The now $ 133.5 million improvement project on the infamous Interstate 75-Interstate 24 “Split” near the Tennessee-Georgia state line was officially completed Thursday at midnight, but has not yet resolved all of the interchange problems.
The flow of traffic through the interchange is improved in most directions. But the ramp from I-75 northbound to I-24 westbound near Exit 1 on East Ridge still narrows from two lanes to one, which it did during the interchange’s six-decade lifespan. This will remain a bottleneck until additional lanes are completed in Phase 2 of the split project in the coming years, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
The reason is pretty obvious to motorists heading west on I-24 under the new Spring Creek Road bridges: there is nowhere for extra lanes.
The security on I-75 North will therefore continue for a while, as phase 2 will not begin until spring 2023, according to TDOT. Likewise, rush hour fuses on the I-75 ramp south to I-24 west will not be fully removed until a third lane is added in the next phase.
That’s pretty disappointing for everyday commuters like Chattanooga-based John Daly who drives to Dalton, Georgia for work every day. Driving north doubles your problems, he said.
“I drive it every day. It takes twice as long to get home from Dalton than it does to get there in the morning,” said Daly. “Very frustrating to get a tight bottleneck after all the new construction.”
Long-time pass-through Ben Partin from Tullahoma, Tennessee, drives through Chattanooga to Georgia several times a year and is always careful when building.
He said Wednesday he was planning to travel to Dalton this weekend.
Phase 1 of the split project crosses the finish line
“I’ve seen there several times over several years while going to coin exhibitions in Dalton and there at Camp Jordan in East Ridge. Everyone has two a year,” Partin said.
“When I came back, I was often caught just jamming traffic on it [interchange] When you get back on I-24 you come up there and the tires just go off and you see all the white smoke and you hope the guy behind you doesn’t hit you, “he said to Nightmare.”
In the past, Partin said he sometimes evaded work by taking a route through East Ridge.
“It takes a little longer, but from a stress point of view it seems a lot easier to drive through the Bachman Tunnels because the traffic isn’t as bad as you’d think on a Saturday afternoon,” he said.
Partin was happy to know that most of the issues were fixed, but said he was leaving his detour route as an alternative to standing in traffic.
The first phase did not address all of the issues as the size and cost of the overall project required it to be broken into two parts. This was due to funding constraints and the state agency not going into debt to fund their projects, TDOT officials said.
“We are a pay-as-you-go state. This project was too expensive to be done under a single contract, so it had to be split into two separate projects, ”TDOT spokeswoman Rae-Anne Bradley said via email this week.
“The overall project is [phases 1 and 2] The goal was to improve safety and alleviate the bottleneck problem on ramp I-75 North to I-24 West, “Bradley said, noting that Phase 1 improved some elements of the bottleneck.
“Phase 1 accomplished this in part by eliminating the I-75 north merge moves on Ringgold Road and the Welcome Center,” Bradley said. The Ringgold Road Loop ramp now begins the fourth lane of I-75 north, and a ramp has been connected to the Welcome Center that will allow traffic to go either north or west, she said.
“In addition, the capacity of I-75 North has been expanded with a fifth lane starting directly north of the Ringgold Road flyover,” she said.
Until phase 2 has been completed, here is a tip for the victims of the bottleneck on I-75 North.
After entering the right-hand lane on I-75 North, the marked exit for I-24 West only, stay in the left-hand exit lane towards the overpass to allow traffic from East Ridge and the Welcome Center to come in from the right . The right lane will soon end, so all vehicles must eventually get to the left exit lane before entering I-24 West.
However, since phase 1 also had to meet and reconnect the existing three lanes on I-24 West, the driveway from I-75 in a northerly direction to I-24 in a westerly direction had to be reduced to one lane before the source The underpass of Creek Road is to be connected with the two access lanes from I-75 south to I-24, Bradley said.
The end of Phase 1 and the beginning of Phase 2 on the west side of I-24 are indicated by four red diamond-shaped signs and a sudden end to the sidewalk.
Drivers will notice a new permanent speed limit of 80 km / h throughout the motorway junction.
Phase 1 also included replacing the Spring Creek Road bridges over I-24, and that part of the project was also completed last week with new sidewalks and bike paths. The contractor did not install zebra crossings because there are no walkways past the intersections with North Terrace and South Terrace and the traffic lights at those intersections are on the town property, Bradley said.
Phase 1 costs increased from the original contract price of $ 132.6 million to $ 133.5 million due to approximately $ 850,000 in change orders, Bradley said. She said the state has paid $ 131.7 million to date to Marietta, Georgia-based CW Matthews Contracting Co., and officials are proud that the project was “completed on time and on budget.”
TDOT says the Phase 2 work will have more impact on the bottleneck.
“In the future, the ramp I-75 North to I-24 West will have three through lanes to I-24 West – which means that no merging is required to stay on I-24 West – and the middle lane of I-75 morth will be an option lane, “said Bradley.
There will be a total of six lanes of traffic where the two I-24 ramps meet on the bridges on Spring Creek Road, she said.
In Phase 2 on I-24 West between Spring Creek and Germantown Road, the sixth lane ends directly after Spring Creek Road, the fifth lane ends directly after the Moore Road exit, and the fourth lane ends between Belvoir Avenue and Germantown Road the existing three lanes of traffic crossing Missionary Ridge, according to TDOT.
“This should reduce the remaining traffic jams that are now occurring on the ramps from I-75 to I-24 West,” Bradley said. “Phase 2 will also complete the expansion of I-75 to the East Brainerd Road interchange.”
In Phase 2 on I-24 East, a fourth lane begins after the Belvoir Avenue flyover, the Moore Road ramp becomes the fifth lane, and five lanes pass under the south end of the Spring Creek Road bridges as they approach the bridge On-ramps for I-75 north and south, officials said.
Phase 2 has been funded for fiscal 2022-2023 and is expected to be under contract through the end of 2022, which means construction for the drivers should begin in the spring of 2023, Bradley said.
“Another thing to note is that Phase 2 will also be built using the alternative design-build delivery method,” she said.
The current project in Split is an example of this methodology, which “combines all or some of the design and construction phases of a project – including design, regulatory approvals, utility relocation, and construction – into a single contract,” Bradley said. “That means that once the project is awarded, the project will move forward quickly.”
Phase 2 of the split project is included in Tennessee’s updated transportation financing plan for fiscal years 2022-2024, TDOT officials said in May. This plan was published on April 28th.
Ongoing improvements to the I-24 corridor in the Phase 2 area are also included in a separate $ 32.9 million project by Bell and Associates Construction that includes the new overpass on Belvoir Avenue over I-24, which was completed in March which includes space for additional phase 2 lanes and new bridges on I-24 over Germantown Road, which also provide space for future lanes.
The now completed project to improve the interchanges on the Split started in spring 2019 as a reaction to decades of daily backups and crashes that often brought traffic to a standstill. The improvement project widened existing roads and ramps, increased the radius of the ramps, redesigned the entry and exit ramps on I-75, relocated the interchange to the west and changed the flow of traffic in the area of the Tennessee Welcome Center.
During a project launch event in 2017, then TDOT commissioner John Schroer called the split “about the worst exchange in the state of Tennessee”.
Contact Ben Benton at [email protected] or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.
Top 10 bottlenecks in the US for 2021
– Fort Lee, NJ: Interstate 95 on State Route 4.
– Cincinnati: Interstate 71 and Interstate 75.
– Atlanta: Interstate 285 off Interstate 85 North.
– Atlanta: Interstate 20 at I-85 West.
– Houston: Interstate 45 at Interstate 69 / US 59.
– Chicago: Interstate 290 on Interstates 90 and 94.
– Chattanooga: Interstate 75 at Interstate 24.
– St. Louis: Interstates 64 and 55 on Interstate 44.
– Rye, NY: Interstate 95 at Interstate 287.
– San Bernardino, California: Interstate 10 off Interstate 15.
Source: American Transportation Research Institute