published Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Cleveland, Tennessee seek solutions in 2 trouble spots

At Interstate 75, near Cleveland, large semi trucks cross paths at the bottlenecked area around exit 20. A new Pilot Truck and Auto Plaza has increased traffic to the already crowded two-lane bridge over the interstate, and the state has plans eventually to add lanes so traffic will flow more smoothly.
At Interstate 75, near Cleveland, large semi trucks cross paths at the bottlenecked area around exit 20. A new Pilot Truck and Auto Plaza has increased traffic to the already crowded two-lane bridge over the interstate, and the state has plans eventually to add lanes so traffic will flow more smoothly.
Photo by Tim Barber.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- It's just a matter of time until two of Cleveland's perennial traffic bottlenecks are solved, Tennessee Department of Transportation representatives told city officials.

More turn lanes at North Ocoee and 25th streets and exit 20 at Interstate 75 are being planned. But that could be several years away.

The Cleveland City Council will learn more Monday, especially about North Ocoee at 25th streets, where business and residential owners are concerned about how much property, and parking lots, they will lose to those wider lanes.

A plan for rights-of-way acquisitions by TDOT is expected to be ready for property owners in about four months.

Meanwhile, at exit 20, the immediate problem is the exit lane from northbound I-75.

"We have received numerous reports of traffic backing up from exit 20 onto the shoulder of I-75," said Bart Borden, Cleveland Utilities vice president. "We notified TDOT about it. They were already aware of it."

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Some alterations to the ramp may be coming soon, a temporary fix until a new, wider bridge is in place.

"TDOT is telling us completion on the bridge-widening project is about three years out," said traffic engineer Tad Bacon with Cleveland Utilities. "So that's how long we have to deal with the constraints we've got there now."

On July 9, TDOT is scheduled to begin widening the exit ramp to two, 13-foot lanes, Bacon said. That work is expected to take about two weeks.

TDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said the extra lane will provide more space for drivers seeking a left turn at the top of the exit ramp.

The state will move to a rights-of-way phase at exit 20 later this summer, Flynn said. The state expects a construction contract by the summer of 2013, followed by about two years of construction.

On Monday, the Cleveland City Council may get an update from TDOT on what to expect at North Ocoee at 25th streets.

The property owners around the intersection include medical offices, three drug stores, a title loan business, a Mexican restaurant and a funeral home. Preliminary drawings show the businesses and homeowners near the heavily used intersection will lose some parking spaces to the wider streets.

Plans call for two left turn lanes, two through lanes and one right turn lane, a total of five lanes, in each direction.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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