I-24/South Broad and Market streets improvement project ahead of schedule as supply issues arise

New off-ramp to South Broad Street expected to open in August

Contributed map by Tennessee Department of Transportation / Interstate 24 interchanges at Broad and Market streets are shown on this project map.

The interchange improvement project at Interstate 24 and South Broad and Market streets in Chattanooga stands at 66% complete with the cost holding steady at $32 million and a finish date still set for Aug. 31, 2023, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Although Charleston, Tennessee-based Wright Brothers Construction - which started the work in the fall of 2020 - is ahead of schedule, supply chain issues could affect progress, Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Rae-Anne Bradley said by email.

"The contractor is currently dealing with some cement material shortages on the project due to supply chain issues that could potentially impact the project's timeline," Bradley said.

Otherwise, there have been no changes except for a revision to the lighting plan so existing street lighting could continue to function as intended.

Drivers entering Chattanooga on eastbound I-24 as it rounds the base of Lookout Mountain will see the new off-ramp taking shape to the right leading over Chestnut Street to South Broad Street. The new frontage road from there, according to plans, continues east to Market Street, where an on-ramp leads back onto the eastbound lanes of I-24, plan documents show.

"The contractor is continuing to place concrete pavement on the I-24 east exit ramp," Bradley said. "Curb and gutter and sidewalk installation is underway on the frontage road. Signal and roadway lighting installation continues."

Despite supply chain concerns, a milestone for the project is coming next month.

"The contractor intends to open the new I-24 east exit ramp to the new frontage road to Broad and Markets streets in August," she said.


In the 1960s, the area of the current project was called the big scramble for its sprawling design. The traffic count in the area in 1966 had increased from 37,000 to 51,000 vehicles per day, Chattanooga Times Free Press archives show.

Now the traffic count in the same area ranges between about 60,000 per day west of the city to well over 90,000 vehicles per day between Missionary Ridge and the U.S. 27 interchange, according to 2020 TDOT traffic data. Broad Street's traffic count data from 2021 was nearly 29,000 vehicles a day.

(READ MORE: Wamp: Knoxville stadium project is contrast to 'haphazard' Chattanooga Lookouts plan)

In 2022, the intersection of I-24/U.S. 27 was ranked at No. 29 on the American Transportation Research Institute's 100 worst freight bottlenecks in the U.S. The Interstate 75/I-24 interchange near the Georgia state line in Chattanooga - known as the split - ranked at No. 10.

Through the years the interstate aged, traffic increased, the on- and off-ramps to I-24 and U.S. 27 to areas south of the city became outdated and the city's southern end declined.


Let to contract: June 6, 2020Contractor: Wright Brothers Construction Company Inc.Bid price: $31,994,789Estimated completion date: Aug. 31. 2023Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation


Since its beginning, state and local officials have linked the TDOT project with the development of Chattanooga's Southside community.

TDOT spells out primary project details and goals in its online description.

"The south side of Chattanooga has been blighted since the closure of the U.S. Pipe/Wheland Foundry site," TDOT's project information states, noting local government's effort to work with developers to revitalize the area, which would increase traffic flow.

The project aims to improve the safety and operation of the interstate, as well as provide improved access to U.S. 27, Broad and Market streets and other points on the south side of the city. When updated, the interchanges will accommodate current and future traffic demands, promote economic growth and support area redevelopment, according to TDOT project information online.

TDOT maintains a safety-oriented view of the project and does not associate it directly with local development.

"The purpose of the modifications to I-24 at Broad and Market streets interchange is to decrease congestion and improve traffic operations, safety and efficiency," Bradley said this week.

The modifications were needed because of high crash rates in the area where I-24's eastbound lanes and North Broad Street diverge, as well as from South Market Street to the ramps for I-24's eastbound lanes, she said.

"This project is based on a general plan of development for the area provided to TDOT in 2012," Bradley said. "Traffic predictions are based on a general development plan of an area and are not based on any one development."

But State Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, said the whole reason behind the TDOT project arose from work to develop the Southside, and a new stadium for the Chattanooga Lookouts quickly became part of plans.

"Make no doubt about it, the purpose of that exit was to develop the South Broad Street corridor, and the byproduct is, it will take a lot of congestion out of the scramble there," Gardenhire said. "That was the main purpose for us funding that project. The building of the ramp was the first piece of the puzzle."

Gardenhire said the proposed new Lookouts stadium played an early, significant role in planning for nearly a decade. But if plans for a new stadium fall through, there will be no impact on the interchange project, Gardenhire said.

The revitalization of the Southside, along with a new stadium, has been among the points of focus for planning and community meeting discussions for a new exit ramp and interchange.

In 2017, new legislation put money behind the idea, when Haslam's Improve Act funded the project, Gardenhire said.

"The current delegation is the one that funded it, and that's the most important part of the puzzle," Gardenhire said.


According to TDOT, the state purchased less than 10 acres of private property for the project.

"TDOT purchased 12 right-of-way tracts for a total of roughly 7.3 acres," Bradley said in an email. "There are three types of right-of-way TDOT acquired for this project - (1) traditional right-of-way, (2) temporary construction easements - rental of property for 3-4 years returned to owners upon completion of the project, and (3) permanent slope easements - an easement for building slopes for the road outside the right-of-way."

The state paid $2.5 million for the 12 tracts, she said.

Most of that property was acquired from the developer of the foundry property adjacent to the project.

Gary Chazen, president of Perimeter Properties, the owner of the foundry property, said Thursday in an email that two parcels making up 6.6 acres were sold to the state in 2018 for the highway project.

"In both cases, the partnership cooperated closely with TDOT and accepted a price per acre based on TDOT's appraisal, but that is well below today's market value," Chazen said.

The state paid $1.7 million for the property owned by Pipe Properties LLC, one of Perimeter Properties' entities involved in the development in the area, Hamilton County Property Assessor records show. The other entity is Gateway View LLC, according to Chazen.

The firm also donated property in the same area for the Tennessee Riverwalk to pass through on its way to St. Elmo, Chazen said.

Chazen cheered the Southside and interchange effort.

"We are thrilled that the state and our delegation is making this investment for the entire South Broad District," Chazen said. "There is no doubt that it will be of benefit to this part of our community and alleviate congestion going into our downtown."

As the project moves forward, detours for Williams Street and Chestnut Street are in place, Bradley said.

"Drivers are encouraged use caution when traveling through this area and follow posted signage for access to I-24 east and U.S. Highway 27 north," she said.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.