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With Friday's opening of a new ramp to carry traffic onto northbound Interstate 75 lanes at the interchange with I-24, the current phase of Chattanooga's "Split" project is nearing an end. But transportation officials say there are a few more improvements to come this summer before the project moves to Phase 2.

The last major Phase 1 improvement of the interchange modification will be to open a new lane on the northbound side of Interstate 75 between Exit 1 and Exit 2, according to Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Rae-Ann Bradley. The new lane will be dedicated specifically for loop ramp traffic coming from the southbound side of U.S. Highway 41/Ringgold Road onto I-75's northbound side.

Additional improvements coming soon will be the completion of final paving, striping and signage for the entire project, as well as earthwork on various slopes throughout the interchange, Bradley said. The earthwork is not anticipated to affect traffic.

(READ MORE: Switch to new, final alignment at I-75/I-24 'Split' interchange completed ahead of schedule)

By the end of summer, Phase 1 will wrap up, Bradley said.

"TDOT is in the early planning stages of Phase 2 for the interchange modification project," she wrote in an email last week. "The department is currently making modifications to the original Interstate Access Report and reviewing comments from the Federal Highway Administration. Once the Interstate Access Report is approved, TDOT will move forward with finalizing preliminary plans."

Phase 2 will encompass improvements to the interchange from Spring Creek Road to Germantown Road on Interstate 24 and from the bridge over the railroad to the East Brainerd Road exit on I-75, according to an email from Bradley.

Improvements will include the continuation of widening I-24, as well as the replacement of bridges at Moore and McBrien roads over I-24, modifying on- and off-ramps to North and South Terrace along I-24, the continuation of widening I-75 from the bridge over the railroad to the East Brainerd Road exit and the replacement of both the northbound and southbound bridges over the railroad on I-75.

The preliminary schedule includes plans to issue a request for proposals for the project in spring 2022, followed by the awarding of the project to a contractor in late 2022, she said.

One way in which the state is attempting to speed the project along is by awarding both the design and construction parts of the work to a single contractor in what is known as a "design-build" contract.

Tennessee's three-year transportation plan for 2022-2024 — which includes Phase 2 of the work on the I-75/I-24 interchange — was announced in May by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and TDOT Commissioner Clay Bright. It contains about $2.6 billion in infrastructure investments for 68 individual project phases in 45 counties statewide.

"Investing in infrastructure is an important part of driving economic opportunity throughout our state," Lee said in a statement on the program. "This funding, particularly for rural Tennessee, will help to keep Tennesseans safe and moving in the right direction."

On Friday, TDOT opened a new ramp at the I-75/I-24 interchange to access I-75's northbound lanes and I-24's westbound lanes from the Welcome Center and the northbound side of U.S. 41/Ringgold Road.

"The ramp was opened successfully at 7 a.m. this morning," Bradley said Friday. "This new ramp configuration should help alleviate some of the congestion in the area."

Colin M. Stewart can be reached at cstewart@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6366.

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