published Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Hamilton County Commissioner Joe Graham wants wider highway

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Hamilton County Commissioner Joe Graham wants the state or federal government to widen two railroad bridges that create bottlenecks on Cummings Highway in heavy traffic.

The roadway often serves as an alternative to Interstate 24 around Lookout Mountain during interstate traffic disturbances.

He's concerned about the width of the road under the railroad bridge at the end of Cummings Highway where it turns into Broad Street and another near Browns Ferry Road.

On Monday, Graham asked the state legislative delegation to take up the request. He said Tuesday he's planning to work with U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, both Republicans, on the issue as well.

"I'm just saying that the best thing they can do right now is open up the two underpasses," Graham said Tuesday.

At a Monday meeting between local and state elected officials, Graham estimated the back-ups frequently stretch what should be a two-minute drive into a 90-minute one.

Graham, a Lookout Valley resident, said the back-ups happen at least twice a month when interstate traffic is disrupted on I-24 between the Ridgecut and the Interstate 59 interchange in either direction.

A project on Cummings Highway to replace a two-lane bridge with a four-lane wide span is nearing completion, but Graham said the improved traffic flow is counteracted by the narrow railroad bridges that allow only two lanes of traffic.

The slowdowns aren't new.

A 2003 Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency Lookout Valley Area Plan identified a bridge on Cummings Highway and another on Birmingham Highway as problem spots. The plan cited costs and logistics as hurdles and recommended the widening the rail bridges be negotiated between CSX Rail, Norfolk Southern, Chattanooga and the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Graham said he's not making any promises about the road improvements, but this is his second year asking the state delegation to do something about it.

State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, whose district includes the Cummings Highway area in question, said much work is being done on roads in that area. He said he would pay close attention to infrastructure needs where improvements would help with economic development.

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about Ansley Haman...

Ansley Haman covers Hamilton County government. A native of Spring City, Tenn., she grew up reading the Chattanooga Times and Chattanooga Free Press, which sparked her passion for journalism. Ansley's happy to be home after a decade of adventures in more than 20 countries and 40 states. She gathered stories while living, working and studying in Swansea, Wales, Cape Town, South Africa, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Ga., and Knoxville, Tenn. Along the way, she interned for ...

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