Bradley's Interstate 75 exit projects in final stretch

Staff photo by Tim Barber A new northbound exit ramp from Interstate 75, near Cleveland, is poured and ready to be joined with a multi-lane bridge at exit 20, in southern Bradley County.
photo Staff photo by Tim Barber Traffic squeezes into two lanes atop the recently widened bridge over Interstate 75, at Exit 20, is Bradley County's southernmost TDOT project near Cleveland, Tenn.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The Tennessee Department of Transportation estimates a comprehensive overhaul of Interstate 75's Exit 20 here that involves the expansion of its ramps and bridge will be completed in November.

The extensive makeover is within its projected two-year timeframe to finish.

The contractor now is doing bridge work, TDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said in a recent construction update.

Ongoing work on the on- and off-ramps is readily visible to interstate motorists passing through the 60 mph zone surrounding the exit. Concrete barricade lanes guide traffic through the widened ramp areas, as workers build concrete retaining walls to support those ramps.

No interstate lane closures will occur over the holiday weekend, Flynn said.

The exit work is expected to improve local traffic flow and to facilitate potential commercial traffic to a planned industrial park that is to be located near Exit 20 and APD-40.

Before the launch of the exit's overhaul, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis referred to Exit 20 as "malfunction junction" due to its perpetual traffic snarls.

Other Bradley County I-75 projects have been recently completed or have been projected to wrap up by early fall.

Exit 25, which intersects with 25th Street and the State Route 60 corridor, is undergoing work that will add extra turning lanes. That project, which includes drainage and retaining walls, is estimated to be completed this September, Flynn said.

The exit has been a growing source of congestion and has resulted in traffic backups onto I-75, Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said in meetings with Cleveland Utilities, which oversees the city's traffic signal network.

Congestion west of the exit has been attributed to student traffic patterns associated with Cleveland Middle School and Hopewell Elementary, which are located a few miles from Exit 25.

Exit 33, known as the Charleston exit, now has a pair of working traffic signals where its ramps intersect with Lauderdale Memorial Highway.

The new signals were part of an exit makeover that included paving the northbound and southbound off ramps with concrete, Flynn said.

Before the ramp expansion and signal additions, TDOT painted extra lane lines across the bridge a few years ago.

Lauderdale Memorial Highway, which is part of the State Route 308 corridor that connects Exit 33 to North Lee Highway, serves Amazon, Wacker Chemie and Walker Valley High School.

In addition to the Exit 33 improvements, Bradley County leaders have voiced concern for more traffic-controlling measures along Lauderdale Memorial Highway, especially in the vicinity of the high school.

"The situation is only going to get worse," said Bradley County Commissioner Thomas Crye, citing the impact of industrial growth on the two-lane highway.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at