The now-$97.2 million third phase of the Apison Pike widening and realignment project launched more than two years ago in Collegedale is almost two-thirds complete but with plenty of work still left to do, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Project contractor Charleston, Tennessee-based Wright Brothers Construction Co. is still on pace to finish the third phase of the project from Ooltewah Ringgold Road to east of Layton Lane by June 2025, TDOT spokeswoman Rae-Anne Bradley said via email.
The first two phases between Interstate 75 and Ooltewah Ringgold Road have been completed, and the fourth phase that will stretch from Layton Lane to East Brainerd Road is under development, according to TDOT.
The current contract amount, including change orders, is $97.2 million, Bradley said of the third phase. That's an increase of about $4 million over the original contract awarded in 2019.
"Multiple change orders have been executed on this project for various reasons," Bradley said Monday in a follow-up email. "The majority of them were the result of differing site conditions discovered in the field as construction has progressed. This is a common occurrence on projects of this nature and size. On this project in particular, several utility lines and some bridge layouts had to be modified as a result of underground conditions exposed during construction."
Officials in Collegedale -- the current phase of the TDOT project lies within the city limits -- acknowledge the inconvenience but said improvements answer longtime needs
"We are excited that the project is progressing and look forward to its completion," Collegedale City Manager Wayon Hines said by email. "Construction is never easy, but TDOT and (Wright Brothers) are working diligently to minimize the negative impacts from the project."
Apison Pike, also known as State Route 317, is described by TDOT as an urban principal arterial road in a corridor that connects Chattanooga to the suburbs of Ooltewah, Collegedale and Apison as well as the Enterprise South Industrial Park, Southern Adventist University, the Collegedale Airport and McKee Foods' operations.
(READ MORE: Interchange at I-75 and Hamilton Place in Chattanooga is in TDOT's $3.6 billion three-year plan)
For decades, Apison Pike was a lightly traveled two-lane road winding through mostly rural terrain, but over the years, increasing development and traffic overwhelmed Apison Pike's capacity and has created safety issues as the once-quiet communities east of Interstate 75 boomed with growth, TDOT said.
The current phase of the Apison Pike widening project is the third part of a larger effort to reconstruct and widen the road from I-75 to East Brainerd Road. Due to the significant size of the overall project, the work was split into four smaller phases, according to TDOT.
In the section between Ooltewah Ringgold Road and Layton Lane, nearly half the route will be shifted north of the existing roadway. The new alignment will be five lanes, two in each direction with a center turn lane, according to TDOT. A new intersection is coming at Tallant Road with a roundabout design, and a new bridge will be built over the Norfolk Southern Railroad to separate the tracks from the road. Additionally, 4-foot bike lanes and 5-foot sidewalks will be constructed along both sides of the road.
"The contractor has completed three out of five bridges, five out of nine retaining walls, a roundabout on Tallant Road, signalized intersections at Apison Pike and Tallant Road and Apison Pike and University Drive, and has traffic switched over to approximately 1.2 miles of new alignment out of the 3.1-mile project," Bradley said.
Collegedale officials are closely monitoring the work and working with the state and the contractor as needs arise, Hines said.
"We are excited to see the progress of the Apison Pike project and the continued investment in our community by TDOT and McKee Foods Corp.," he said of company's expansion project underway alongside the state project.
In the work that remains, the contractor must build the bridge over Spalding Drive and complete the second portion of the bridge over Chestnutt Creek, Bradley said, and there are two retaining walls to complete and two more to build. Bradley said four of the Spalding Drive bridge's columns and piers are finished with a steel pier remaining to build over the railroad and a concrete pier to construct on the south side of the railroad.
"The contractor has a signalized intersection at Apison Pike and Collegedale Parkway left to finish along with grading and drainage on the east end of the project," she said.
As the year's end nears, motorists will see Wright Brothers crews working on the bridge over Spalding Drive, working on the substructure for the second phase of the bridge over Chestnutt Creek and relocating utilities, Bradley said.
Contact Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.