published Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Officials seek help for Bradley County traffic

By Paul Leach/Correspondent
A metal sign welcomes motorists to Cleveland at exit 25 on Interstate 75, where new traffic signals are in place to relieve pressure to turn left toward town.
A metal sign welcomes motorists to Cleveland at exit 25 on Interstate 75, where new traffic signals are in place to relieve pressure to turn left toward town.
Photo by Tim Barber.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Urban and industrial growth has increased Cleveland and Bradley County leaders' focus on three Interstate 75 exits and a couple of traffic corridors.

In a Wednesday meeting of the Cleveland Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, planning officials earmarked improvements for I-75 exits 20, 25 and 33 as top priorities.

The planning organization officially amended its long-range plans to include a Tennessee Department of Transportation proposal to lengthen the ramps at the exit 25 interchange with state Route 60.

The TDOT project would increase "traffic storage" and coordinate with the recent signal installation for traffic entering and exiting the interstate, Cleveland Planning Director Greg Thomas said.

The ramp project dovetails with other plans for state Route 60 east and west of the interchange.

East of the interchange, plans are in the works to add a turn lane at the intersection of Georgetown Road and 25th Street, according to Thomas. He said a TDOT road-widening project to the Hopewell area is planned west of the exit.

Asked by TDOT to prioritize its 2012-13 project schedule for Cleveland, the planning organization voted to give first place to improvements for the exit 20 interchange at I-75 and APD 40. State Route 60 widening made the No. 2 spot.

If a proposed industrial park in southern Bradley County comes to fruition, economic development officials expect exit 20 will play a key role in providing quick interstate access to businesses there.

Officials said that, in northern Bradley County, exit 33 is causing problems for local and commercial traffic. They are making requests to TDOT for short-term and long-term fixes.

County engineer Sandra Knight said she had received calls about traffic backing up and even stopping on the interstate at the exit. She expressed concern that mixing the existing situation with a heavy morning fog would be a "major problem."

"It's only going to get worse," Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland said.

Short-term solutions include temporary road striping and changes in traffic signals, Thomas said.

Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis said the county has asked for a third paved lane at the interchange.

The planning organization also reviewed a preliminary TDOT study on widening and realigning options for Mouse Creek Road. The full project would cost an estimated $42 million to $62 million.

A project much reduced in scope, designed to tackle the road's worst curves and improve the intersection at Hooper Gap Road, could cost up to $5 million, officials said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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