New Signal Mountain Road exit will reopen Sunday

New Signal Mountain Road exit will reopen Sunday

January 25th, 2014 by Judy Walton in Local Regional News

Beginning Sunday afternoon motorists will cease use of the temporary exit, below center, to Signal Mountain Road. The newly rebuilt exit, above, is scheduled to open after 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

U.S. 27 lane shift plan

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

U.S. 27 REBUILD

* Starting date: December 2011

* Job description: Workers are adding northbound and southbound lanes, building 34 retaining walls and six bridges and reconstructing interchanges at Signal Mountain Road, Dayton Boulevard and Manufacturers Road.

* Projected ending date: February 2015

* Projected cost: $102 million

Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation

HIGHWAY 153 REPAIR

• The state has awarded an emergency contract to repair the access ramp from Highway 153 to Access Road/Lake Resort Drive.

• The on-ramp to Highway 153 has been closed since Jan. 6 because of pavement failure.

• Because the repair involves excavating and rebuilding the entire slope and roadway, both the on-ramp and the off-ramp from Highway 153 will be closed for the duration, said Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn.

• Work is expected to start Monday and be complete Feb. 7, Flynn said. Detours will be posted.

Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation

For months, northbound drivers leaving U.S. Highway 27 have had to navigate a temporary exit with a short ramp and a tight curve to get onto Signal Mountain Road.

No more. The permanent exit ramp, rebuilt in the same place as the original, will reopen Sunday afternoon with two traffic lanes and a left-turn light at the bottom so drivers can access Dayton Boulevard.

The extra lane is going to come in handy, because contractors at the same time are going to close the Dayton Boulevard exit ahead of completely rebuilding that bridge and ramp. The temporary Signal Mountain Road exit to the north will close, too.

Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said workers will start shifting the traffic barriers in the early afternoon Sunday and the exit should be ready to use by 4 or 5 p.m.

She said there will be plenty of signs directing drivers onto the new alignment, but she asked motorists to use extra care while everyone gets used to the new traffic pattern.

"People should just really pay attention on Monday," Flynn said. "It'll be a little bit different, but it will be good. It'll be a new ramp and people will have the choice of which direction to go."

She said rebuilding the Dayton Boulevard bridge and ramp will involve constructing two retaining walls and is estimated to be done by July.

It's not yet clear how traffic patterns will change as drivers adjust. During the construction, the inside lane on northbound Dayton Boulevard at Signal Mountain Road was designated for left turns as well as through traffic. Then two lanes of left-turning traffic had to merge with southbound drivers turning west, and everyone had to funnel into a single lane under the U.S. 27 bridge.

Brandon Moore, manager of the Mojo Burrito restaurant that overlooks the intersection, said it was a recipe for chaos.

"There's been a crash every other day, it seems like," he said, as homebound traffic fought to get through.

Red Bank Police Chief Tim Christol said the department hasn't tallied that many extra crashes, but has heard plenty from motorists caught in a rush-hour standstill.

"Our biggest experience has been just a lot of overall frustration by drivers coming through," Christol said. "Anytime there's a significant change in the way that we've done things it takes a while for people to adjust."

That will be true with the new traffic patterns, too.

"I think one of the things that's going to happen when they do close that [Dayton Boulevard] ramp and it moves everyone to that one central intersection [at the Signal Mountain Road exit] is centralize some of that traffic flow that has been backing up on Dayton at Signal and get moving traffic faster," Christol said.

He said his department will work with TDOT engineers and Red Bank's public works crews to make traffic move as efficiently as possible.

"We would ask people take a little bit of time to adjust to the changes," he said. "We need to work with the community to get that as evenly flowing as we can -- and we can't do it alone.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.