As the skies clear this week, state contractors started work on a $32.9 million bridge replacement project on Interstate 24 near mile marker 183 at Belvoir Avenue and Germantown Road, adjacent to the ongoing $132.6 million interchange improvement project at I-24 and Interstate 75.
The Belvoir Avenue Bridge over I-24 is on tap for replacement first with construction that started Monday, followed by the replacement of two I-24 bridges over Germantown Road a half mile to the northwest. The two projects will be closely coordinated, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation officials who applaud the project's start.
"We are pleased that this important project is getting underway," TDOT Region 2 Director Joe Deering said via email. "There will always be a need for efficient movement of goods and services, so it is critical to continue improvements to our infrastructure even during these uncertain times."
East Ridge and Brainerd residents will find it somewhat inconvenient to cross I-24 for a while, East Ridge City Manager Chris Dorsey said Monday.
"It's the price of progress to have this construciton, but we're glad it's under way," Dorsey said.
"We knew this was coming, and we're just trying to plan the best we can," he said. "We hope people are aware of where these disruptions in the traffic pattern are and are able to plan accordingly."
The detour for the Belvoir bridge work will be about a mile, he noted.
Click on the yellow markers below for more information about each project:
The construction manager on the I-24 bridge replacement project is Bell & Associates Construction and the design manager is Barge Design Solutions, TDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said. The entire project is expected to be done in August 2021 because of a unique approach to part of the work.
The bridge work uses "both traditional techniques and an innovative process called 'Accelerated Bridge Construction' (ABC). ABC requires short-term, total road closures to allow crews the space to do their jobs and the freedom to work around the clock," she said. "The closures will also allow construction to be completed much quicker."
Another element that seeks to speed project completion, is a "Construction Manager/General Contractor" contract, Flynn said. She said this method involves a contractor in the design and construction phases of the project, and the partnership between TDOT, the designer and the contractor "reduces risks and improves constructability," Flynn said.
The portion of the project to replace the Belvoir Bridge over I-24 will require the road to be closed at each end of the bridge, with traffic being detoured onto North Terrace and South Terrace, depending on the direction of travel on Belvoir, according to TDOT. The Belvoir project is tentatively slated for completion by winter this year.
"The Belvoir Avenue bridge will be completed before work begins on the I-24 bridges" over Germantown, Flynn said.
"The contractor will begin work underneath the existing bridges [on I-24] during the construction of the Belvoir Avenue bridge," Flynn said.
Move over, slow down
The Tennessee Department of Transportation is joining states across the nation to ask motorists to “Work with Us” – move over and slow down for highway workers. TDOT wants to spread that message statewide during National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 20-24, in an effort to improve safety in Tennessee’s interstate and highway construction and maintenance work zones.
TDOT officials say spring and summer months provide perfect weather for highway work. Work zones include everything from major interstate widening projects to pothole patching and mowing. Motorists will encounter work zones across Tennessee in downtowns, along interstates and in rural areas.
Last year in Tennessee, 25 people died in work zone crashes, including workers, drivers and passengers.
Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation
Next spring, the I-24 bridges over Germantown will be closed over four weekends — one direction of travel at a time — to complete the replacements. That work will detour traffic onto North Terrace and South Terrace in the immediate area of that project, according to TDOT.
"We will get information out prior to these closures, and it will also be posted to the project website and sent to those who have signed up to receive emails about the project," Flynn said. "Also, it will be shared on various social media platforms. Detour information, including maps, will be provided prior to the scheduled closures."
For more information on the I-24 bridge replacement project, including a process for the public to sign up for project updates, visit TDOT's project website.
The bridge replacement project at Belvoir and Germantown fits into the larger improvement project already well under way at the I-24/I-75 interchange, also known as "The Split," less than a mile away. That work is being done by Atlanta-based contractor C.W. Matthews Co.
Over the past five decades, state and local officials on several occasions sought a fix for the problems at the interchange, according to Times Free Press archives. The design of I-24 through the East Ridge and Brainerd area drew fire in the mid-1960s when community leaders marched on City Hall to protest plans to exclude on-ramps and off-ramps. The remedy ended in the design there now that includes North Terrace and South Terrace roads, which funnel traffic in and out of the communities mostly via Moore Road, which was widened to four lanes in 1969 to carry the increased traffic.
The interchange project, which significantly changes the Split's layout, includes new bridges over I-24 at Spring Creek Road, McBrien Road and Moore Road, all east of the separate bridge replacement project that started on Monday.
Bridges in the project areas have had a string of bad luck lately.
The Moore Road bridge was struck Jan. 7 by a piece of construction equipment being hauled east on a flat-bed big rig, causing enough damage to the span that a beam had to be removed. On April 1, 2019, a piece of concrete bridge railing fell from an overpass bridge on I-75 South into the path of an oncoming car, causing a crash and injuries. The incident forced a temporary closure for repairs to the aging span in the center of the current interchange project.
Once work is completed on all five I-24 bridges, the interstate from the Split to Germantown will have room to be widened in the future, according to TDOT.
Contact Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.