North Chattanooga residents and businesses as well as commuters traveling south into downtown will notice many changes taking place on Highway 27 over the next three years, according to Tennessee Department of Transportation Regional Construction Manager Ken Flynn.
He spoke at a recent meeting of the North Chattanooga Chamber Council on how the Highway 27 expansion project spanning 1.6 miles from the Olgiati Bridge to Signal Mountain Boulevard will affect the area as construction begins in January 2012.
Estimated to cost around $80 million, the project when complete will feature three lanes in each direction as well as new entrance and exit ramps at Manufacturers Road, Dayton Boulevard and Signal Mountain Boulevard.
While the on-ramp at the Manning Street interchange will remain open temporarily for local traffic, it will be eliminated altogether as the project progresses, said Flynn.
Two lanes will be open at all times during peak work hours, though traffic may be reduced to one lane when fewer cars are on the road, he said.
A second left-turn lane will be added at the intersection of Dayton and Signal Mountain boulevards during the first of the project's four major phases in order to facilitate the flow of traffic.
The on-ramp at Manufacturers Road will be closed during the project's first phase as a new northbound on-ramp to Signal Mountain Boulevard is under construction.
The Whitehall Road ramp will be closed, and when the project is complete, the current northbound off-ramp at Dayton Boulevard will be closed and a new off-ramp with a left turn onto Dayton Boulevard will be in place.
Originally constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, Flynn said the portion of Highway 27 to be expanded is currently a hodgepodge of different design styles intended to handle as many as 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day.
Traffic flow on the stretch of Highway 27 heading south into Chattanooga from Soddy-Daisy has grown to nearly 30,000 vehicles per day, and Flynn said that number doubles to more than 60,000 cars per day counting the ones that enter from Signal Mountain Boulevard.
The stretch of Highway 27 targeted in the project involves the construction of 30-plus retaining walls, the demolition of 10 bridges and the construction of 16 more, he said.
Issues the project will address include updates to meet current safety standards, improved entrance and exit ramps, increased traffic capacity and concerns relating to slope stability.
"We're working basically in a canyon straight up and down on both sides," said Flynn. "We have to build retaining walls on top of retaining walls to stabilize those slopes."
Due to such complexity, a local group, Volkert consulting firm, is handling the project.
Surveying for the nearly decade-old project began in 1992, with designs first drafted in 1994. Right of way was purchased by the city in 2006, with construction plans finalized this year.
CLICK BEFORE YOU DRIVE
With numerous lane and interchange closes and changes coming with the January 2012 construction start date for the widening of Highway 27, area residents and commuters are encouraged to check here for updates. An office on Signal Mountain Road with information about the construction has also been proposed.