published Monday, November 14th, 2011

Bridge construction project in Marion County causes traffic problems

By Ryan Lewis/Correspondent
A Dement Construction crew, left,  works on a lift as semi passes under the Interstate 24 bridge at Kimball, Tenn. The minimum height below the bridge  has been raised to 16.8 feet for more clearance, according to Dement Construction project manager Scott Williams.
A Dement Construction crew, left, works on a lift as semi passes under the Interstate 24 bridge at Kimball, Tenn. The minimum height below the bridge has been raised to 16.8 feet for more clearance, according to Dement Construction project manager Scott Williams.
Photo by Tim Barber.
  • photo
    Amanda McFalls, near left, removes excess concrete with Dan White before sealing on the newly rebuilt Interstate-24 bridge at Kimball, Tenn. The minimum height below has been raised to 16.8-feet for more clearance, according to Dement Construction project manager Scott Williams.
    Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KIMBALL, Tenn. -- The traffic problems caused by a major bridge construction project at Interstate 24's exit 152 here may have no easy answers.

Crews on the Tennessee Department of Transportation project are raising the two spans of the bridge to address clearance issues with tractor-trailers that pass under the interstate on U.S. Highway 72 on their way to South Pittsburg, Tenn., and Alabama.

Vice Mayor Rex Pesnell, who owns a business inside the construction zone, said he's concerned a bad situation could become worse during the holiday season.

"There's been many times during the peak hours that traffic has become just terrible," he said. "I don't know if this is a liability that we should take on, or if we should just deal with it."

Pesnell said he thought having officers in place to regulate traffic during peak hours might help, but Kimball Police Chief Tommy Jordan said the city doesn't have any certified officers to do the job.

"Anyone who regulates traffic has to be certified," he said. "I'm not sure that we could [direct traffic] during construction hours, but after hours we could. We'd have to get them certified, though."

Jordan said Tennessee Highway Patrol officers usually are the only officials certified to work inside construction zones.

Alderman Mark Payne said trying to control the traffic issues likely will compound the problem.

"If we take care of the problem in one place, it creates a problem in another place," Alderman Jerry Don Case said. "Wherever you move it, [the problem] just goes somewhere else."

There are three traffic lights within an area of about 200 yards, officials said, and the plan calls for another traffic light to be added on the South Pittsburg side of the bridge near the end of the project.

"If we didn't have any [traffic] lights, it wouldn't be that big of a deal," Mayor David Jackson said. "That's what's causing the problem right now."

The addition of a light on the South Pittsburg side actually might help alleviate the mess, he said.

"It'll either help or make it a whole lot worse," Pesnell said. "I'm not sure which."

Jackson said he plans to contact TDOT officials to "see what they can do."

"That's the pain that comes along with growing or getting something new," he said. "I wish we had a good answer."

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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