published Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Chattanooga: Massive U.S. Highway 27 project starting this year

by Cliff Hightower
  • photo
    Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press Workers with Tri-State Drilling pull up core samples underneath the Signal Mountain Boulevard exit off U.S. Highway 27. The Tennessee Department of Transportation hired the contractors in preparation for work on U.S. 27.

Work to begin widening and straightening U.S. Highway 27 from Interstate 24 to Signal Mountain Boulevard could begin by September.

Tennessee Department of Transportation officials said the first phase of a three-phase project to widen the stretch of road that runs for three miles through downtown, across Olgiati Bridge and through Stringer’s Ridge will begin in the fall. The highway will be widened from six lanes to eight.

The first phase will be widening the 1.6 miles of U.S. Highway 27 from Olgiati Bridge to Signal Mountain Boulevard, a project estimated to cost about $75 million, said Jennifer Flynn, TDOT spokeswoman.

“It’s complicated,” Jennifer Flynn said.

Ken Flynn, TDOT’s regional construction manager, said motorists can expect orange barrels for a couple of years.

“It’s a huge project,” he said. “So, you’re talking 21⁄2 to three years. Maybe more.”

Do you travel along U.S. 27 to get to work?

More retaining walls will be built, a portion between Olgiati Bridge and Interstate 24 must be straightened and brand-new overpasses will be built.

No money has been set aside for the other two phases — widening Olgiati Bridge and widening and straightening the highway from the bridge to Interstate 24. However, rights of way have been acquired and public meetings were held to present the designs of the major highway’s reconstruction.

Mayor Ron Littlefield said last week he sees some hope that at least one portion of the highway could get started this year. But just one portion does not solve potential traffic congestion in the future, he said.

“I think it’s gone painfully slow,” he said. “We were talking about this 15 years ago, and we’re still not there yet.”

TDOT officials said an estimated 50,000 cars travel the stretch of road daily. That’s expected to increase to 70,000 by 2030.

In the past, Littlefield has said the highway needs widening to help support dramatic expansions under way by some companies in the area, such as Alstom.

But others have their own concerns.

Councilman Andraé McGary, who represents the downtown area, said people living in the Westside have fears about being cut off from downtown.

There is an entrance ramp from the Westside to U.S. Highway 27, but no exit ramp to Westside, he said. A year ago, he went to some of the highway’s design meetings and saw nothing that alleviated his concerns, he said.

“You can get on, you can’t get off,” McGary said. “It’s get out of Dodge.”

total project

Overall, all three phases of widening the highway will cost more than $160 million.

The other two phases are waiting to be placed in TDOT’s three-year transportation plan, where they may be able to receive federal dollars, officials said.

All the changes are needed, said Councilwoman Deborah Scott, who represents the area on the north side of Olgiati Bridge. There has been a lot of growth in Soddy-Daisy and Sequatchie County, with many residents of those areas commuting to and from downtown, she said.

“You pass through it in the morning and it’s just car to car,” she said.

Crews are collecting core samples to see how the ground will be able to hold the expansion of the highway. Workers also are identifying clusters of the mineral iron pyrite, which must be removed because they could cause acid runoff into area streams.

Littlefield said he knows the transportation department has faced funding crunches as gas tax revenues continue to decline and dollars cannot be stretched as far as they previously could.

But he said there also is an expense for waiting.

“The longer we wait, the more traffic builds up, the more expensive it is,” he said.

Ken Flynn said the reality of the situation is that there simply hasn’t been enough money.

“I wish it were done 10 year ago when traffic was less,” he said. “But you’ve got to have the money to do it.”

Contact Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfree or 423-757-6480. Follow him on Twitter at

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Van said...

"Over" $160M for 3 miles? Think it's so expensive because it's running counter to the topography, maybe a little? First, we lop off 10M tons of rock from Lookout Mtn. Then, top Cameron Hill to build fill for the Olgiati Bridge. Now, we're going to straighten the thoroughfare, so people can get to their cubicles 5-10 minutes earlier?

No wonder we're "broke." We're stupid.

March 8, 2011 at 8:26 a.m.
signal said...

Libertarians4Freedom, if you would ACTUALLY read the story, it says they are widening it by 2 lanes. That doesn't mean they're going to widen 2 lanes, it means they're going to ADD 2 lanes!

March 8, 2011 at 10:42 a.m.
acerigger said...

Dagnabbit! Signal you just busted lib4freedom's bubble! He thought he had another chance to bash that old "evil gubmint"! LOL

March 8, 2011 at 11:09 a.m.
nucanuck said...

If we are indeed at the front edge of a wordwide oil price escalation (Peak Oil),we might infer that auto travel is peaking and wider roads to suburbia will neither be needed nor affordable.

March 8, 2011 at 12:36 p.m.

i hope they pay for it with stimulus money. hey L4F maybe you could get a job on the road crew?

March 8, 2011 at 4:03 p.m.

at least that way we get something tangible for our money, rather than bullets and bombs dropped on some poor goat herder on the other side of the planet.

March 8, 2011 at 5:17 p.m.
NoMyth said...

They have to widen it for all of the overweight drivers in their oversized trucks and SUVs. Stupid project. Perfect example of wasteful spending. Probably many good ol' boys in the Chattanooga aristocracy that will benefit from these dollars.

March 8, 2011 at 9:17 p.m.

widen the roads. build another bridge if you have to. infrastructure brings in more industry, which equals more jobs. sounds good to me.

we don't all want to work for aquarium gift shop or waffle house wages. do your kids get free or reduced lunch L4F?

March 8, 2011 at 9:54 p.m.
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