UPCOMING TOUR STOPS
• Bledsoe County, Pikeville town square project
• Rhea County, State Route 443 at State Route 30
• Rhea County, State Route 303 at State Route 30
• Rhea County, State Route 27 intersection
• Rhea County, State Route 30 at Tennessee River Bridge
• Rhea County, State Route 68 roadway safety audit review
• Rhea County, Spring City SIA
• Rhea County, State Route 68 to Grandview Mountain
• Cumberland County, State Route 101 (Peavine Road) to Lakeview Drive
• Cumberland County, State Route 101 (Lantana Road) to State Route 392
• Putnam County, Interstate 40 slide repair project
• Putnam County, State Route 111 at Quinland Lake Road intersection safety project
• DeKalb County, State Route 56 bridge rehabilitation project at Caney Fork River
Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation
A tour group of Tennessee Department of Transportation and local officials is hitting 32 of the state's upcoming, ongoing or recently completed construction projects in Southeast Tennessee.
TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said the tour that started Monday in Cannon, Coffee, Franklin and Marion counties is intended to familiarize him and his upper-level staff from Nashville with the projects on the state's plate. It helps for projects to have a face for staff members who see all the paperwork, he said.
"It gives us an opportunity to see the projects that we're doing," he said. "There are a lot of people in our office that don't get an opportunity to travel outside of Nashville as much as others can.
"It makes these projects 'real,'" he said.
The tour came through Hamilton and Bradley counties Tuesday, will course through Bledsoe and Rhea today and points in Cumberland, Putnam and DeKalb on Thursday.
The tour bus is equipped with a video system and monitors throughout the passenger cabin so transportation officials can give video presentations about each project as the bus rolls through its four-day tour through 12 of the counties in TDOT's Region 2.
On Tuesday morning, at the beginning of the Hamilton County leg of the tour, Schroer said the Chattanooga area has had a long history of needs.
"I do think for a long time that the transportation side was really falling behind in this area," he said. "We spent a lot of dollars in a lot of places, and this was probably not kept up as well as it should have been, and we're here to help you make this continue to be a great area."
The tour on Tuesday hit the U.S. 27 project, Bonny Oaks Drive, Volkswagen Drive and Interstate 75's exit 9 in Hamilton County, and the Cleveland Depot, Dalton Pike, I-75 exits 20 and 33, State Route 308 and the new Cleveland airport in Bradley County.
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said the tour draws attention to the county's ongoing transportation issues.
"It's a great opportunity for us in Hamilton County to look out into the future at what our needs might be," Coppinger said. "[Schroer] has been very receptive."
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said he appreciates Schroer's personal involvement in local projects.
"I have been around a long time and I have to say he has shown his face more than we have seen in many previous administrations," Littlefield said.
TDOT Chief Financial Officer Joe Galbato said he likes the chance to see where transportation money goes.
"It's different when get your feet in the dirt and see it yourself," Galbato said Tuesday as the tour bus trundled toward Enterprise South.
At the U.S. Highway 41 bridge replacement project in Marion County on Monday, Schroer said the tour also helps gather input from local officials.
The chartered tour bus waited in Monday's late afternoon torrential downpour as Schroer and company peered out the windows at the weather-halted bridge project.
"It's kind of good for them to put a face on the project," said construction manager Andy Horstman with bridge building company Volkert Inc.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569. Subscribe to his Facebook posts at www.facebook.com/benbenton1 or follow him at twitter.com/ BenBenton on Twitter.