Finish line in sight: Shallowford widening project entering final phase months late

Finish line in sight: Shallowford widening project entering final phase months late

August 3rd, 2013 by Judy Walton in Local Regional News

Work continues Friday on Shallowford Road.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

It may not look like it to drivers crowding against jersey barriers and bumping over crumbling temporary pavement, but the long-overdue widening of Shallowford Road between Gunbarrel and Jenkins is entering its final phase.

“We’re still striving to get it done by the 30th of September,” said Jennifer Flynn, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation Region 2 office in Chattanooga. “Once we get to the paving, it’ll go a lot faster.”

On Friday, diesel engines were roaring at the work site on the north side of the road while clots of cars and trucks crept eastward beyond the concrete barriers. Across a thick bed of crushed gravel, curbs and gutters are in place along much of the 0.85-mile widening area, but crews still are doing final drainage and roadbed construction in a small area, Flynn said. The final step will be paving with three layers of asphalt.

If the Sept. 30 completion date holds, the $3.4 million widening project will come in 10 months past due. From the beginning, TDOT has blamed the laggard pace of relocating utilities in the right of way. Flynn said the original bid was awarded to Highways Inc. in November 2011 with a projected construction time of one year. The utilities were to have been moved before that but weren’t, she said. So work that should have begun in late 2011 or early 2012 didn’t begin until August 2012, Flynn said. Heavy rains this spring and summer haven’t helped.

Lacie Stone, spokeswoman for Mayor Andy Berke’s administration, said questions about the project should be directed to TDOT. This project was well under way before the Berke administration took office in April. However, Stone, said, “Our Administrator of Transportation and Administrator of Public Works are in contact with TDOT on a regular basis to discuss various projects throughout Chattanooga.”

The project involves widening Shallowford to five lanes from Gunbarrel Road to just past Ogletree Avenue at the entrance to Home Depot and the YMCA. East of there the road will be three lanes wide with a continuous center turn lane. It will feature a 4-foot bike lane and 5-foot sidewalks on each side of the road.

It’s part of a larger project to reconstruct Shallowford Road totally, TDOT has said.

The delays have been aggravating for residents in the area, but an employee of Grace Baptist Church, whose campus off Shallowford Road includes a school and day care center, said employees, church members and parents have had to adapt to circumstances.

“We have rearranged our parking lot, so it’s not really an issue,” Pam Dratnol said.

“We just go with the flow.”

<em>Contact staff writer Judy Walton at &#0010;jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.</em>