published Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Shallowford Road to get wider in Chattanooga


by Cliff Hightower
Motorists on Shallowford Road pass by bridge construction on South Chickamauga Creek near the intersection with Airport Road.
Motorists on Shallowford Road pass by bridge construction on South Chickamauga Creek near the intersection with Airport Road.
Photo by Jake Daniels.
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Not too long from now, Chattanooga commuters could be traveling on a Shallowford Road that's three to five lanes all the way between Jenkins Road and Wilcox Boulevard.

And the next step in widening a major east-west connector in Chattanooga would be a new Wilcox Boulevard tunnel that would carry three lanes of traffic from Shallowford Road to Amnicola Highway.

"It's inevitable," Mayor Ron Littlefield said this week.

The state is currently widening Shallowford Road in two places: from Jenkins Road to Gunbarrel Road, and Airport Road to Moore Road -- that project includes a wider bridge across South Chickamauga Creek.

The city is applying for a grant to build a new, wider tunnel beside the existing Wilcox Tunnel, which also will get an upgrade. And Chattanooga plans to request federal funding this year to help fill in the last big gap on Shallowford -- from Jersey Pike to Airport Road.

"It's been something we've been charging away at for 25 years," Littlefield said.

Lee Norris, deputy administrator of Public Works, said the projected cost for that project will be $21 million. The city will pay 20 percent, or about $4.2 million.

The Airport Road to Moore Road widening is a $5.1 million project, while the Gunbarrel to Jenkins Road is a $3.4 million project, records show.

Littlefield said the project will continue into the next administration since he leaves office in April 2013. But he said he thinks at least Shallowford Road could be completely widened soon.

"I'd say within five years we'll see those gaps filled in," he said.

Jennifer Flynn, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, said the state has not seen the request for the Jersey Pike to Airport Road leg of Shallowford yet.

"We haven't received anything from the city just yet, but I'm sure they have big plans," she said.

The regional transportation plan projects costs for engineering and design in 2013 and right of way acquisition in 2014.

Norris said he's not sure when construction will begin, but the project is needed.

"That's the last leg that needs widened," he said.

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