Interstate 24 is both a blessing and a curse to those who travel it through Chattanooga. When traffic moves smoothly, it provides a direct and efficient connection to the central city and to commercial, industrial and residential areas adjacent to it. When traffic moves slowly or not at all -- because of rush-hour or holiday congestion, an accident or construction, I-24 is frequently the cause of considerable invective.
Commuters and the community, then, have a vested interest in making the highway safer and more efficient. They also would welcome, it would seem, any effort to reduce congestion and the number of accidents along its path. The state of Tennessee does, too.
The state Department of Transportation is seeking proposals for a study of the nearly 200-mile length of I-24 that stretches from Nashville to Chattanooga. The goal, department officials say, "is to address future travel demands, with emphasis on managing congestion, improving safety, maximizing the potential for freight diversion and preserving/enhancing the corridor's economic benefits."
That's bureaucratic talk for making the roadway a better and safer highway for drivers and for maintaining or increasing the considerable economic benefits that accrue to the state and its residents as a result of its use. The request for proposals on I-24, in fact, is part of TDOT's Long-Range Transportation Plan, a blueprint to help move people and goods to where they want to go. The request for proposals is welcome, as long as the state acts on them in a reasonable amount of time.
There is considerable need for changes along many stretches of I-24. Local drivers, for instance, certainly would like improvements to the Missionary Ridge cut. As many letters to the editor of this paper have pointed out, a trip through that segment of I-24 can be like a bad experience on an adventure park ride. Any improvement there certainly would be both beneficial and comforting.
The public, no doubt, has other suggestions to reduce congestion, to increase safety and for useful changes along the roadway. The state should incorporate them into the I-24 study. Those who regularly travel the road know best what improvements should be made.