After months of squeezing through a narrow lane marked out by concrete barriers on southbound U.S. 27, drivers will get a bit of a change — but not by much.
Motorists entering the highway from Signal Mountain Road have wondered for months how brand-new lanes they can see above them to their right would eventually fit into the traffic pattern.
They'll find out Friday morning.
That's when a lane shift will for the first time put tires to new pavement laid as part of the $104 million reconstruction project.
U.S. 27 South traffic will merge into the existing center lane, and the right lane will become an exit-only lane. Traffic entering from Signal Mountain Road onto U.S. 27 South will be routed onto the new southbound lanes.
The move will allow workers to begin construction on new southbound retaining walls and the Manufacturers Road ramps, said Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn.
"This is just a different phase of the construction," Flynn said.
Crews will begin the lane shift this evening, working through the night to move the barriers to the center lane and by Friday morning, motorists will be driving on brand new pavement.
To help motorists adjust to the new traffic pattern, the Tennessee Highway Patrol will assist with traffic control and speed enforcement, according to TDOT. There will also be signs and message boards to inform drivers of the new alignment, a news release stated.
"There's a lot of work going on. It's very busy," Flynn said.
With all the activity, officials urge caution when driving through the area.
"We ask that all motorists drive carefully and mind the speed limits. Pay attention to construction crews and your surroundings," said Chattanooga Police Department spokesman Nathan Hartwig.
Flynn said that despite some minor delays, the much-needed reconstruction project is mostly on track.
After an apartment complex was built on the hill above U.S. 27, TDOT geotechnical engineers and project supervisors called for three new retaining walls to be built. The unscheduled construction delayed the estimated finish date from Oct. 31, 2014, to Dec. 21, 2014.
"Those are just a protection mechanism," Flynn said. "We wanted to make sure all the slopes stay where they're supposed to."
The retaining walls increased the budget from $102.5 million to $104 million, she said.
Otherwise, Flynn said, the project has gone smoothly. The new lane alignment will be in place until the end of May or the beginning of June.
Lindsay Burkholder is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C. She graduated from Covenant College in May 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. While at Covenant she spent time writing for and editing the news section of the school newspaper, The Bagpipe. Burkholder also attended the World Journalism Institute in New York City in 2011.