Honk if you recognize the entrance to the Bachman Tunnels.
Goodness knows, people have been honking their way through those Missionary Ridge "tubes" for decades.
Even though the tunnels are not visible in this photo (they would be just to the right of the photo frame), residents will recognize this spot as a gateway to and from East Ridge.
Built in 1929 to connect Chattanooga with East Ridge (which was incorporated in 1921), the Bachman Tunnels (sometimes called the Bachman Tubes) were part of a main traffic thoroughfare, comprising U.S. highways 41 and 76, for a good part of the 20th century. Now, the tunnels are a secondary route for through traffic and a shortcut for locals.
This vintage photo is part of the Perry Mayo collection of images at ChattanoogaHistory.com, a website curated by local history buff Sam Hall. The "Remember when, Chattanooga?" series can also be found on its Facebook page.
Launched by history enthusiast Sam Hall in 2014, ChattanoogaHistory.com is maintained to present historical images in the highest resolution available.
If you have photo negatives, glass plate negatives, or original non‐digital prints taken in the Chattanooga area, contact Sam Hall for information on how they may qualify to be digitized and preserved at no charge.
Although the emerging interstate highway system would later funnel heavy traffic away from the area, the tunnels are still an entrance to the Ringgold Road commercial district in East Ridge. (Although, pre-1930, there were only a handful of businesses on Ringgold Road.)
In more recent times, the tunnels have become somewhat infamous for trapping semitrailers that sometimes get stuck looking for a shortcut when the Interstate 24 ridge-cut area becomes backed up.
Various online history sources note that the tunnels were named for Dr. Jonathan W. Bachman, a former pastor of Chattanooga's First Presbyterian Church. Bachman fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War and was a spiritual leader here during the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878.
The Bachman Tunnels are just over 1,000 feet long and reportedly cost $600,000 to build in pre-Great Depression dollars. That translates to about $9 million in 2020 dollars, adjusted for inflation, but it would no doubt cost much more to blast through Missionary Ridge today.
In 2001, this location became the site of an experimental traffic roundabout. It was the first of about 20 roundabouts installed around Chattanooga by traffic engineers in the 21st century.
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com.