Planners review North Lee Highway project

Planners review North Lee Highway project

May 4th, 2012 by Paul Leach in News

North Lee Highway in Bradley County

North Lee Highway in Bradley County

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Planning officials are trying to improve key traffic corridors in the northern part of Bradley County.

This week, Cleveland Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization officials reviewed a recent Tennessee Department of Transportation study that offers a number of recommendations for a 13-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 11 -- also known as North Lee Highway -- between Cleveland and Riceville.

"I think this is just kind of heads up," said Bradley County Engineer Sandra Knight.

The county already has received several complaints regarding North Lee Highway's intersections with Sheffey Lane and Lauderdale Memorial Highway, Knight said.

The study proposed widening the highway to four lanes with additional turn lanes as necessary for a global fix. The road is already four lanes south and north of the study area.

The first segment of the project would encompass the highway from its intersection with Anatole Lane in Cleveland up to its intersection with Lauderdale Memorial Highway near Charleston. The improvements are estimated to cost $20.4 million to $27 million.

The next segment of road widening stretches from Lauderdale Memorial Highway to state Route 163 in Calhoun in McMinn County, costing $13.8 million to $18.2 million.

The last portion extends to state Route 39 in Riceville, estimated to cost $26.6 million to $34.9 million.

A traffic light might be required at Lauderdale Memorial Highway in the future, but the new turn lanes probably would solve most of the sight-distance problems along North Lee Highway, Knight said.

Such improvements would be needed as the northern part of the county becomes more industrialized, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said. He said he considered the widening option a realistic approach to the increasing traffic volume.

The study also presented less-costly spot improvements, including the realignment of the intersection of Walker Valley Road and North Lee Highway and increasing the length of the intersection's turn lane. The estimated cost for that project would be $248,000.

Davis and Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said the Walker Valley Road intersection needs attention.

The other recommended site renovation within Bradley County is the addition of a center turn lane between Lauderdale Memorial Highway and Market Street in Charleston, costing $2.7 million.

Spot improvements within McMinn County include the addition of two-way left-turn lanes near the Abitibibowater Plant entrance and Dry Valley Creek to state Route 39, costing $2.6 million and $3 million, respectively.

Other road improvements have been launched in the area, with some being made to Interstate 75 exit 33 at Lauderdale Memorial Highway. Until permanent modifications are made, temporary lanes will be added to alleviate congestion affecting Amazon workers and local traffic, Davis said.