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Drivers on interstates and highways in Chattanooga soon will see warning signs of upcoming traffic problems, giving them a chance to taking another route, officials say.

"If there is a crash, say two or three miles up I-75, you'll know about it ahead of time, so you can plan an alternate route, even if you're on the interstate," Jennifer Flynn, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, said Tuesday. "The signs are strategically placed; you will have an option."

Sixteen message boards are being placed on Interstates 75 and 24, as well as on U.S. Highway 27 and State Route 153, Mrs. Flynn said. Four signs already have been placed along I-75 and Highway 153, she said.

The $21 million project stretches from Marion County to Bradley County and to North Georgia, she said. No signs are being placed in Alabama, records show.

Along with the message boards, signs are being placed around the city to alert motorists on how to tune to a highway advisory radio station that warns of traffic problems, she said.

SIGN LOCATIONS

A total of 16 message boards will be located along area interstates and highway in the next few months.

* Six message boards along Interstate 24 between Chattanooga and Marion County

* Six boards along Interstate 75 in Tennessee starting from Bradley County

* One message board on I-75 in Catoosa County

* Two overhead signs on State Route 153

* One sign along U.S. Highway 27

Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation

The new message boards and the radio frequency are a continuation of the "Smartway" project started two years ago when several cameras were installed along area interstates and roads to help monitor traffic flow, according to newspaper reports.

Mrs. Flynn said similar signs already are up in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis.

"We're the last metropolitan area," she said.

The state messaging system should be in place completely by December 2010, she said.

The signs, called "dynamic message boards," can be changed to show different messages. Some of the signs already exist in North Georgia.

Crystal Paulk-Buchanan, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation, said two changeable message boards are in place near Dalton, Ga., on I-75, warning of traffic snarls. Another board is in Catoosa County on I-75 that helps direct trucks to a weigh station, she said.

Besides warning motorists, the boards also can be used to issue Amber alerts when a child is missing, she said.

Mrs. Flynn said the idea is to help congestion problems due to accidents or rush-hour traffic.

"We can't build our way out of congestion," she said. "We're trapped by a mountain and a river."

City Traffic Engineer John Van Winkle said the plan also is eventually to link the state's system with the city's system.

The city is working on a citywide traffic signal system that would allow better control of traffic signals, helping traffic flow move more smoothly when drivers take the alternate routes.

"We have to have a totally integrated system, so if there is a traffic problem on the interstate there is a detour set up," Mr. Van Winkle said.

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