomes a freeway. It meets SR 160 (Governor Dewitt Clinton Senter Highway), a southern bypass route of Morristown at a partial cloverleaf interchange.[2] US 25E then enters the central business district of Morristown, first accessing Walters State Community College (WSCC) and College Square Mall at a split-single-point urban interchange at Walters State Community College Drive and Crockett Square Drive. Northbound, US 25E meets US 11E (Morris Boulevard) at its first partial cloverleaf interchange, sharing a brief concurrency with US 11E, until meeting another partial cloverleaf interchange where US 11E splits and heads eastbound as Andrew Johnson Highway. North of this interchange, US 25E downgrades to a limited-access four-lane highway along another exurban commercial corridor as it approaches the Hamblen-Grainger county line at the Cherokee Lake impoundment of the Holston River.[2] Before exiting Morristown, US 25E has an incomplete interchange with SR 343 (Buffalo Trail) and signalized intersection at Cherokee Park Road, a local collector road to SR 343.[2]

US 25E looking north towards Clinch Mountain in Bean Station

US 25E then crosses the Holston River at the steel stringer beam Olen R. Marshall Memorial Bridge, becoming Appalachian Highway.[19] After this crossing, US 25E enters the town of Bean Station in Grainger County, passing by tourist-based commercial development along a peninsula on the Cherokee Reservoir shoreline near Johnson Ridge. Exiting the tourist area on a rock-fill embankment surrounded by the Cherokee shoreline, the highway traverses Collins Ridge, passing by the Crosby Pothole Nature Refuge and is surrounded by Cherokee Reservoir on another rock fill embankment, before approaching the restricted junctions of Broadway Drive, an old alignment of US 25E, and the northern terminus of SR 375.[2] North of SR 375, US 25E becomes a freeway on a rock cut atop the Richland Knobs' Big Ridge, bypassing Bean Station's central business district to the west. Descending from the Big Ridge rock cut, US 25E meets US 11W at a trumpet interchange, beginning a short westbound concurrency with US 11W.[2] US 25E/US 11W continues northwest, downgrading to an limited-access highway through a minor commercial district on its north and an impounded German Creek on its south in west Bean Station. Three miles (4.8 km) west of Bean Station at its town limits near Briar Fork Creek, US 25E splits from US 11W at an incomplete semi-directional T interchange near the southern base of Clinch Mountain, as US 11W heads westbound along the Richland Valley towards Knoxville. US 25E travels northbound through the Poor Valley ridge and ascends the southern slope of Clinch Mountain through a shale rock cut.[20]

Clinch Mountain-Cumberland Gap region

US 25E descending Clinch Mountain's southern slope towards Bean Station

US 25E then ascends northbound towards Bean Gap on top of Clinch Mountain, providing access to a scenic overlook of the Clinch Mountain valley, and then descends down the northern slope of Clinch Mountain, where it meets SR 131 at a restricted-offset intersection in the unincorporated community of Thorn Hill.[2][20] North of Thorn Hill, US 25E traverses through the rugged forested Copper Ridge and Broken Valley area, passing by natural water springs and the former Imperial Tennessee marble quarry;[21][22] approaching the pre-stressed box girder Indian Creek bridge.[23] After crossing Indian Creek, US 25E enters the Dry Valley region adjacent to the Clinch River. US 25E briefly parallels the Clinch River on its west side and the Dry Valley rock bluff on its east before crossing the river once again at the Grainger-Claiborne county border via a multi-beam girder bridge.[24]

Entering Claiborne County, US 25E winds through the forested and mountainous Caney Valley region and crosses the Norris Lake impoundment of Big Sycamore Creek on a stringer bridge.[25] North of Big Sycamore Creek, US 25E has an intersection with eastbound SR 33, beginning a brief concurrency northbound towards the town of Tazewell. US 25E/SR 33 exits the Caney Valley region and enters the rural unincorporated community of Springdale, crossing over Little Sycamore Creek and passing by Springdale Elementary School and the Tazewell-Claiborne County Airport.[26] North of Springdale, US 25E then ascends up Wallen Ridge passing by farmland and crosses over an old alignment of the road. After the overpass, the highway enters the southernmost town limits of Tazewell with access to Claiborne County High School but follows a J-shaped bypass around town's central business district. At the terminus of the bypass, US 25E splits from SR 33 in which the latter heads west towards Maynardville. US 25E heads north and immediately intersects SR 345 at its signalized eastern terminus. North of SR 345, US 25E follows a rural and commercialized corridor before exiting the northern city limits of Tazewell and enters a rugged rural corridor. It goes through a rock cut at Pine Hill, approaching the Powell River.[2]

US 25E at the US 58 junction with the historic Cumberland Gap visible

US 25E then immediately enters the southern city limits of Harrogate after crossing the Powell River on a girder bridge, picking up the Cumberland Gap Parkway designation. In Harrogate, US 25E passes through another rock cut near the Powell River State Natural Reserve on the northern side of the Powell River. The highway intersects Patterson Road, an old alignment of US 25E. North of Patterson Road, US 25E traverses a rural-forested corridor, passing by TDOT's Claiborne County garage. It meets eastbound SR 63 at a signalized and commercialized intersection, beginning a minor concurrency along a commercial corridor before meeting westbound SR 63 (Corridor F) at another traffic signal near the corner of Lincoln Memorial University's campus (LMU) and Harrogate City Park. North of the western SR 63 junction, US 25E remains adjacent to LMU's campus on the west, and Harrogate's central business district on the east with two signalized entrances to LMU. Exiting Harrogate, US 25E enters the town limits of Cumberland Gap and upgrades to a freeway at the base of the Cumberland Mountains. It then encounters the western terminus of US 58 at a trumpet interchange and begins its approach to the Cumberland Gap Tunnel at the base of the Cumberland Gap. Before entering the Tunnel, US 25E overpasses Tiprell Road and the Knoxville Cumberland Gap Railroad. Entering the Cumberland Gap Tunnel, US 25E crosses the Tennessee-Kentucky state line near the tunnel's midway point, and exits Tennessee as a four-lane freeway.[2]


Cumberland Gap-Pine Mountain region

The Kentucky entrance of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel

Exiting the Cumberland Gap Tunnel and Tennessee, US 25E has a trumpet interchange with the entrance road for Cumberland Gap National Historical Park before heading west to the city of Middlesboro in Bell County, where it downgrades to a four-lane highway, and intersects Kentucky Route 74 (KY 74). North of KY 74, US 25E continues through Middlesboro as North 12th Street, the main commercial throughfare, providing access to Middlesboro Mall, and intersecting KY 441 before exiting northern Middlesboro's city limits, picking back up the Cumberland Gap Parkway designation for the rest of its duration in Kentucky. Between Middlesboro and the city of Pineville, US 25E travels through the Kentucky Ridge State Forest/Pine Mountain State Resort Park in the Pine Mountain ridge and accesses Bell County High School. Entering the city limits of Pineville, US 25E meets US 119 (Corridor F). US 25E then becomes a horseshoe-shaped bypass of Pineville's central business district and intersects KY 66.[2]

Barbourville-Cumberland River region

US 25E northbound, as seen from Pine Mountain

Approaching the rural community of Flat Lick, US 25E crosses the Cumberland River twice, enters Knox County, and intersects KY 92. In Flat Lick, US 25E meets KY 930 and KY 223. US 25E then makes an S-shaped curve, dipping south then turning back northwest as it approaches the city of Barbourville, designed originally as a bypass. Instead, the route serves as the city's major commercial corridor, providing access to Union College, and meeting KY 225 and KY 11. US 25E then enters a rugged forested area in the Cumberland Plateau near the unincorporated community of Baileys Switch. Between Baileys Switch and Gray, US 25E gradually turns more east–west, and witnesses a transition from rugged forested land to rolling farmland.[2]

Corbin-North Corbin region

Departing the rural community of Gray, the route's corridor begins transitioning from a rural setting to a more exurban-developed land-use as it approaches the conurbation of Corbin-North Corbin, with more consecutive signalized intersections with increased commercial development. US 25E then enters the city limits of Corbin at the northern terminus of KY 3041 (Corbin Bypass). Extending further east into a commercialized area of Corbin, the route also meets the northern terminus of KY 312. Past KY 312, the route then enters Laurel County and the unincorporated yet intensely developed community of North Corbin. US 25E then reunites with US 25W, and the unsuffixed US 25 at a heavily congestion intersection, dubbed by Kentucky transportation personnel as "Malfunction Junction", where US 25 continues north towards London.[12] However, the US 25E designation continues on an extension westbound to I-75, where it ends at exit 29.[27] Overall, US 25E remains a multilane divided highway for its entire extent in Kentucky.[28]


Pioneer era

Daniel Boone guiding settlers through the Cumberland Gap on the Wilderness Road, the predecessor of US 25E

The route of US 25E was recorded to be first traversed by Native Americans, predominately the Cherokee people, long before the Appalachian region was settled by European pioneers. During this period, the route was considered a part of the Cherokee Warriors' Path.[29] Most notably, the pathway of the Corbin to Bean Station section of US 25E was utilized as famous pioneer and settler, Daniel Boone's Wilderness Road, being used for early interstate travel through the Cumberland Gap, aiding interstate travel in Appalachia.[30][31] Among the early settlers using the Wilderness Road was William Bean, the recorded first European American settler of the state of Tennessee. Bean would establish the outpost of Bean Station, which served as the new southern terminus of the Wilderness Road, in 1776.[31] By 1821, the Tennessee section of the Wilderness Road from the Cumberland Gap to Bean Station would be established as the Bean Station Turnpike, and would receive state funding while being a privately owned toll route due to its regional importance.[32]

Early auto travel and U.S. numbering

1926-era US 25E signage in downtown Cumberland Gap

In 1915, the initial Bean Station Turnpike, along with a southward extension to Morristown and the old Wilderness Road from Cumberland Gap to Corbin, was designated as part of the Dixie Highway, one of the first federal auto trails. These were among the earliest known national highways developed in the United States.[30] That same year, the Tennessee Department of Highways and Public Works, the predecessor agency to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), was formed and tasked with establishing a state highway system.[33] On October 1, 1923, the Tennessee section of the route was designated as SR 32 with the approval of the initial routes of the Tennessee State Route System.[34]

The first portion in Tennessee to be paved was a section between Tazewell and Harrogate, which took place between 1918 and 1922.[35] The 5.4-mile (8.7 km) section between White Pine and Morristown was paved between October 1935 and April 1936.[36][37] Paving of the Jefferson County portion was completed in the fall of 1936.[38] By November 1926, concrete pavement on the portion of the route between Corbin and Barbourville in Kentucky was complete.[39] In July 1928, all Dixie Highway signage on the route in Kentucky was removed and replaced with US 25E signage.[40] All of US 25E was paved with asphalt, concrete or treated macadam by the beginning of 1928.[41] The route in Kentucky would be entirely paved by December 1934.[42]

During the Prohibition era of 1920-1933, the route from the Cumberland Gap to Tazewell, along with SR 33 from Tazewell to Knoxville, was part of the infamous "Thunder Road," which was used by bootleggers to illegally transport and trade moonshine across state lines.[43] The story was later fictionally adapted into a 1958 crime-drama film and song of the same name.[44]

The old D.A. Green Bridge, constructed to carry US 25E after TVA's Cherokee Dam project in 1942.

By 1936, the Clinch River Valley portion of US 25E was relocated and reconstructed to make way for the valley's inundation as part of the Norris Dam project by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). This project included the construction of two concrete deck girder bridges at Big Sycamore Creek in Claiborne County and Indian Creek in Grainger County, respectively. This project, including the new bridges, cost TVA a total of $16,900 (equivalent to $292,782 in 2023[45]).[46]

In 1941, the Bean Station / Holston River section of US 25E was also relocated by TVA for its Cherokee Dam hydroelectric project near Jefferson City. TVA constructed a new truss bridge over the Holston River carrying US 25E between the Grainger and Hamblen line, and relocated US 25E east of its original intersection at US 11W in the old town of Bean Station, close to the Grainger and Hawkins border. The reconstruction of US 25E would cost the TVA $871,600 (equivalent to $13.9 million in 2023[45]), and an additional $602,500 (equivalent to $9.63 million in 2023[45]) for the Holston River bridge between Bean Station and Morristown.[47]

US 25E between Middlesboro and the Cumberland Gap was reconstructed to add a truck climbing lane in 1953.[48] In November 1955, the Kentucky Department of Highways announced a $3 billion (equivalent to $26.6 billion 2023[45]) 20-year comprehensive plan for statewide roadway improvements, including a proposal for US 25E to become a four-lane median divided limited-access highway for its entire length in the state.[49] In December 1958, a 5.2-mile (8.4 km) relocation of US 25E in Kentucky from Barbourville northbound to Garrich (6 miles (9.7 km) west of Gray) was awarded to Oman Construction of Nashville for a cost of $2.297 million (equivalent to $18.6 million in 2023[45]).[50] Relocation work on a 5-mile (8.0 km) section south of Barbourville to Bimble was announced in 1962.[51]

Upgrades to support Appalachian freight movement

With the increased use of the corridor, many portions of US 25E gradually became deficient, leading to plans for its widening and relocation. In 1965, the US 25E corridor from the proposed I-75 in North Corbin to the proposed I-81 in Morristown was proposed as Corridor S of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS), which was created by the Appalachian Regional Development Act that year.[52][53] Kentucky officials asked for the designation in Kentucky to be removed, with Corridor S only designated on US 25E in Tennessee.[52]

Interstate Highway System

In the same year, then Kentucky governor Ned Breathitt announced a 2-mile four-laned extension of US 25E, coined the "US 25 Connector," from its terminus from its conjunction into US 25 with US 25W in Corbin, to the under-construction I-75 at a diamond interchange to provide better access to Middlesboro and entering Tennessee.[54] This extension was completed by 1970.[55] US 25E was also re-constructed to a four-lane with a partial cloverleaf interchange at I-81 near the Witt area of Hamblen County south of Morristown in Tennessee. The contract to construct the related section of I-81 between the southern terminus with I-40 and US 25E near Morristown was awarded in June 1964,[56][57] and completed in December 1966, along with the connecting section of I-40.[58][59]

Clinch Mountain cut and geological difficulties

For the Clinch Mountain section of US 25E, TDOT engineers finalized two design alternatives, a dual-bore tunnel through the mountain which reduced environmental impacts to the landscape, or a deep cut along the mountain slope providing scenic views of the Clinch Mountain ridge. Citing the high cost of the tunnel proposal and local business opposition,[60] TDOT decided on a deep cut.[53] On September 13, 1976, work began on the 3.4-mile (5.5 km) section between the southern foot and the summit of Clinch Mountain.[61] Work on the five-mile (8.0 km) connecting section from the summit to south of the Clinch River began in early 1977. Both projects ran into extensive geological problems, which delayed their completion, and increased the cost of the first contract from an initial bid amount of $5.1 million to $10 million.[62] (equivalent to $20 million to $39.3 million in 2023[45]). The project between US 11W at Bean Station and the gap at Clinch Mountain was completed in July 1980.[62] The project south of the Clinch River to the gap at Clinch Mountain included plans for a grade-separated interchange at SR 131 in Thorn Hill, but the interchange project was removed from final construction.[62][63]

Cumberland Gap bypass

In 1969, construction work started on a 13-mile four-lane bypass around the town of Cumberland Gap, from the terminus of US 58 to north of the Powell River bridge in Harrogate.[64] By 1976, the work on this section in Claiborne County and part of Virginia was complete.[65]

Morristown Bypass project

Construction on the Morristown Bypass section of US 25E at SR 160, 1976.

Construction work on the four-lane Morristown Bypass from I-81 exit 8 to south of the Holston River started by June 1973.[66] In the Morristown Bypass, US 25E was realigned east of its original alignment through Morristown's central business district. Four interchanges were constructed, including a parclo at SR 160, two parclos at US 11E (East Morris Boulevard and Andrew Johnson Highway), and an incomplete half-Y interchange at Buffalo Trail, US 25E's then existing alignment. The Morristown Bypass was completed by 1977.[67] By the completion of the Morristown Bypass, a new bridge over the Holston River between Bean Station and Morristown was announced for construction bids, at a preliminary cost of $8.25 million for the new four-lane bridge alone.[68] The new bridge would be complete by 1980.[62]

Pineville Bypass and other Kentucky construction projects

In 1977, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) finalized designs of a 2.2-mile long four-lane bypass for US 25E paralleling the Cumberland River in Pineville, supported by a floodwall.[69] By this time, US 25E in Kentucky had been widened to four lanes in several sections; Corbin to west Barbourville and south to Middlesboro.[70] US 25E in its entirety in Kentucky would be widened to a four-lane expressway by late 1993 to early 1994 to prepare for the Cumberland Gap Tunnel's completion.[71]

Tennessee transportation personnel proposed plans in 1979 to rename US 25E to US 25, as US 25W had largely paralleled or was concurrent to the I-75 corridor. However, the plan was dismissed following dissent from Kentucky officials.[72][73]

Cross-section of the relocated US 25E (Pineville Bypass) project, 1982

Throughout the 1970s to the 1990s, highway improvement projects conducted by a joint-effort between TDOT, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), began to widen US 25E between the town of Cumberland Gap to I-81 south of the city of Morristown into a limited-access and partial controlled-access highway.[53] Transportation and engineering personnel in Kentucky would widen the route from I-75 to the city of Middlesboro in preparation of the Cumberland Gap tunnel project.[74]

Holston River and Bean Station bypass

Preliminary design of a trumpet interchange at US 11W for the Holston River to Bean Station US 25E project, July 1981.

In 1986, funding for the widening of US 25E into a four-lane limited-access highway from US 11W at Bean Station to the Holston River Bridge at Morristown would be funded through then Governor Lamar Alexander's Bicentennial Parkway Trust Fund, which was supported through increased gas taxes.[75] Construction work on the 4.5-mile long section, in coordination with the widening of US 11W between US 25E at Bean Station and an existing four-lane section was complete by the end of 1990.[76] Construction work started on a new alignment for US 25E from the realigned US 11W to the southern base of Clinch Mountain by 1995. It was completed in 1998 with a trumpet interchange at the eastern concurrency terminus of US 11W with an incomplete interchange at the western concurrency terminus of US 11W, with two new bridges at Briar Fork Creek for US 11W westbound towards Knoxville.[77]

With the signing of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in 1991, the US 25E corridor from I-75 at Corbin to I-81 at Morristown was designated as High-Priority Corridor 12, making it as part of the National Highway System.[7] With the ISTEA, any future projects on the corridor of US 25E became eligible to federal funding up to 80%, with the states of Tennessee and Kentucky having to provide the remaining 20%.[78]

Clinch River Valley and Tazewell Bypass

By 1992, funding for the survey and design of US 25E between Tazewell and the Springdale community in Claiborne County was allocated by Governor Ned McWherter's state budget.[79] In 1994, TDOT would announce a multi-stage plan to widen and relocate a 18.2-mile-long section US 25E between Thorn Hill in Grainger County to south of Harrogate in Claiborne County to prepare for the completion of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel. The project would be split into four sections, from north of Indian Creek to the Clinch River in Grainger County, from the Clinch River to south of Tazewell, a 0.9-mile (1.4 km) bypass around Tazewell until Anders Street, and from Anders Street to an existing four-lane section south of Harrogate.[80]

Before the completion of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel, US 25E saw increased congestion following an uptick in truck traffic bypassing I-75 through Campbell County and Knoxville.[74] The route is considered an alternate corridor of I-75 attractive to commuters to regional metropolises such as Morristown and Corbin-North Corbin and truckers alike connecting to I-81 and I-75, bypassing the congested stretch of I-75 in Knoxville and the stretch north of Knoxville through the Cumberland Mountains, which is prone to rockslides.[13]

Cumberland Gap Tunnel project

Earthworks for US 25E northbound approaching the Tennessee entrance of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel.

In the mid-to-late-20th century, US 25E between Middlesboro and Cumberland Gap had seen an uptick in fatal collisions, with the stretch of highway through the Cumberland Gap nicknamed "Massacre Mountain".[81] In a 1985 report published by the United States Department of the Interior regarding US 25E through the gap, the KYTC reported 239 collisions with 19 fatalities between 1967 and 1978 between Middlesboro and the Virginia state line. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) would report 42 accidents with 1 fatality between the Tennessee and Kentucky state lines from 1953 to 1977 in the same report.[82] In 1973, officials with the National Park Service (NPS) received initiatives to construct tunnels underneath the Cumberland Gap in order to resolve the accidents and restore the Cumberland Gap to its pioneer-era state of the 1770s, a motion set forth by the establishment of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park by the United States Congress in 1940. The plan, consisting of the construction of twin 4,600-foot-long (1,400 m) tunnels, five miles (8.0 km) of new a four-lane controlled-access US 25E, two interchanges, seven bridges, and the restoration of the Cumberland Gap, was presented with a cost of $265 million (equivalent to $1.39 billion in 2023[45]) and was led by joint effort between the NPS and the FHWA. Design work for the project started in 1979, and construction on the tunnels and the new four-lane US 25E began in 1985.[81]

The Cumberland Gap Tunnel would open in 1996, completely bypassing Cumberland Gap and Virginia.[81] US 58 was moved to a new alignment along a short stretch of old US 25E to meet the new four-lane US 25E in Tennessee, decommissioning US 25E entirely in Virginia. As the remainder of old US 25E through Virginia and Kentucky lay within the boundaries of the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, its pavement was torn up and the path was restored into a hiking trail along the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap.[83]

Post-tunnel improvements

Since the 2000s, congestion from truck and commuter traffic, and the issue of access control has brought several projects in Tennessee and Kentucky on upgrading US 25E up to Interstate Highway standards.[84] Kentucky transportation officials cited the route as a "travel corridor the Eastern Seaboard (via connection to Interstate 40 and Interstate 81 in Tennessee) for through traffic."[12][85][86]

Construction work on a new split single-point urban interchange at College Park Drive near WSCC for US 25E started in Morristown on September 2, 2011, by general contractor Summers-Taylor, Inc of Elizabethton. The project, consisting of lowering the grade of US 25E, constructing two frontage roads and three bridges, was completed on October 24, 2015, at a cost of $17,279,302.97.[87]

Between September 2011 and June 2014, US 25E at I-81 exit 8 was modified in a project that replaced the southbound loop onramp with a traditional diamond bridge ramp, widened the radius of the northbound loop exit ramp, replaced the US 25E overpass with a four-lane bridge, and added turn lanes at the intersections with the ramps. This project was necessitated by the hazardous conditions of the previous two-lane configuration, and the adoption of US 25E as part of an alternate route to I-75.[14]

In 2017, design work started on an intersection relocation project of SR 131 near Thorn Hill in Grainger County at US 25E, which shifted the eastern and western junctions of SR 131 north and south of each other respectively.[63] The project was completed in July 2021 by contractor Charles Blalock and Sons, Inc. at a bid price of $3.98 million.[88]

In February 2018, the KYTC started work on a widening and access management project on US 25E between the US 25/US 25W terminus and the intersection at KY 3041 (Corbin Bypass). With a cost of $8.8 million, the project consisted of the removal of existing traffic lights and being replaced with restricted J-turn intersections, new frontage roads, and the widening of US 25E from four to six lanes, being completed in 2020.[89]

As of 2013, 26.5 miles (42.6 km) has been completed of Corridor S along US 25E, while 22.2 miles (35.7 km) remains to be constructed, which consists of rest areas and design and construction of interchanges to meet Interstate Highway standards along the stretch of US 25E-labeled Corridors F and S.[90][91]

Major intersections


US 25 south / US 25W north / US 70 (W Broadway Street/SR 9/SR 32 south/SR 35) to I-40 – Newport, Dandridge, Sevierville
Southern terminus of US 25E; US 25E south and US 25W merge to form US 25; southern end of unsigned SR 32 concurrency
Douglas Lake/French Broad RiverJ. W. Walters Bridge
JeffersonNina Road – BaneberryAccess road into Baneberry
White Pine9.515.3
SR 341 west (Old Airport Road) – Talbott
Eastern terminus of SR 341
SR 113 south (Main Street) – Dandridge
Southern end of SR 113 concurrency
HamblenMorristown13.020.9 I-81 – Knoxville, BristolI-81 exit 8, southern end of ADHS Corridor S and NHS Corridor 12 concurrency
SR 343 north (Newport Highway) – Downtown
Southern terminus of SR 343
SR 113 north – Whitesburg
Northern end of SR 113 concurrency
17.127.51 SR 160 (Enka Highway)Southern end of freeway; interchange
19311ACollege Square Drive/College Park DriveInterchange
US 11E south (Morris Boulevard/SR 34 west) – Morristown
Southern end of US 11E/SR 34 concurrency; interchange
US 11E north (East A.J. Highway/SR 34 east/SR 66) – Greeneville, Morristown
Northern end of US 11E/SR 34 concurrency; northern end of freeway; interchange
Dalton Ford RoadProposed interchange (unfunded)[94]
Brights PikeProposed interchange (unfunded)[94]
SR 343 south (Buffalo Trail) – Morristown Central Business District
Interchange; northern terminus of SR 343; southbound exit and northbound entrance; missing movements signed on Cherokee Park Road
Cherokee Lake/Holston RiverOlen R. Marshall Memorial Bridge
GraingerBean Station26.242.2
SR 375 south (Lakeshore Drive) – Cherokee
Northern terminus of SR 375; southern end of freeway
US 11W north (New Lee Highway/SR 1 east) – Rogersville
Southern end of US 11W/SR 1 concurrency; interchange; northern end of freeway
US 11W south (Lee Highway/SR 1 west) – Rutledge, Knoxville
Northern end of US 11W/SR 1 concurrency; interchange
Thorn Hill38.662.1 SR 131 (Mountain Valley Highway 131) – Washburn, Treadway
SR 33 north – Sneedville
Southern end of SR 33 concurrency
SR 33 south (N Broad Street) – New Tazewell, Maynardville
Northern end of SR 33 concurrency, proposed interchange along with SR 345[85]
SR 345 north (Cedar Fork Road)
Southern terminus of SR 345, proposed interchange along with SR 33[85]
SR 63 east (Forge Ridge Road) – Sneedville
Southern end of SR 63 concurrency, Northern end of ADHS Corridor S concurrency
SR 63 west (Appalachian Highway) – Arthur, Speedwell, Fincastle, LaFollette
Northern end of SR 63 concurrency; Southern end of ADHS Corridor F concurrency
Cumberland Gap61.298.5
US 58 east (Wilderness Road/SR 383 east) – Jonesville, VA, Bristol, VA
Interchange; western terminus of US 58/SR 383
Cumberland Gap65.9
Cumberland Gap Tunnel
KentuckyBellCumberland Gap NHP1.3432.161Cumberland Gap National Park Visitor Center & Craft ShopInterchange
KY 74 west – Airport

KY 441 west / KY 74 Truck west
KY 3486 south
KY 188 east
KY 1534 north
KY 3151 east
KY 190 west – Chenoa, Frakes, Pine Mountain State Resort Park
US 119 north – Harlan, Martins Fork Lake
Northern end of ADHS Corridor F concurrency

KY 66 north to KY 221 – Red Bird Mission
KY 2015 north
KY 2014 east
KY 92 west – Williamsburg, Whitley City
KY 3085 south
KY 3085 north
KY 930 west
KY 3085 south – Flat Lick
KY 223 north – Dewitt
KY 3439 west

KY 1304 north to KY 11 – Bimble
KY 3153 west
KY 2415 north

KY 225 south / KY 3439 east
KY 11 south – Barbourville
Southern end of KY 11 concurrency
KY 2420 west – Downtown Barbourville
KY 11 north – Manchester
Northern end of KY 11 concurrency
KY 1487 south
KY 2418 south
KY 3438 east
KY 229 north – London
KY 1527 east
40.36664.963 KY 233 – Gray
42.22767.958 KY 830

KY 3041 south to I-75 south
KY 312 west
44.59371.765 KY 1629
LaurelNorth Corbin45.19272.729

US 25 north / US 25W south – Airport
US 25W and US 25E north merge to form US 25; US 25E signage continues
KY 3431 to KY 1223

I-75 / KY 770 west – Knoxville, Lexington
I-75 exit 29; northern end of NHS Corridor 12 concurrency, northern terminus of US 25E
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

See also


  1. ^ Since the Cumberland Gap Tunnel is an interstate facility, it is the responsibility of the FHWA to maintain the section of US 25E it carries. The FHWA contracts the maintenance work to Tunnel Management, Inc. of Vaughn and Melton Consulting Engineers.[1]
  1. ^ a b "Pioneer Holdings to Join JMT". JMT. 2021. Retrieved January 18, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Google (January 2, 2021). "U.S. Route 25E" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  3. ^ Bureau of Public Roads; American Association of State Highway Officials (November 11, 1926). United States System of Highways Adopted for Uniform Marking by the American Association of State Highway Officials (Map). 1:7,000,000. Washington, DC: United States Geological Survey. OCLC 32889555. Retrieved November 7, 2013 – via Wikimedia Commons.
  4. ^ "US 25". KentuckyRoads.com. Retrieved 18 June 2023.
  5. ^ "ADHS Approved Corridors and Termini". Archived from the original on November 1, 2007.
  6. ^ Office of Highway Policy Information. "Figure 1-4: National Truck Network". Our Nation's Highways 2008. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, as Amended, §§1105(c)(12) and (f)(25)". Government Publishing Office. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  8. ^ C. Butcher, Marianne (May 4, 2002). "Cumberland Gap: A Symbol of American Identity" (PDF). Ball State University. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  9. ^ Meachum, Kelly; Jeanneret, Matt (December 6, 2002). "Parkway System & Cumberland Gap Tunnel Project Selected Kentucky's Top Transportation Infrastructure Projects of 20th Century". American Road & Transportation Builders Association. Archived from the original on February 1, 2003. Retrieved June 18, 2023.
  10. ^ Mooney, Robert (1998). "1998 Excellence in Highway Design Category 9 - Highway Improvements on Publicly Owned Land Merit Award". Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  11. ^ U.S. Federal Highway Administration Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division (2001). "The Cumberland Gap Tunnel : pioneering a new route to the past". Library of Congress. Retrieved June 17, 2023.
  12. ^ a b c Jeff, Noble (October 18, 2013). "U.S. 25E plans revealed at meeting". The Times Tribune. Retrieved March 9, 2020.
  13. ^ a b Wilber Smith Associates (February 2003). "U.S. 25E Corridor Study: Morristown, Tennessee" (PDF). Lakeway Area Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  14. ^ a b "From the archives, 2013; TDOT opens 81 access ramp at Exit 8". Citizen Tribune. November 16, 2018. Retrieved December 31, 2022.
  15. ^ O'Neil, Duay (October 20, 2009). "Hwy 25 East Is Now a National Scenic Byway". The Newport Plain Talk. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved October 23, 2009.
  16. ^ Tennessee Department of Transportation. "State Route 35 (US321) Newport Bypass, from State Route 9 (US 70) to near St. Tide Hollow Road". Tennessee Department of Transportation. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  17. ^ Witt, Gerald (March 20, 2017). "Video: TDOT destroys bridge". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved January 3, 2023.
  18. ^ "Expo". Walters State Community College. Retrieved January 3, 2023.
  19. ^ "FAP 32 over Holston River". BridgeReports.com. Retrieved January 3, 2023.
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  21. ^ Wolfe, Tracey (February 16, 2022). "County pursuing improved spring water access". Grainger Today. Retrieved June 12, 2023.
  22. ^ Claborn, Jim (October 12, 2019). "Thorn Hill's black marble". Grainger Today. Retrieved June 13, 2023.
  23. ^ "FAP 32 over Indian Creek". BridgeReports.com. Retrieved January 3, 2023.
  24. ^ "FAP 32 over Clinch River". BridgeReports.com. Retrieved January 3, 2023.
  25. ^ "FAP 32 over Big Sycamore Creek". BridgeReports.com.
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  48. ^ Trout, Allan M. (January 4, 1953). "State Ready To Spend More Than $14,200,000 On Trunk Roads In 1953". The Courier-Journal. Louisville. sec. 3, p. 4. Retrieved June 18, 2023.
  49. ^ Patterson, Malcolm (November 21, 1955). "20-Year Road Program Would Mean Spending At Daily Rate of 12 Cents Per Person In State". The Park City Daily News. p. 6. Retrieved June 18, 2023.
  50. ^ Vance, Kyle (January 1, 1959). "Last-Day Flurry of Road Awards Sets Record High". The Courier-Journal. p. 1. Retrieved June 18, 2023.
  51. ^ Staff (June 27, 1962). "50 Persons Call On Combs at Middlesboro". The Paducah Sun. p. 10. Retrieved June 18, 2023.
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  54. ^ Morris, Hugh (April 16, 1965). "I-75, U.S. 25-E Plans Told". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved June 14, 2023.
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  56. ^ "I-81 Stretch Set for Bids". The Knoxville News-Sentinel. June 14, 1964. p. A-8. Retrieved October 2, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
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  64. ^ Staff (February 26, 1969). "Bids Asked for New Hammond Bridge". Kingsport Times-News. p. 1-B. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
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  69. ^ McWilliams, Terry (October 10, 1977). "New 25-E: Pineville Residents Prefer Building New Four-Lane Highway On The Top Of Much Higher Floodwall". The Corbin Times-Tribune. pp. 1, 12. Retrieved June 1, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
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  73. ^ Strong, Dave (1998). "US 119". Virginia Highway Index. Retrieved June 14, 2022.
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  78. ^ Brown, Mike (July 20, 1991). "Highway bill would bring two projects to Kentucky". The Courier-Journal. Louisville. Retrieved June 9, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
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  81. ^ a b c "Cumberland Gap Highway Tunnel Celebrates 15th Anniversary". Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. National Park Service. October 11, 2011. Retrieved February 3, 2021.
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  84. ^ "From the archives, 2013; TDOT opens 81 access ramp at Exit 8". Citizen Tribune. November 16, 2018. Retrieved December 31, 2022.
  85. ^ a b c Runions, Jan (June 21, 2019). "County takes another look at Cedar Fork/U.S. 25E". Claiborne Progress. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  86. ^ "U.S. 25 South Leg". Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  87. ^ "(Final) Estimate Summary to Contractor Report: nterchange at College Park Drive in Morristown" (PDF). Tennessee Department of Transportation. April 12, 2018. Retrieved June 22, 2023.
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Further reading

  • Butler, A.B.. Historic Highways of America: Boone's Wilderness Road 1971.
  • Aycock, J.H.. "Construction problems involving shale in a geologically complex environment; State Route 32, Appalachian Corridor S, Grainger County, Tennessee" Proceedings of the Annual Highway Geology Symposium 32: 36-58 1981.
  • Byerly Don, W.; Aycock, J.H.. "Engineering geology in the construction of U. S. Route 25E across Clinch Mountain, Grainger County, Tennessee" Studies in Geology (Knoxville) 10: 6-8 1985.

External links