Transportation officials have finally received the funding needed to continue the widening of East Brainerd Road all the way out to Ooltewah-Ringgold Road, though construction is not likely to begin for at least another five years.
Funding for the project comes thanks to Gov. Bill Haslam's IMPROVE Act, which was signed into law in April 2017 and went into effect in July. The bill incrementally raises gas and diesel taxes by 6 cents and 10 cents, respectively, over the next three years to provide funding for 962 shelved transportation projects across the state.
One of those projects is the second phase of the East Brainerd Road expansion, which will widen a 1.5-mile section of the corridor — starting just east of Banks Road and continuing to Ooltewah-Ringgold Road — from two lanes to five.
The first phase of the widening project, which began in 2015, is expected to wrap up this June, said Jennifer Flynn, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Once the second phase is complete, the entire corridor will have been widened from Interstate 75 to Ooltewah-Ringgold Road.
"[The second phase is] still a few years off from it being built, but at least it's on the list," she said. "It wasn't even on any kind of list before the IMPROVE Act came along. We knew that it was a need, but there were so many other greater needs that we had to prioritize."
With those additional dollars available, the preliminary engineering phase for the long-awaited project has finally been funded.
"So you'll see surveyors out there, you'll see things going on, and that design will start," Ken Flynn, chief of operations for the local TDOT office, told attendees during a recent community update meeting.
Much like the section of the road currently under construction, the project's design will include two lanes in each direction, a continuous center turn lane, 5-foot sidewalks on each side of the road and 4-foot bike lanes on each side.
Though no dates have been selected as of yet, planners will hold public meetings during which community members can review the preliminary designs for the road and provide feedback, Jennifer Flynn said.
The next step will be the right-of-way phase, during which time TDOT will acquire the properties necessary to complete the project. Ken Flynn said the one- to two-year process is expected to begin in fiscal year 2021.
The goal is to begin construction by 2023-2024, he added.
"The department is committed to move these projects forward and will stay on track for that, hopefully," Ken Flynn said.
Email Myron Madden at email@example.com.