published Thursday, December 15th, 2011

SmartWay transportation center officially opens in Chattanooga

by Cliff Hightower

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  • $2.5 million: Cost of Transportation Management Center
  • 16,000: Total square footage of the center
  • 2,000: Square footage of the control room

Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation

Workers sit behind huge computer monitors that display interstate traffic cameras and maps of Southeast Tennessee.

Almost one-quarter of a control room wall is covered by a large high-definition television screen, showing images from every interstate traffic camera in Chattanooga.

"It's kind of like going somewhere high-tech," said Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer. "Like the FBI."

On Tuesday, TDOT officially opened the Transportation Center on Volkswagen Drive. The $2.5 million state-of-the-art facility is 16,000 square feet and will serve as an interstate transportation hub for the region.

The idea is for workers in the center constantly to monitor traffic flows and be able to divert traffic quickly when conditions make roads unsafe, TDOT officials said.

"We're attempting to clear our highways quicker," Schroer said.

But there could be other bonuses. State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, said good traffic flow is part of a good transportation system which is "vital for economic development."

The grand opening ceremony lasted about 45 minutes. Gov. Bill Haslam was supposed to be at the event, but fog kept his plane from flying into Chattanooga.

Other public officials made brief comments and then TDOT officials gave a tour of the facility.

The facility controls 16 message boards across Chattanooga that can alert drivers to any problems. The center also constantly monitors 71 cameras in Chattanooga and along Interstate 75 in Bradley County.

The system is part of TDOT's SmartWay plan, which includes traffic cameras, message boards and transportation centers, Schroer said.

"We now have [SmartWay] in all four major metropolitan areas," he said.

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