IF YOU GO
* What: Public hearing on East Brainerd Road widening
* When: 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday
* Where: Dining hall at East Hamilton Middle/High School, 2015 Ooltewah/Ringgold Road.
* Comments: David Thompson, TDOT Environmental Division, 615-253-2471, or Scott Medlin, TDOT Project Management Division, 423-510-1118. Email David.firstname.lastname@example.org or Scott.Medlin@tn.gov.
Working under the hood of a BMW at Wholesale Auto Brokers last week, Tony Schefano wasn't visibly excited at the news that the state is gearing up to add traffic lanes, bike paths and sidewalks to part of East Brainerd Road in front of the shop.
"Most people around here are probably like the guys from Missouri, saying, 'Show me,'" said Schefano, who was helping out in his son's business.
Schefano and others who live and work along the winding, two-lane road say widening is long overdue.
"This has been going on about the last 10 years," Schefano said. "This area's already grown so much -- congestion's not good for anybody."
But state transportation planners say that construction on the first portion of the 3.6-mile project to widen and improve is slated for funding in fiscal 2014.
The new road will have a 92-foot right of way with four traffic lanes and a continuous center turn lane, a 4-foot bike lane, 2-foot gutters and sidewalks.
Before construction can start, the Tennessee Department of Transportation must update an environmental study for the project that was completed nine years ago.
Scott Medlin in TDOT's project management division said by email that the original environmental study ended with a finding of no significant impact, commonly called a FONSI, but the finding was good for only three years.
TDOT will hold a public hearing Thursday to discuss the environmental study and the widening project and receive public comment. The public is invited to submit comments at the meeting or within 21 days following the meeting.
The first phase of the widening project, 1.8 miles from Graysville Road to near Bel Air Road, is expected to cost $12 million to $15 million and take two to three years. No estimate for construction or funding was available for the second phase, from Bel Air to Ooltewah-Ringgold Road.
That's a problem for Judy Poe, whose house near Westview Elementary School is in the unscheduled Phase II of the widening project.
Poe said traffic from a stop sign just past the school, about a quarter-mile away, sometimes backs up past her driveway.
"They're just going to move the bottleneck -- it's going to be horrible if they don't do the whole thing at once," she said.
Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...