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Chattanooga City Council members today will consider a new, $40 million Interstate 75 ramp to carry traffic to and from Hamilton Place mall -- and it won't take a dime from local coffers.

The council is being asked to pass a resolution that will add new interstate access from Hamilton Place Boulevard, with the hopes that it will relieve traffic on Shallowford Road, north of the mall area. According to city documents, federal funds passed through the Tennessee Department of Transportation will cover $32 million of the project, and Hamilton Place's owner, CBL & Associates, has agreed to pay another $8 million to cover a required local match.

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New connections to Interstate 75 from Hamilton Place Mall are shown in this rendering.
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The project will add direct access from Interstate 75 southbound to Hamilton Place Boulevard, and access to the northbound lanes from the mall. The desired effect will relieve traffic on both the Shallowford Road exit and the corridor itself.

TDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said in an email Monday that between 76,000 and 84,000 vehicles travel the area daily.

CBL Project Manager Curt Hammontree said the new ramps will be a boon to the mall and the public at large.

"Sustainability of the Hamilton Place area is important, and when the mall was built in 1987 the single-direction interchange sufficed. Today, because of the continued development of the area, an expansion of the interchange is warranted. When the project is completed, these improvements will immediately relieve traffic congestion on Shallowford Road," he said.

Councilman Larry Grohn, who represents part of the area with Councilwoman Carol Berz, said the plan has been in the works for years.

"It's about reducing all that congestion on Shallowford and creating an easy way for people to enter [Hamilton Place mall]," Grohn said.

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Motorists travel southbound past the Shallowford Road exit and Hamilton Place mall on Monday.

Berz said she hasn't seen any plans and she has some concern about how or if the new ramp would affect neighborhoods west of the interstate.

"I know that Shallowford Road needs some relief for congestion, and anything that can make that happen without detriment to neighborhoods is a good thing. And it's great that CBL is paying for [the local match]," Berz said.

Chattanooga Transportation Director Blythe Bailey said neighborhoods shouldn't be affected, because the new ramp and bridge extension will be added to the existing on-ramp that connects Hamilton Place Boulevard to the southbound lanes of the interstate.

He said the project should "significantly improve" traffic congestion because it will give drivers more options and divert traffic from Shallowford Road.

City Council members will be briefed on the plan at 1:30 p.m. today during a planning meeting.

Even if the council approves the resolution, the project is not assured, Flynn said. The plan is dependent on whether the federal funds are allocated, although the Federal Highway Administration has already approved a request to connect to the interstate, she said. The plan also is too early in development to establish a timetable, she said.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com, @glbrogdoniv on Twitter or at 423-757-6481.

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