Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer began the tour at the Cleveland Urban Area Transit System on Edwards Street and proceeded to Dalton Pike, Exit 20, Exit 33, Amazon, Wacker and Whirlpool state industrial access roads and Cleveland Regional Jetport.
Hinkle Construction began pouring concrete for the apron Tuesday at about 8:30 a.m. Upon completion, the concrete runway will be 11 inches thick, 5,500 feet long and 100 feet wide. There will be a full parallel taxiway 35 feet in width and an apron area measuring 317-by-982 feet. The end date of the 200-day contract is Oct. 18.
Schroer was the mayor of Franklin before accepting the appointment to his current job. He said he would have loved seeing his predecessors visit his city and ask about transportation systems, what was important and about what they thought was right or wrong about TDOT.
“That never happened and now that I’m the TDOT commissioner, I still think it’s important that we get out to the communities,” he said. “I’m out all the time. I travel all over the state and meet with a lot of local elected officials. I love to talk to mayors and city administrators to get a taste of how we’re doing and what is important to them.”
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis both expressed their appreciation of the commissioner’s presence in the city and county.
“I think it’s tremendous he takes the time to personally inspect TDOT projects,” Rowland said. “It says a lot when the top man comes and takes a look at it and any question we have can always be answered.”
Rowland said he is proud to see the airport finally nearing completion.
“That’s been a dream of mine for a long time and to come out here and take a look, it almost brings a tear to my eyes seeing how beautiful it is and how impressive it is going to be to visitors. It will be the front door to Cleveland and Bradley County and I’m anxious to see it open.”
Davis said a lot of progress has been made on Dalton Pike since the commissioner last toured the county in 2011 and it will be finished in November. The state industrial access road to Wacker was just beginning this time last year, but it will be finished in a couple of months.
“Next year when he makes his next trip, hopefully we’ll be able to see progress at Exit 20, but there has been a lot of progress and it’s great having the commissioner here to see that and what our needs are in the future,” Davis said.
Part of the reason for the annual tours throughout the state is to learn what is needed and wanted by local governments. When TDOT begins a project in a community, he said he wants it to be embraced in that community and that it is something both TDOT and the municipality want.
“We work together collectively as partners to make sure our transportation system and network coincides with their needs. This is one way in which we do that,” he said.
The commissioner said the department can always get better, but he believes TDOT is doing a good job in Bradley County where the state has several large investments.
“I think if you ask any of the elected officials, they are pleased with our accessibility; we’re open and available,” he said. “It’s my job to leave this state in better condition than it was when I took [TDOT] over.”
Modifications to Exit 20 will include a six-lane bridge over Interstate 75, lengthening and widening of all entrance and exit ramps and new traffic signals. The work carries a preliminary price tag of about $19 million. The final right of way plans were released and the project is now in the acquisition phase and coordinating with utility companies. The work should be ready for bids in spring 2013.
TDOT is studying Exit 33 to identify short, medium and long-range solutions to increasing congestion due to industrial development. A short-term improvement was to widen and lengthen the left turn lanes on the bridge. Also, a traffic study is in progress along Lauderdale Memorial Highway from I-75 to North Lee Highway.
At the depot, Schroer said enhancement grants are a favorite of his because the old Southern Railway Depot is a fine example of preservation.
“You can’t build something like this [now]. If you don’t save it, if you don’t spend the money on it before it’s too late, then it’s gone from your community and this would be a loss,” he said.
Schroer said, “It’s great to see the progress at the airport. We’re looking forward to having that airport operational.”