CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Tennessee is getting ready to administer a dose of decongestant to a clogged Interstate 75 exit right after the Fourth of July holiday, state transportation officials said Thursday.
Paul Degges, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Transportation, met with local officials and media Thursday, standing on asphalt under a broiling sun at exit 20.
Noting that traffic often backs up on the single-lane ramp now, forcing some drivers to wait on the I-75 shoulder for their turn to get on the ramp, Degges said, "We have a real safety problem here."
He said the state is working to acquire right of way and relocate utilities as it gets ready to widen the exit 20 bridge over Interstate 75 next spring.
But the immediate step will be adding a second lane from northbound I-75 and onto APD 40 at the exit. He said work will begin July 9 and will cost about $70,000. The crew will try to reduce effects on traffic as much as possible, doing some of the work at night, he said.
Standing at the roadside, state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, pointed to the busy interstate.
"You can see the traffic behind us. It's like this every day, all day," he said. "Our timeline in Bradley County is the sooner the better."
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis and Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland both praised the initiative.
"The fact that TDOT officials are here today shows how important this project is," Rowland said.
Before the bridge expansion can start, the state must buy rights of way from 11 property owners, Degges said. The $15 million project has been funded by the Legislature.
Another big traffic project will be coming along soon, too. The state and local governments are committed to an interchange on APD 40, nearly halfway between I-75 and U.S. Highway 11, that will make possible a new industrial park.
"Better and bigger roads mean bigger and better businesses," said state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland.
Both APD 40 projects are linked to yet another big future plan, said state Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, referring to the Corridor K route into western North Carolina.