The next step in developing a road project that would include a bridge between Soddy-Daisy and Harrison is finding the “sweet spot” for the toll that drivers will be charged, according to Tennessee Department of Transportation officials.
“This is really moving from a traffic study to a traffic and revenue study,” said Ed Cole, the department’s chief of environment and planning.
Mr. Cole said TDOT’s task will be finding a toll that drivers would be willing to pay while covering the costs of building and maintaining the road.
TDOT representatives and local officials on Friday morning met to discuss the bridge project, for which TDOT and county engineers have developed five possible routes.
A study determined that all five routes are feasible, but could be implemented only if found to be economically viable.
State Rep. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap, chairman of the House Transportation and Highways Subcommittee, said making sure the bridge project does not lose money is imperative.
“We’ve got to be right on the one we select,” he said. “If we screw up in doing one that’s not successful, we’re dead in the water.”
State Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, said the public needs to be behind the project.
“If the local communities don’t buy it, it isn’t going to happen,” he said.
The Hamilton County project is one of three TDOT is considering implementing under the Tennessee Tollway Act, which the General Assembly passed last year. Officials also are looking at bridge projects in Davidson and Shelby counties, said Teresa Estes, a project manager for TDOT.
Ms. Estes said the department is planning to hire a consultant in May to study the toll rate. She said the study would take four to five months, possibly finishing by October.
Officials will determine the best bridge route based on traffic and cost, Mr. Cole said.
According to Kelly Paul, a consultant with Cambridge Systematics, each of the five routes would have similar traffic densities — 20,000 to 26,000 cars and trucks per day in 2030. She noted, however, that those numbers were estimates for a road without a toll.
“This is kind of your best-case scenario,” she said.
Steve Meyer of Volkert and Associates, the firm that conducted the feasibility study, said speed will be a major factor in determining how attractive the road will be for drivers. He said a “limited access” road, with few entry and exit points, would allow drivers to go faster.
Mr. Meyer also noted that Volkert was unable to determine the cost of rights of way for the various route options. He said the choice of route also would depend on those costs.
Hamilton County Commission Chairman Bill Hullander asked if officials might consider a route that does not come all the way to Interstate 75, but would end at state Highway 58.
“That’s definitely an option,” Mr. Meyer said.
Ms. Estes said TDOT would look at options that only consist of portions of the five routes.
TDOT has developed 5 possible routes for the toll road/bridge project:
* Route 1: Starts at state Highway 111, ends at I-75 exit 20
* Route 2: Starts at Sequoyah Access Road, ends at I-75 mile marker 13 (bridge goes north of power plant)
* Route 3: Starts at Sequoyah Access Road, ends at I-75 mile marker 13 (bridge goes south of power plant)
* Route 4: Starts at Sequoyah Access Road, ends at I-75 exit 10
* Route 5: Starts at Hixson Pike, ends at I-75 mile marker 13
Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation