published Thursday, January 24th, 2013

TDOT to fix I-75 ramp at East Brainerd Road

ALTERNATE ROUTES

The new East Brainerd ramp project is scheduled for work from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays, starting in February. If detours are necessary, TDOT suggests the following routes:

• Shallowford Road exit -- Immediately get back onto Interstate 75 South and head back to the East Brainerd Road exit.

• Hamilton Place exit -- Take Concord Road to East Brainerd Road.

The commute from her downtown high school to her home in East Brainerd should take Kelsi Hoffman about 20 minutes. Most days, it takes twice that or longer.

The drive itself down Interstate 75 North is usually a straight shot. The snarls start at the exit to East Brainerd Road, where traffic bottlenecks into the curved, one-lane ramp to the point that it backs up onto the interstate at rush hour.

"I will be sitting on that stretch waiting for a while," said Hoffman.

On Tuesday evening at rush hour, more than 50 cars snaked around exit 3A and into the emergency lane of the interstate -- a precarious feature of the regular commute for East Brainerd residents.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation hopes soon to cure the safety hazard and daily headache by widening the ramp to two lanes and expanding its capacity, said Jennifer Flynn, spokeswoman for TDOT Region 2.

"Traffic backing up into the main line of the interstate is absolutely unacceptable," Flynn said.

In the past two years, 54 accidents have occurred in the 500 feet or less leading up to exit 3A on I-75 northbound. According to data provided by Tennessee Department of Safety, at least seven of those accidents were marked as "exit ramp related."

While Flynn says the crash rate did not figure into the department's decision to undertake the project, she said the main purpose was to prevent traffic from clogging the mainline of I-75 North.

As a part of the overhaul crews will install traffic signals at the ramp's end, the T-intersection with East Brainerd Road. Flynn said the light will keep drivers coming off the ramp from having to weave across traffic before turning left onto Concord Road.

Hoffman said she regularly sees accidents from the windows of Baskin Robbins where she works along East Brainerd Road as drivers fresh off the interstate try to jockey across two clogged lanes to make the turn.

"There is a lot of road rage right there. I get it, too," she said, laughing.

Other modifications will include shifting the alignment of the exit ramp west about 400 feet and adding a skid-resistant overlay on the ramp.

Work on the project should begin after the first of February and is slated for completion on or before May 31. During that time, TDOT plans to keep traffic flowing at the ramp, although the exit may be closed a weekend or two, Flynn said.

"That's a real hot spot during the work week for sure, so we are wanting to keep it moving," she said.

The project, which has been contracted with Highways Inc., has been budgeted at $608,517.

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