Improvements may be coming to the motorist-confounding intersection at 25th and Ocoee streets.
Before being interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Cleveland City Council had unanimously passed a resolution requesting the city partner with the Tennessee Department of Transportation for the widening of the intersection — long considered one of the busiest and most congested in Cleveland.
The effort to widen the crowded intersection has picked up steam as the city has grown, resulting in headaches and delays for drivers.
City Manager Joe Fivas said the resolution was a strong statement about the city's readiness to begin the project.
“We are open and willing to partner with the state to work with them to fix this intersection,” Fivas said.
He said widening the intersection with the cooperation of TDOT will address mounting traffic issues.
“As we talked about at our strategic planning session, it really gums up a lot of everything we have going in the city," Fivas said.
The effort to widen the intersection has renewed interest after lying dormant for almost a decade.
In 2013, “the unexpected cost of the project caused the city of Cleveland to determine that it lacked the fiscal capacity, among other local obstacles, to advance the project in cooperation with TDOT,” according to the resolution.
Additionally, the resolution stated “the two state-maintained roads are functionally failing, causing safety concerns for the community and significantly delaying commerce of our region.”
As a result of the need for improvements, the resolution stated the city stands prepared and ready to partner with TDOT.
The resolution listed three objectives:
• Authorize the mayor and city council to renew their request in writing to TDOT for TDOT funding and construction of needed improvements to the 25th Street (State Route 60) and Ocoee Street (State Route 74) intersection;
• Authorize city staff to seek a determination of the needed design and project costs; and
• Authorize city staff to work with TDOT on a project-funding match, if necessary.
In 2013, the city council voted against a TDOT project that would have made major renovations to the intersection due to funding concerns.
The two-year, $6.2 million undertaking would have required the city to cough up as much as $1.2 million to acquire rights of way to adjacent properties, as well as have “cost Cleveland Utilities $1.6 million to relocate utility poles.”
TDOT had proposed constructing “seven lanes in all directions,” including “dual left-turn lanes and a dedicated right-turn lane” as a plan to improve traffic flow through the intersection.
Later estimates also included a $15 million price tag. At the time, grant funding was sparse due to the shock waves still being felt from the 2008 recession, rendering it difficult for the city to fund the project, which was to be 80% funded by TDOT.
The initial plan for the intersection now includes making modifications to traffic lanes that are currently used, by adding another right-hand turn lane, as well as changing a single-vehicle lane to a dual lane.
In addition, the city plans to add length to the right-turn lane beside Tres Hermanos Restaurant.
A right-turn lane in front of HBR Powersports will also be changed to a dual left-hand lane.
Prior to the vote, councilman Ken Webb expressed support for the resolution.
“I can't speak for anybody else, but I think this is one of the most important projects we can get done,” Webb said.