published Friday, February 28th, 2014

Highway 27 work a headache — but pain should ease by month's end

The U.S. Highway 27 construction zone north of downtown Chattanooga is seen Wednesday from the Olgiati Bridge.
The U.S. Highway 27 construction zone north of downtown Chattanooga is seen Wednesday from the Olgiati Bridge.
Photo by John Rawlston.

Tanya McClendon hasn't had much fun traveling on U.S. Highway 27 recently because of construction work just north of downtown Chattanooga.

"It is an absolute mess," said McClendon, who lives in Soddy-Daisy and hits traffic congestion in the morning when she drives her daughter to Girls Preparatory School and in the afternoon when she takes her home.

"I'm not even trying to go to Signal Mountain, and the Signal Mountain traffic is messing up my deal," McClendon said.

The congestion should improve soon, said Brian Charlesworth, project manager for Wright Brothers Construction Inc. The Charleston, Tenn., business has the $102 million contract to rebuild the 1.6-mile stretch of highway. The project includes construction of new lanes and massive retaining walls and rebuilding six bridges and interchanges.

"I know everybody's mad at us," Charlesworth said.

But he said the project, now at the two-year mark, is proceeding according to plan, with a year left to go.

"This was how it was supposed to be done," Charlesworth said.

Part of the congestion was caused by a back-up at the southbound Manufacturers Road exit, which only had one lane open so drainage pipes could be installed underground. Manufacturers Road was due to be back to two lanes today.

"We're paving this ... and it'll be open this evening," said Michael "Caveman" Hineman, a foreman with a road crew from Rossville-based Talley Construction that was laying asphalt Thursday afternoon.

Traffic also backs up at the northbound Signal Mountain Road exit, which got an extra load of vehicles when the Dayton Boulevard off-ramp to Red Bank was closed. A temporary traffic light was installed at the foot of the ramp to allow left turns, but it impedes the free flow of cars and trucks toward Signal Mountain.

That should be fixed by the end of March, Charlesworth said. Workers started pouring concrete this week for a new two-lane, free-flowing off-ramp. Work should be finished by the end of the month, Charlesworth said.

"There'll be two lanes freely flowing onto Signal [Mountain Road]," he said. "Right now, they're stopping."

It will be a relief for many drivers when the work's complete.

"My evening commute time has nearly doubled since they combined the Signal Mountain/Red Bank exit," Sarah Rowland wrote on the Times Free Press' Facebook page. "It seems to be even worse on the days they have a police officer directing traffic."

Facebook poster Dax Turner wrote, "I go down to the Morrison Springs Road exit. It is much quicker and a very obvious solution to sitting in traffic."

The entire project is due to be completed in February 2015, Charlesworth said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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