published Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Chattanooga: Proposed toll bridge sited just south of Sequoyah

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    The bridge — a $5 toll bridge — would cross the river just south of Sequoyah Nuclear Plant to link U.S. Highway 27 with Interstate 75.

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    Soddy-Daisy City Manager Hardie Stulce speaks to Soddy-Daisy Mayor Jim Adams, right, as members of various local government groups meet Monday to discuss a feasibility study about a toll bridge in the north end of Hamilton County.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

Highway planners have zeroed in on the location of a proposed toll bridge across the Tennessee River in the northern end of Hamilton County.

The bridge — a $5 toll bridge — would cross the river just south of Sequoyah Nuclear Plant to link U.S. Highway 27 with Interstate 75.

What remains in play is what maze of roads might be designated as the bridge’s connector roads.

To the west of the river, possibilities are Sequoyah Road or a new road beginning a few miles north on U.S. 27 and ending at Sequoyah Road near the river.

To the east of the river, the bridge would pick up Harrison Bay Road and Birchwood Pike to Highway 58 South through Enterprise South industrial park to I-75. Or it would pick up Harrison Bay Road to Birchwood Pike to Mahan Gap Road to Ooltewah-Georgetown Road to the interstate.

The route through Enterprise South is the least expensive at about $235.6 million. The most expensive is the one that includes a new road from U.S. 27 to Ooltewah-Georgetown Road to I-75 at $433 million. Estimated cost for the remaining option is about $305 million. All estimates include the bridge and toll systems.

Some politicians and planners say growth is driving the options for what would be Tennessee’s first toll bridge.

“These are projected growth areas of the county,” said Tennessee Department of Transportation planner Jean Stevens.

TDOT consultants in December told local elected officials that a new bridge in northern Hamilton County is feasible in their view to offer a quicker and more direct route between Collegedale and Soddy-Daisy — the fastest-growing municipalities in the region.

Jim Adams, the mayor of Soddy-Daisy who stands to lose a much-touted rails-to-trails greenway to the proposed bridge’s eastern-most access point, said politics have more to do with it.

“They want the road to go through Enterprise South,” Adams said. “I think a better option would be [a bridge] farther north. Come off U.S. 11 and Corridor J and connect to I-75 near Cleveland. That makes more sense. There’s more open land there.”

He asked planners about that option Monday at a Chattanooga meeting that Rebecca Brooks, a consultant with TDOT contractor Wilbur Smith Associates, called a “consensus building workshop.”

Highway officials said Adams’ alternative was not among the options considered in narrowing the bridge’s location.

“There was not enough interest in that one to even put it on the table,” said Tennessee Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City.

Looking ahead

Planners have said it could take 10 years for the proposed bridge to go through planning and environmental studies as well as design and right-of-way phases. Construction would take about two more years.

Supporters said the $5 toll to pay for the bridge and its connecting roads may not seem so high by the time everything is complete in 2018 or later. They said the bridge would save time and fuel for drivers who would shorten their current 50-mile trips to somewhere between 16 and 21 miles.

The next bridge north and upriver of the city is 57 miles from Chattanooga at Highway 60, connecting Bradley County with its cross-river neighbor Rhea County.

Brooks said a study has estimated 6,700 to 7,600 cars and trucks would cross the northern Hamilton County bridge every day, even with a $5 toll.

Already there are five vehicle bridges over the river in Hamilton County, but they are all near downtown Chattanooga. The Olgiati Bridge, the Market Street Bridge, Veterans Bridge, C.B. Robinson Bridge and Thrasher Bridge over the Chickamauga Dam are all within 10 miles of downtown.

The next bridge downriver from Chattanooga is about 20 miles to the west in Marion County near Jasper, Tenn.

Brooks told workshop attendees Monday that planners will have draft reports on the proposed bridge plan in mid-December, and final reports should be complete in the first quarter of 2012.

Contact Pam Sohn at or 423-757-6346.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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sandyonsignal said...

$5.00 to go one way over a bridge. No thanks. This isn't New York City, this is a bridge from Bradley to Rhea County. A bridge from one poor place to another poor place. What a stupid idea.

July 19, 2011 at 7:17 a.m.
dao1980 said...

I agree with sandy, and I live in the poor place know as Brainerd.

July 19, 2011 at 7:25 a.m.
ChattaVol06 said...

Sandy, I grew up on Signal and despise your comments. I now live in Soddy Daisy just off of Sequoyah Access Road (such a poor place for a McCallie/UTK grad to live who also works downtown), and that bridge would be awesome! Whenever I go to Knoxville or North Carolina to visit family, I go through Dayton and come out in Athens on TN-30. I would pay the $5 for the toll because it would save me more than $5 in gas going through Dayton or going around the dam and 153. You obviously don't leave the mountain much Sandy, because I know countless people who would use that bridge everyday. Keep giving my hometown a bad name you prude.

July 19, 2011 at 8:09 a.m.

Sandy's (il)liberal elitism seeps through again. This links 3-4 of Hamilton County's growth corridors, and it makes perfect sense. Long overdue.

July 19, 2011 at 8:37 a.m.
bigbearzzz said...

But why does it have to be a toll bridge? Why can't they just construct a long over due bridge and call it done? I guess they have to cover the cost of the bridge somehow? And is this the start of other toll roads within Hamilton County?

July 19, 2011 at 9:09 a.m.
bluedagger said...

Once $235.6 million is collected through tolls, I wonder if the toll part of the toll bridge will go away or if the state/county will continue to proffit off of our necessity to travel? If it is built, I certainly hope it is better maintained than many of the other roads in Hamilton County.

July 19, 2011 at 9:40 a.m.
sweetdream20 said...

I live in the Harrison area. It is an inconvenience that takes 1-1.5hr drive to get from Harrison to rural Hixson/Soddy. A bridge would be a nice asset. But I'd need to pay $10 to get there and back? No thanks. I wouldn't do it for the same reason I don't usually take the long drive around. Not worth it. Or I take hwy 60 if I need to. A $5 toll is not bad if you're taking a once a year road trip. If you might want to take the bridge to get to work everyday, definitely not worth getting excited about. That's $50 a week just to get over the river. Come on! No toll or at least a toll under a $1 or don't do it at all. They already know $5 is asking way too much and the article notes all their excuses. This was LONG overdue, don't expect us to overpay for the county's lack of foresight (or their need to fill their coffers). And don't even consider making hwy 58 part of the toll area. =(

July 19, 2011 at 9:56 a.m.
sweetdream20 said...

"Supporters said the $5 toll to pay for the bridge and its connecting roads"

Look at the maps people. You would have to pay $ to use the same roads to get home. Roads that have been around since a hundred years. Lots of communities are only accessible from hwy58. I do not see the locals agreeing to this monopoly.

July 19, 2011 at 10:21 a.m.
ChattaVol06 said...

The bridge is the toll people. And to sweetdream20, you spend probably $15 bucks one way going from deep Harrison to rural Soddy. I did it every Sunday for a month going to meet my MBA small group when we were working on a project at one of my group member's house in Harrison. It took me around 45 minutes (one way) and about $20 in gas each trip when I would glady pay $10 in tolls to make the trip in 10-15 minutes. It's ridiculous that I have to drive 45 minutes to get to that area when I could almost throw a frisbee from my house and hit that area. If you don't want to pay the toll, then you can still take the 45 minute alternate routes. Nobody is forcing you to use the toll bridge.

July 19, 2011 at 10:26 a.m.
LibDem said...

I agree. If you don't like the $5 toll, continue using your current route.

July 19, 2011 at 11:13 a.m.
sweetdream20 said...

And some people can't read and comprehend. 30 miles en route saved thats currently about $3.50 or $7 round trip give or take your vehicle mpg. For some people this would save them time. For other people who live in the area, the connecting roads alone will cost them money. Sorry but I'm not paying your way, to save your time, just cause I live nearby.

July 19, 2011 at 11:20 a.m.
mountainlaurel said...

I love to travel and I must confess that I enjoy traveling on these expensive toll roads because there is seldom any traffic. It is really a good feeling to be practically the only car on the road for a change. I suspect the same good feeling might come from traveling across a toll bridge, especially one with an extravagant fee of five dollars.

July 19, 2011 at 11:41 a.m.
nucanuck said...

If we knew with certainty that auto travel and appetite for bonds would be greatly and permanently curtailed by the projected completion date, would we still proceed?

The America of twelve years forward is likely to be far different from where today's linear thought would take us.

July 19, 2011 at 12:16 p.m.
mrredskin said...

you're right, nuca. the toll would be $10 if we waited another 10-12 years to consider it.

July 19, 2011 at 12:38 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

They'll eventually propose a no-tax tax program that ferries cars across using an old pontoon boat. It'll pay Republican cronies $125,000 to sit as a presiding executive after we fire some county transportation workers to pay for the plan.

July 19, 2011 at 12:57 p.m.
MountainJoe said...

Here's an idea. Index the toll to the cost of a gallon of gas. The higher gas prices go, the more people would be willing to pay to shorten their trips. Also, sell weekly, monthly, and yearly passes at a considerable discount to encourage frequent users to pre-pay.

July 19, 2011 at 1:01 p.m.
ChattaVol06 said...

sweetdream20... where are you getting your info that the existing connector roads will be part of the toll?? I am pretty certain that the toll would be enforced on either side of the bridge. Therefore, if you are not going over the bridge you would not pay the toll.

July 19, 2011 at 1:40 p.m.
mountainlaurel said...

TDOT Consultant Brooks said: “a study has estimated 6,700 to 7,600 cars and trucks would cross the northern Hamilton County bridge every day.”

It would be interesting to see specifically how Brooks determined 6,600 to 7,600 cars and trucks would be using this toll bridge. One would also like to see the details as to who would be doing what in regard to costs and the operation of this toll system. There are costly issues involved in toll projects, and the public often loses. David Jamieson’s “Toll Road Privatization: As Ohio Considers It, Indiana Serves As Cautionary Tale” addresses some of these issues:

WASHINGTON -- In two weeks, the cost of traveling the 157-mile length of the Indiana Toll Road will rise more than 2 percent, from $8.80 to an even $9, for those who pay the toll in cash. The fare will jump a full buck for truckers hauling semi-trailers, from $35.20 to $36.20.

The July 1 toll hike may not seem so painful, until you consider that those tolls were about half of their soon-to-be rates only five years ago . . . Even harder to swallow for some drivers, truckers in particular, is the fact that their growing contributions go not to the State of Indiana but to overseas investors who've leased the toll road from the state. . . .

In the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Virginia is partnering with private investors to develop. . . HOT lanes on the Capital Beltway and Interstate 95. Commuters who ride at least three-to-a-car or ride the bus won't have to pay a toll, while less efficient commuters will have to pay to ride . . . But under that arrangement, the road operators have little incentive to encourage commuters to carpool for free or to start riding the bus . . . Improvements such as a parallel train line or more bus lines could even be seen as adverse actions hurting investors' bottom line.

"You're guaranteeing a certain amount of revenue for a long period of time, and that constrains future generations from having the option to make different choices," says David Alpert, a transit expert . . . the state could wind up on the hook covering investors' revenue shortfalls. "It's a really dangerous provision," he says, especially considering the length of the lease. . .

Why are these leases typically so long? It probably has a lot to do with tax breaks. When an asset is leased for a period longer than its reasonable life expectancy -- and highways typically have a life span of about 45 years -- the investors can write off the asset's depreciation.

"It's like a free loan in tax credits," Baxandall says. "That's what's really galling about these hidden subsidies. The whole rationale for doing these deals is they're supposed to save the public money. If the public has to subsidize these deals, it defeats the purpose."

July 19, 2011 at 4:08 p.m.
mahangap01 said...

Stay off of Mahan Gap and Ooltewah-Georgetown Rd. These are small residential roads!!!

July 19, 2011 at 4:34 p.m.
Facts said...

Love this idea. We're taxed through gas taxes & other taxes to keep our roads. Now, we'll get to be tolled & pay for this bridge over & over & over. I live "north of the River". I drive very easily up to Dayton to cross over to Hwy 58 on a bridge I've already been taxed for & paid for. Rep. Jim Cobb is the one that's been pushing this for years. No thanks.

July 19, 2011 at 6:37 p.m.
NoMyth said...

All vehicle owners should pay for all existing and new road/bridge construction and maintenance. The fees should be based on the distance the vehicle travels over those roadways. The technology exists to do this through GPS or something akin to the EZPass system used in many other states. This approach would be fair...a concept most free-riders and spendthrifts cannot comprehend. With the ignorant attitudes from some of those above, it is no wonder this country is so deep in debt.

July 19, 2011 at 10:08 p.m.
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