Next summer, some $23 million in road construction will get underway at a busy commercial strip in Ringgold, Ga.
Two miles of State Route 151, also known as Alabama Highway, will be widened and improved near Interstate 75 exit 348.
Lined with businesses that cater to interstate drivers, such as McDonald's, Pizza Hut and a Super 8 motel, the section of road will get a makeover from just south of Holcomb Road to where S.R. 151 dead-ends at U.S. 41.
"It's definitely needed," Catoosa County Commissioner Jim Cutler said. "I know the bridge going over I-75 is old and needs to be repaired."
According to GDOT Project Manager Cynthia Burney, improvements will include:
• A new seven-lane bridge over I-75 to replace the two, separate two-lane spans there now. Two dedicated turn lanes on the new bridge will connect to the on-ramp that leads to Chattanooga and one dedicated turn lane will connect to the Atlanta-bound on-ramp. The remaining four lanes will be dedicated for traffic over the bridge.
• A new four-lane bridge over South Chickamauga Creek.
• Sidewalks the length of the project, including on the new bridge over I-75. Now, there are no sidewalks over I-75.
• Widening S.R. 151, including south of I-75, where the road will go from two lanes to four.
• Installing a 20-foot-wide raised median to deter customers from making potentially dangerous left turns out of businesses. Drivers will have to turn right and then make a U-turn. The raised median will be installed from Holcomb Road to South Chickamauga Creek.
"We do raised medians quite frequently in Georgia," Burney said. "It's just safer."
Construction work will be scheduled to minimize delays for drivers, she said. For example, portions of the new bridge over I-75 will be built so drivers can use it while the old spans are being replaced.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has eyed the improvements for more than a decade, GDOT Assistant District Engineer Michael Haithcock said.
"This is a major project," Haithcock said. "We don't do a lot of projects that are this size."
Eighty percent of the funding is federal, he said, and 20 percent is state and local.
"It's fully funded," Haithcock said.
Cutler praised state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee, for helping secure state funding.
"Senator Mullis has been very, very beneficial in getting that through," Cutler said.
Mullis said Friday that getting the funding was "a team effort."
The average daily traffic on the stretch of road is 25,650 vehicles now, Burney said, with a projected average of 38,600 vehicles per day in 2035.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at email@example.com, twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.