Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama transportation departments stop road projects for Thanksgiving weekend

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / With Thanksgiving colors for a backdrop, Interstate 24 traffic zips past the Tennessee Welcome Center, which sets on an island in Nickajack Lake in Marion County, on Nov. 19, 2021. Transportation departments in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama are halting most road construction for the holiday weekend.

State road construction projects in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama will be halted for the Thanksgiving travel holiday as AAA predicts 54.6 million people will hit the road to see loved ones this the weekend.

Transportation officials hope the work stoppage smooths the flow for travelers, whose numbers are rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, according to officials. In Tennessee, AAA predicts 1.2 million will take a road trip; an increase of 12,000 people from last year's holiday and the busiest Thanksgiving since 2019, Tennessee Department of Transportation officials noted.

The road work stoppage begins Wednesday in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama and continues through Monday morning.

"Thanksgiving is typically the most traveled holiday of the year," TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley said in a news release.

"Halting road work during this time will provide maximum capacity on our highways and help alleviate congestion, especially during the predicted peak travel days of Wednesday and Sunday," Eley said. "TDOT's regional Help trucks will also be working throughout the holiday weekend to assist with incidents that may occur along the interstates."

(READ MORE: Flying home for the holidays will cost you more this year)

While all lane closure activity will be stopped, crews might still be working in some construction zones, according to TDOT and the Alabama and Georgia departments of transportation. Long-term lane closures will also remain in place on some construction projects in the interest of motorists' safety.

Drivers are reminded to be safe and obey the posted speeds, especially in work zones. Also, Black Friday traffic in high-density shopping areas will be heavy throughout most of the day, officials note.

The biggest interstate project in the Chattanooga area is the interchange improvement work at Interstate 24 and South Broad Street, according to officials. That's where congestion usually backs up traffic every day between the interchange and Interstate 59 at the Tennessee-Georgia-Alabama line heading south and between the interchange and I-24 where it ends at I-75, according to officials.

The backup will probably linger regardless from typical daily congestion, but limiting activities at the interchange that involve temporary lane closures will help, officials said.

At the South Broad interchange area, Williams Street will remain closed at the underpass, and no through traffic will be allowed between West 21st Street and West 25th Street, TDOT said. Chestnut Street is closed at the I-24 underpass and will remain so until construction of the bridge there is complete.

The contractor has opened up the new Broad Street exit off I-24 east and closed the existing exit to the Broad Street that is off the U.S. 27 south exit, TDOT spokeswoman Rae-Anne Bradley said in a traffic update on this week's work activities.

Traffic from U.S. 27 south that needs to get to Broad Street will have to use the Williams Street exit, she said. There will be detour signs to direct traffic off the Williams Street exit to Broad Street. Drivers also should know there is a new traffic signal at the end of the new exit ramp at Broad Street.

For travelers headed south toward or through Atlanta, traffic congestion will likely peak Wednesday, especially between noon and 6 p.m., but snags were already expected to begin Monday afternoon, according to Georgia highway officials.

The Thanksgiving travel forecast for metro Atlanta interstates predicts the heaviest traffic congestion Wednesday, officials said, then light traffic Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, though some areas near shopping centers could be congested.

Moderate traffic is expected to return Saturday and Sunday as people make their way back home, officials said.

(READ MORE: Fourth of July holiday travel up from last year despite higher gas prices, flight cancellations)

Road construction in most of Alabama will be halted, according to highway department spokesman Seth Burkett.

"There will be an exception to that that would be pertinent to Chattanooga drivers," Burkett said Tuesday in a phone interview.

Directional traffic has been shifted from the northbound lanes to the southbound side of I-59, where northbound and southbound traffic share the two lanes on that side of the interstate, he said.

"There will be one lane open in each direction because while they're replacing part of the northbound roadway, it's a long-term closure," Burkett said.

Drive Safe Alabama Coordinator Allison Green said in a news release that drivers can do their part to make sure they get their passengers to their holiday celebration safely by focusing on their responsibilities behind the wheel.

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