State transportation officials say they will try a few tweaks to relieve traffic at U.S. Highway 27 and Signal Mountain Road, but residents still will have to deal with delays until the ramp is complete at the end of March.
Backed-up traffic at the Signal Mountain Road exit has snarled the daily northbound rush hour for thousands of motorists on U.S. 27 since a new permanent exit ramp opened Jan. 26.
Kelsey Shipley, a manager at Crust Pizza on Signal Mountain Road, says she sees the traffic nearly every day.
"The only thing we've noticed is how far back the traffic gets and for how long. We are used to seeing [rush hour traffic] for up to 30 minutes. Now it lasts more than an hour," Shipley said.
Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer said Thursday that he and other state officials met with local officials to make adjustments to the off-ramp.
Schroer said the state is working with Chattanooga officials and police to adjust traffic signal timing at the bottom of the new ramp. And TDOT will move a retaining wall and adjust the top of the exit ramp from U.S. 27 to make leaving the highway "less abrupt," Schroer said.
He hopes that will get Signal Mountain-bound drivers off the highway more smoothly, which will allow other traffic to keep moving.
Officials expect the traffic woes to be gone once the ramp is complete, because there will be two lanes leading to Signal Mountain Road and a longer exit lane, Schroer said.
In the meantime, TDOT's local director is asking residents to consider alternate routes home.
"During this next few months, it might be helpful for drivers [exiting toward Signal Mountain] to take the next exit up, Morrison Springs Road, to Mountain Creek Road," said Ken Flynn, the Region 2 director of operations.
The Signal Mountain exit is one piece of a $102 million TDOT project to widen U.S. 27 and redo interchanges at Signal Mountain Road, Dayton Boulevard and Manufacturers Road.
Dayton Boulevard's exit will be closed until July while workers remove and replace the ramp's bridge.
And the overall project will not be complete until February 2015. Schroer said Thursday it is the second-largest project TDOT has ever taken on,and the largest in Southeast Tennessee.
TDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said an estimated 29,000 drivers use the Signal Mountain Road exit ramp daily. But those numbers are from 2012 and do not include traffic detoured from the closed Dayton Boulevard exit. The U.S. 27 corridor itself sees about 65,000 drivers a day, she said.
"You can see from these numbers why the challenge of this particular phase of construction is so great," Flynn said.
Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at email@example.com or at 423-757-6481.