Commuters face long haul on detours down mountain

Commuters face long haul on detours down mountain

December 10th, 2009 by Adam Crisp in News

Mountaintop residents see the damage to Signal Mountain Road and imagine long commutes along winding, slippery mountain roads.

State highway officials don't plan to close the one remaining northbound lane of Signal Mountain Road so long as future safety inspections show there is no danger. But there inevitably will be closures as the problems are repaired.

That means taking the W Road, Roberts Mill Road or other routes that are prone to freezing, mud slides and closures in bad weather.

"We are just going to have to factor in a lot more time for our commute," said Margo Gardner, a Signal Mountain resident and mother of two. "We'll have to add at least an extra half hour, maybe an hour to our commute."

Her daughter drives to work at Erlanger hospital and her son is a senior at McCallie School.

"The problem is that, usually, when Signal Mountain Road is closed, it won't be long before there is a problem with the W Road," Ms. Gardner said.

And even then, the alternate routes are tricky.

The W Road's hairpin turns get slick in rain and, with temperatures expected to dip well below freezing over the next few days, could ice over.

Roberts Mill Road is even steeper and windier.

Buffie Harper, who owns a consulting firm on the mountain, said she travels often to North Carolina and has been inconvenienced by the rock slides on Interstate 40 in North Carolina and U.S. 64 in Polk County, Tenn.

"Then I came home and I can't get off my own mountain," Ms. Harper said.

For now, Tennessee Department of Transportation officials believe the northbound side of Signal Mountain Road is safe for all traffic.

Geotechnical engineers have given the OK for school buses to haul children up the mountain, said Hamilton County Schools spokeswoman Danielle Clark.

Large trucks that have passed the big gouge created by overnight rains Tuesday have not shifted the ground below, said Ray Rucker, assistant regional TDOT commissioner.