published Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Cleveland, Tenn., to tackle more traffic challenges

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    Bart Borden, electric division manager for Cleveland Utilities

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — State and local planners are seeking to reduce traffic congestion at a number of troublesome spots on Cleveland's roadways, especially at the Interstate 75 interchange at exit 20 and the intersection of 25th and Ocoee streets.

At a recent meeting, Cleveland Utilities officials discussed traffic control efforts intended to mitigate the severity of problem areas until more permanent solutions are found.

Timing changes to the traffic signal network at exit 20 have produced some good results, said Bart Borden, vice president of Cleveland Utilities' electric division.

The two-lane interchange, which is scheduled for a major overhaul in the next few years, connects APD-40 — a four-lane highway — to the two-lane Pleasant Grove Road. The exit is prone to bottlenecks at peak traffic periods.

The longest wait time, Borden said, involves westbound traffic leaving APD-40 and crossing the interchange to get on the southbound ramp to I-75. While that remains the longest wait, Borden said signal timing changes reduced that wait by 33 percent.

Where it used to take nearly 10 minutes to reach the southbound on-ramp at peak travel times, it now only takes about six minutes, Borden said, calling that "an appreciable change."

Current Tennessee Department of Transportation plans call for the interchange to be replaced by a six-lane bridge measuring 300 feet long, according to TDOT Project Manager Scott Medlin. The on- and off-ramps each will receive another lane and Pleasant Grove Road will be expanded to four lanes for 500 feet beyond the interchange.

The construction timeframe for the exit 20 work is within the next few years, Cleveland Senior Planner Greg Thomas said. The work is expected to coincide with completion of a new interchange on APD-40 and a proposed industrial park to be located in the vicinity.

In the meantime, Cleveland Utilities will compile a traffic count for the intersection of 25th and Ocoee streets as part of a study that will review at least three alternatives for improving downtown congestion, Borden said.

A recent TDOT proposal that recommended giving seven lanes to each of the roads met with concern in public meetings a few months ago. Ocoee Street would require extensive right-of-way acquisitions to accommodate four more lanes.

Alternative plans have been submitted to city leaders for review, said Jennifer Flynn, TDOT spokeswoman. While the core plans all call for four lanes of traffic, the new proposals recommend trimming one or more turn lanes.

Once plans have been finalized for the busy intersection, Cleveland Utilities will take a global look at improving the entire 25th Street corridor, Borden said.

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