published Friday, June 10th, 2011

TDOT to pave Signal Mountain Road


by Dan Whisenhunt

The Tennessee Department of Transportation plans to pave roughly five miles of U.S. Highway 127 from the base of Signal Mountain to the top.

TDOT regional spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said the project calls for repaving between Miles Road atop the mountain and Glendale Drive at the bottom. The cost is $927,090, of which 90 percent is federal money. Work is to start Mondaya nd be complete by Aug. 1, Flynn said.

About 7,300 vehicles a day travel the road, Flynn said.

Because the project will not address problems that caused part of the road to wash out in 2009, Signal Mountain Mayor Bill Lusk calls it “a waste of money.”

Lusk said “certainly repaving is a good thing,” but added that all of that work will be undone if TDOT ever actually fixes the road’s structural issues.

“I think it’s just covering up a much larger problem,” Lusk said.

In December 2009, heavy rain washed out part of the road. At the time, the road was on a list of more than 30 statewide that Tennessee officials considered likely to experience problems.

The state has contracted with consulting engineering firm Arcadis for a more in-depth study of the road, which will give officials an idea of the cost of a permanent fix. The study would begin soon and should be complete in four to six months, she said.

“A project to totally reconstruct the existing road would likely require a total closure of the road for a couple of years and cost many millions of dollars,” Flynn wrote in an email. “Currently a project of that nature is not in the Long Range Plan of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Transportation Planning Organization.”

It’s been 15 years since the mountain road has been resurfaced. TDOT considers the road to be “in good shape and structurally sound,” she said.

Flynn said paving work will be done between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. The contractor, Talley Construction Co., will have one lane closed to begin milling and paving the road. Where possible, one lane of traffic will be open in each direction, she said, but portions of the project will require the road to be reduced to a single lane.

“Traffic delays are expected,” she wrote, adding there are several alternate routes to avoid construction. Motorists can use the W Road or Roberts Mill Road.

Martin Pruett, co-owner of Pruett’s Signal Mountain Market, said his store’s main distributing company plans to use an alternate route. Like Lusk, he said TDOT is ignoring the real problem.

“That’s just putting a Band-Aid over something that needs to be fixed,” he said. “At least it’s going to be smooth for awhile.”

about Dan Whisenhunt...

Dan Whisenhunt covers Hamilton County government for the Times Free Press. A native of Mobile, Ala., Dan earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Alabama. He won first place for best in-depth news coverage in the 2010 Alabama Press Association contest; the FOI-First Amendment Award in the 2007 Alabama Press Association contest; first place for best public service story in the Alabama AP Managing Editors contest in 2009 for economic coverage; and ...

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