A small bump in the road isn't a big deal for someone traveling 20 mph in a car. But when it's a pack of more than 100 cyclists speeding across uneven pavement at more than 50 mph, that small bump can turn into a major safety hazard.
For the past few weeks, Chattanooga's traffic engineering department has been out on the roads that will form the race course in the upcoming USA Cycling Professional Road and Time Trial National Championships.
"Our city engineer's office has been surveying the entire course and has scheduled improvements where needed," Traffic Engineer John Van Winkle said.
Between the downtown circuit, the long circuit and the time trial course, the department has more than 19 miles of road to inspect and repair.
"There's not an extreme amount of preparation, but it would be a situation where we're looking to make sure the safety issues are taken care of," said Eddie Tate, engineering manager for Chattanooga.
Tate said he and his crew have been checking for uneven surfaces.
"I wish I could say we went through and paved every street and we took care of every drainage issue and we changed all the lights, but no, it's normal things that we do in the run of the day to day," Tate said.
A large section of Broad Street was repaved earlier this year, but Tate said that project had nothing to do with the championship.
Broad Street was on the city's list of needed projects because of its age and the amount of traffic on it, he said.
"It just so happened that this time it actually worked in our favor and it was taken care of before the route was announced," Tate said.
Business as usual for traffic engineers involves fixing potholes and resurfacing roads. Several manhole covers needed to be elevated or lowered to lie flush with the road. Rubber speed bumps were removed this week and will be replaced after the race.
"We have some on Fifth Street at the UTC area. Those speed bumps will be removed. There are some permanent asphalt speed humps on Fifth that they'll just have to ride over," Van Winkle said.
Tate said the Tennessee Department of Transportation widened a turnaround point for the cyclists at the time trial course.
"We widened and paved the shoulder at Highway 58 and Hickory Valley Road so the bicyclists would have a place to turn around," said Jennifer Flynn, TDOT spokeswoman.
Tate and his crews also will start closing off the downtown circuit Sunday night in advance of Monday's race.
"We will bag all the meters and be putting up signs Sunday along the race course so people don't try to park there on Monday," said Philip Grymes, the executive director of Outdoor Chattanooga, which is helping coordinate the event.
Grymes said all cars parked along the course need to be moved by Sunday night. Any still left on the street by 7 a.m. Monday will be towed to the nearest parking lot.
"They don't want any stray cars, anybody that could come out of an odd building at an odd hour and start driving down the road. They want the course cleared for the race," Tate said.
Contact staff writer Lindsay Burkholder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592.
Lindsay Burkholder is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C. She graduated from Covenant College in May 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. While at Covenant she spent time writing for and editing the news section of the school newspaper, The Bagpipe. Burkholder also attended the World Journalism Institute in New York City in 2011.
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