By Matt Wilson
Hamilton County's engineer has developed four possible alternate routes for a proposed highway construction project that would include a toll bridge across the Tennessee River between Soddy-Daisy and Harrison.
"It's sort of a look at what we can use as far as existing roads," said Hamilton County Engineer Todd Leamon. "Our intent is to get from (U.S. Highway) 27 to (Interstate) 75."
The four alternative routes are:
* A 15.8-mile route from Sequoyah Access Road to I-75 mile marker 13.
* A 16.6-mile route from Sequoyah Access Road to I-75 mile marker 13 between Ooltewah and Cleveland.
* A 21.1-mile route from Sequoyah Access Road to I-75 exit 9 at Enterprise South.
* A 17.1-mile route from Hixson Pike to I-75 mile marker 13.
The Hixson Pike option was drawn in case Tennessee Valley Authority officials do not want the road near Sequoyah Nuclear Plant, according to state Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, one of the project's main proponents.
Jennifer Osborne, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, said TDOT officials would discuss alternative routes and deliver a full report in late January.
Mr. Leamon said county officials are working with TDOT to develop traffic and cost estimates for the alternative routes.
TDOT officials met with a committee of area leaders in October to discuss a 16.5-mile version of the proposal that would have started at state Route 111 and gone to I-75 exit 20 in Cleveland, Tenn.
TDOT estimated that version of the project would cost about $350 million and would carry about 20,000 cars per day if it opened in 2010.
Officials compared the Hamilton County project to a proposed toll bridge project in the Nashville suburbs that carried an estimated price tag of $250 million.
Mr. Leamon said he was compelled to draw the alternative routes after meetings with area planning organizations.
"We talked about it as a committee and looked at connections south of Soddy Lake," he said.
County Mayor Claude Ramsey has said he would like the road to come to the Enterprise South exit. Jerry Bohannon, president and chief executive officer of the Cleveland-Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, has said he would prefer an exit 20 terminus.
The Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year that allows TDOT to develop new toll roads but limits the department to two pilot projects for now. The Soddy-Daisy to Harrison project could be one of those projects, but TDOT officials have said it must prove cost-effective to get the green light.
Rep. Cobb said he was hopeful that TDOT would select the Hamilton County project.
"We are in the top three," he said.
Projects in Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis have been discussed.
Rep. Cobb also said he hoped the General Assembly would pass additional legislation this year that would allow for more toll projects.
"If they can pay for themselves, there's no reason to limit it to two," he said.
E-mail Matt Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org