The start of construction on the last 1.5-mile leg of the widening project on East Brainerd Road to Ooltewah-Ringgold Road is listed on the Tennessee Department of Transportation's IMPROVE Act map, but it hasn't been placed on the state's three-year plan yet.
The next portion of the project, estimated at $19 million in the state's IMPROVE Act list, awaits money for right-of-way acquisition, according to TDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn.
IMPROVE ACT FACTS
The IMPROVE Act — Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads, and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy — cuts sales taxes on food, phases out the Hall income tax, and makes changes to the state’s franchise and excise tax while raising gas and diesel taxes by six cents and 10 cents, respectively, over a three-year period. The act, signed into law by former Gov. Bill Haslam in April 2017, also imposes several fees, including a $5 increase on annual car registrations.
"Survey activities have been completed on that section, all the environmental work has been done," Flynn said. "The next step is for the project to receive right-of-way funding" for the purchase of properties needed for construction.
The first phase of the widening project on East Brainerd Road from Graysville Road to Bel-Air Road was not part of the IMPROVE Act. That portion ran behind schedule but now is complete as a five-lane road with a center turn lane and continuous, 5-foot-wide sidewalks on each side, according to Flynn. The first phase of the project ended up costing about $22.2 million and was finished more than a year behind schedule because of complications involving relocation of up to seven underground and above-ground utilities throughout the project area, she said.
There is some utility work happening now on the west end of the new stretch of East Brainerd Road, Flynn said.
"There's going to be equipment and crews, and barrels, signs and flaggers," but it's unrelated to TDOT's widening project, she said.
Development and population growth in East Brainerd are the driving forces behind the widening project and a better road is "desperately needed," according to District 7 Hamilton County Commissioner Sabrena Smedley, who represents the area.
'There's's a lot of growth out here, and it's projected that 32% of all the growth over the next 10 years is coming out this way," she said Wednesday. "We're going to need that second phase done as soon as possible."
"With all the growth we're definitely going to have infrastructure needs and we're going to need our roads expanded," Smedley said. "I'm looking forward to working with TDOT and getting that done."
Though the start of the final leg of the East Brainerd Road widening project to Ooltewah-Ringgold Road isn't yet tapped for a start, Flynn said that could change as soon as next year.
There's no timeline yet on right-of-way funding for the last phase on East Brainerd Road, she said, but the state's three-year plan is updated every year and project priorities could change.
Flynn said projects listed in the first year of the plan are "definites," while a project listed in the following two years can be reprioritized and even become one of the "definites."
"We'll just have to wait until next year to see if it makes it into one of the years of the three-year plan," Flynn said.
TDOT's next three-year plan comes out in spring 2020.
A more distant future project is a 4.47-mile expansion of Ooltewah-Ringgold Road between East Brainerd and a spot near Apison Pike, Flynn said. Engineers are still determining whether the expansion should be a three- or five-lane expansion or a combination, she said.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.