published Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Tennessee Department of Transportation wants local input on state Route 60 improvements

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- State transportation officials have unveiled a pilot program intended to coordinate local and state planning for the state Route 60 corridor through Bradley County.

Tennessee Department of Transportation representatives met Monday with Bradley County commissioners to discuss a proposed agreement between local government and state planning agencies regarding the future of the road.

The purpose of the management agreement is to get all involved bodies to talk more about property zoning and development, traffic signal placement and roadway improvements along Route 60, said Marshall Elizer of Gresham, Smith, and Partners, the firm assisting TDOT with the program launch.

"If you don't do it right, it sort of collapses," said Elizer.

The program will specifically address Route 60's development from the Georgia state line to the intersection with Eureka Road in the Hopewell community, Elizer said. The idea, he said, is for local and state government to develop a big picture of how the corridor should look and function, instead of approaching improvements from the perspective of two-mile segments.

Officials selected Route 60 planning for an elevated level of committed communication for several reasons, Elizer said.

The corridor's annual average daily traffic ranges from 4,000 to 30,000 vehicles, and the area is expected to experience population growth of up to 20 percent by 2030. Route 60 flows through rural, suburban and urban property.

The state has a strong history of coordinated planning with Bradley County and Cleveland, Elizer said.

But commissioners didn't seem ready to climb onboard the agreement.

"I'm for long-range planning, but it seems some of it has already been done," said Commissioner Ed Elkins.

He also noted that the state already has a major project under way beyond the proposed program area, extending from Eureka Road toward state Highway 58.

"This should have been done long ago," said Elkins.

Other commissioners questioned the nature of the corridor management agreement, including the rights and responsibilities of participating government bodies.

The county has had problems in the past when it did not have a full and clear understanding of agreements made with "a friendly handshake," Commissioner Jeff Yarber said.

"Corridor management is not the state trying to make local land-use decisions," Elizer said. "Corridor management is not an additional layer of project review."

Transportation officials said they would research concerns regarding any participating government body's ability to withdraw from the agreement and the impact that might have upon the body's future decision-making regarding corridor development.

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