Remember When, Chattanooga? The "Big Scramble" interchange on I-24 changed downtown traffic patterns

This photo (looking west) shows the beginnings of the "Big Scramble" Interstate 24 interchange between Market and Broad streets built here in the early 1960s. The photo is from the Perry Mayo collection at

Today, Chattanooga is a transportation hub at the intersection of two interstate highways, Interstate 75 (north and south) and Interstate 24 (from Chattanooga northwest to St. Louis).

The highway system has shaped the city as a 21st century tourist destination and center for commercial trucking and logistics companies. But residents who lived here in the 1950s and 1960s will remember when the merging of those two interstate highways was in flux.

As late as the 1960s, traffic from Nashville to Atlanta was routed through the Bachman Tunnels and East Ridge, as the last stretches of I-24 - including the Ridge Cut over Missionary Ridge - were completed.

Today's featured photo shows a section of I-24 construction that eventually would cross Market, Long and Broad streets. It was dubbed the "Big Scramble" - a compact but complex web of off- and on-ramps to I-24 that carved up South Chattanooga.

The photo, which shows mostly cleared land and bridge supports, is part of the Perry Mayo collection of images at, a website curated by local history enthusiast Sam Hall.

A deep dive into this photo from the early 1960s shows a school in the foreground and also the G.D. Genter Co. building (later knows as Genco) which still stands today.

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Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available.If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives, or original non‐digital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.

This part of I-24, while crucial to connecting Missionary Ridge with Lookout Valley and beyond, was controversial because it divided residential neighborhoods.

A newspaper report from the Chattanooga Times in August 1964 notes that a leg of I-24 stretching from the "23rd Street interchange to Tiftonia" was 4.52 miles long and cost $7.9 million. At the time it was "the largest single highway contract ever let by the state."

Work by the A.E. Burgess and Moss-Thorton Co. of Birmingham, Alabama, was slated to take 400 working days (2 years). In a speech to the Chattanooga Lions Club in early 1966, Charles H. Sain of the Birmingham company said blasting surface rock had been the hardest part of the job.

The Times noted: "He [Sain] told of flying rock going through a window and striking an antique vase and of stampeding thousands of chickens to one end of a chicken house. He said that the chickens would 'pile up on top of each other and many were killed.'"

The report continued: "To solve the chicken problem a radio was purchased, tuned to an all-night station and the volume gradually increased until the chickens became immune to loud noises."

Follow the "Remember When, Chattanooga?" public group on Facebook.

Contact Mark Kennedy at