Starting today, commuters who usually take U.S. Highway 27 directly to Whitehall Road and Manning Street must find more roundabout routes.
As of Monday night, the U.S. Highway 27 southbound exit and entrance ramps for both roads are closed permanently, according to Tennessee Department of Transportation officials.
The northbound ramps also will be closed permanently in several weeks as contractors begin work to widen the span of U.S. 27 from north of the Olgiati Bridge to Signal Mountain Road.
Contractors spent Monday night setting up barrier walls and painting new pavement stripes to start diverting traffic, said TDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn.
The ramps must be closed because they no longer comply with current design standards mandated by the Federal Highway Administration, she said. The ramps will be blocked off with new retaining walls, she said.
"The contractor will spend the next few weeks putting out his traffic control, staging equipment, working on retaining walls and beginning work on widening the bridges on the southbound side of U.S. 27."
Though area business owners say the widening project is sorely needed, many are worried the exit closures will place easily accessible businesses off the beaten path.
"It will definitely affect the business," said Trushar Desai, manager of the Cherokee Motel near the Whitehall Road exit in Red Bank. Desai said roughly half his customers are travelers from U.S. 27.
"It's more a matter of convenience for us," said Michael Bennett, owner of Printree Printing and Signage across from the Whitehall Road exit. "I'm hoping it won't negatively affect the flow of business, but it will be much more inconvenient for us and for people trying to find us."
Bennett said among his chief concerns are the levels of congestion around Signal Mountain Road and Dayton Boulevard.
Flynn said motorists shouldn't fear major delays because most of the work on the highway will take place at night.
The project is slated for completion in October 2014, she said.