Holiday travelers pack Chattanooga interstates

Holiday travelers pack Chattanooga interstates

November 26th, 2012 by Shelly Bradbury in Local Regional News

Traffic builds up on Interstate 24 near the I-75 split Sunday afternoon. The Sunday following the Thanksgiving holiday typically causes a traffic jam at the split, leaving cars at a standstill.

Photo by Allison Love /Times Free Press.

Minivans, tractor-trailers, buses and four-door sedans packed Chattanooga's roads Sunday as travelers hit the gas to get home after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Traffic on Interstate 24 was backed up all the way into Marion County, Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Steven Bearden said, but that's typical after a holiday.

"It's about average for a Thanksgiving holiday," he said. "Wednesday and Sunday are our big travel days."

Heading home from Florida to Crossville, Tenn., driver Robert Axline was surprised when he hit heavy traffic on Interstate 75 north.

"I left on Sunday because I didn't think there'd be much traffic," he said while taking a break at the Tennessee Welcome Center. "It's been horrible. I've been parked on the highway four times."

Axline added he expected the delays to add at least an hour to his trip.

Bearden said the THP prepares for the post-turkey rush by targeting certain high-risk areas.

"We bring extra manpower in and work the areas where there is a high volume of crashes, especially alcohol-related crashes," he said.

This Thanksgiving, local THP troopers focused on Franklin and Grundy counties.

Vehicles at the I-75/I-24 split slowed to a crawl late Sunday afternoon, but commuter Carmen Webb said she'd seen worse.

"Today's a pretty good day for traffic," she said, adding that on other trips, heavy traffic has turned her six-hour drive from South Georgia to Nashville into a 12-hour trek.

Georgia Highway Patrol Cpl. E. Tommy Bonaparte said Georgia traffic was thick but flowing steadily with no major incidents.

He said the most common problems troopers discovered were improper lane changes and following too closely.

"All in all, everything seems to be going pretty well," he said.

But driver Jeni Whittaker said traffic still seemed slower than the other years she's driven from Florida to Ohio to visit relatives for the holiday, so she pulled over at the welcome center to take a break.

"The traffic is terrible," she said. "It is a lot of slowing down and stopping, and it seems worse this year."

Bonaparte said he thinks this year's traffic is about the same as last year's, but that the traffic two years ago was much lighter.

Bearden said THP did not handle any major accidents or crashes in the Chattanooga area Sunday, but Chattanooga police responded to a fatal accident on I-75 just after 1 a.m. Sunday morning.

Sgt. Wayne Jefferson said 22-year-old Jacob Flowers lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a guardrail. His passenger, Jovanny Rodriguez, 21, was pronounced dead at the scene, and Flowers was taken to the hospital.

Bearden said the final countof traffic fatalities in Tennessee during the Thanksgiving holiday will be tallied today.