A new ramp has been opened in the Tennessee Department of Transportation's $32 million Interstate 24-South Broad Street interchange improvement project to link U.S. Highway 27 coming from downtown Chattanooga to South Broad and the Southside.
Crews opened the new U.S. 27 south to Broad Street exit ramp around 9 p.m. Monday, TDOT spokeswoman Rae Anne Bradley said in a news release. In addition, Wright Brothers permanently closed the U.S. 27 south exit ramp to Williams Street, she said.
"As of February 2023, the project is 82.4% complete," Bradley said in a follow-up email.
There have been no significant changes in the cost of the project, she said. The last bridge in the project was completed in the construction and completion of the new ramp, she said.
"The contractor was able to improve on some of the traffic control phasing, which helped to speed up the completion date of the project," she said. "The contractor is currently on schedule to finish at the end of August 2023. With the new U.S. 27 south exit ramp to Broad Street now open, the contractor can work on the last phase of the project connecting the frontage road from Broad Street to Williams Street."
Considerably more traffic was taking the new ramp from U.S. 27 to Broad Street on Tuesday and Wednesday than there was traffic coming from the new ramp from I-24 east to Broad Street, opened in October. Most drivers on the new ramp seemed unfazed by the quicker-than-usual shift to the right onto the new ramp. The directional sign at the approach on U.S. 27 is still in the same place and still says "Exit Only" for Broad.
"This new exit ramp will provide drivers with a more direct route to Broad Street from U.S. 27 south," Bradley said. "Drivers are encouraged to use caution when navigating this new traffic pattern and be aware of the new traffic signal at the intersection of the U.S. 27 south exit ramp and Broad Street."
The new ramp bridges over Chestnut Street and the Riverwalk at the old Wheland Foundry site as it leads motorists onto a new 1.6-mile-long frontage road -- constructed in Wright Brothers' upcoming last phases of work -- that begins at Broad Street and parallels I-24, crossing signaled intersections at South Broad, Williams Street and Market Street. When the new frontage road reaches Market Street, traffic can then cross Market to take the existing on-ramp to get back onto I-24 east.
In the 1960s, the area of the current project was called the "big scramble" for its sprawling design, and 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 from 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.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Let to contract: June 26, 2020.
Contractor: Wright Brothers Construction Co.
Bid price: $32 million.
Estimated completion: Aug. 31, 2023.
Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation