Yes, road construction is a bother, but the end result will be worth it
Anyone who drives on U.S. 27 through downtown is well aware that Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) has seemingly taken up permanent residence there.
For the past three years, we’ve all had a front seat view of the massive project from the Olgiati Bridge north to Signal Mountain Rd. And once the work there was done—and let’s be honest, traffic flows much better through there than before—it was time for all the road crews to pack their trucks and earth-movers and head south across the bridge...to start all over again.
For the past month, practically every single tree and bit of brush alongside the stretch of U.S. 27 between the bridge and Interstate 24 has been uprooted and hauled off. Workers in buildings along the highway (which includes all of us here at The Pulse) are now seeing buildings we’ve never seen before from our office windows.
Naturally, all the moving of dirt and foliage is merely the first step. The first of many, many steps. According to officials with TDOT, the ambitious plan involves a number of changes, additions and improvements.
Several new bridges will be constructed along with new frontage roads, multiple walls, and a wider footprint separating downtown from the old Cameron Hill section. This includes a major reworking of the downtown freeway to straighten it (most notably the current very curvy section between MLK Blvd. and 4th St.) as well as adding traffic lanes.
In addition, a new travel lane and shoulder will be added in each direction on the Olgiati Bridge. Yes, you read that right: they are planning on widening the bridge again.
The good news is that, in anticipation of this work, the necessary bridge supports are already in place. When TDOT first widened the bridge some 13 years ago, the substructure was constructed wider than the superstructure in anticipation of the future widening.
Nice of TDOT to think so far ahead. And this also explains why the bridge has looked a bit strange this past decade or so.
Other changes include:
- Adding one to two additional travel lanes in each direction, along with one to two ramp lanes.
- Adding a southbound connector road to improve access to 4th St., 6th St. and MLK Blvd.
- Constructing a dedicated northbound ramp to 4th St. and MLK Blvd.
- Removing the current northbound exit at Main St. and replacing it with an exit ramp that connects directly to the Chattanooga Convention Center at the intersection of Carter and W. 13th streets.
All told, 2.3 miles of the highway will be altered and improved once the project is complete. At a cost of $126,323,413.81 (and how the contractor, Dement Construction Company, figured out the cost down to the last 81 cents is left to the accountants to figure out).
For those keeping track at home, this makes the project the most expensive TDOT project in the entire state to date. And you thought your state taxes were just being wasted.
And last, but not least, is the biggest question of all: when will everything be finished? TDOT says if everything goes according to plan, we’ll all be driving over the completed project without a traffic cone or construction barrel in sight by the end of July in 2019.
Keep your fingers crossed.