By Nikole Dugger
Orange barrels and reduced speed limits have become a part of area highways in recent years as part of road construction projects.
Those of us living in the area and using 153 paid the price - single lanes, traffic jams, frustration, etc, ***MISSING TEXT HERE***
That frustration with all the work has worked its way onto the Tennessee Department of Transportation's comment line, which officials say serves as a sounding board for citizens and as a forum for those passing through construction zones on state highways.
"We get very valuable information that we would not get otherwise," said Kim Keelor, public information manager for TDOT.
TDOT launched in September 2003 after Gov. Phil Bredeson routinely heard on the campaign trail that the state department did not do enough to communicate with the public, Ms. Keelor said.
The signs that read "Record-A-Comment, 1-877-SMARTWAY" are placed at either end of major construction sites along Tennessee's interstates and state routes.
Issues with signs are the most prevalent, according to Ms. Keelor.
"People often find signage confusing," she said.
The timing of traffic signals and speeding also generate a high volume of calls.
An employee checks the telephone line each day, logs the information and directs the comments to the appropriate department. Ms. Keelor said a reply is sent to a street address or via e-mail within a week.
Since its inception, TDOT has received 13 inquiries from Hamilton County, and records show that four of those regarded the Highway153 project in 2004.
In a message received in April of that year, a caller asked, "What are you people doing paving and putting up signs on 153 during rush hour. WHY????"
Another stated, "Highway 153 North and South is very dangerous. I want an explanation as to when the project will be completed and why a contractor is allowed to continue to provide a roadway that is unsafe to drivers."
Weeds and tall grass growing along Highway 27 and I-75 were also brought to the department's attention.
"I-75 in Chattanooga, near Hamilton Place Mall, there are tall weeds growing up in the dividers. Please take care of this," one caller said.
Ms. Keelor said she encourages the feedback to keep flowing.
"I hope it catches on and more and more people use the line."
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