When good offsets bad
Jun 25, 2013 | 389 views | 0 0 comments | 63 63 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Confirmation that Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer has authorized the awarding of bids for two major — actually, make that huge — road construction projects in Bradley County comes at a time when local motorists needed some good news.

But with this positive update, we also issue a sobering reminder. As with any significant roadway improvement where construction workers are sharing the same space with rushed travelers, conditions will get worse before they get better.

For any who doubt our warning, we defer to Exhibit A: Chattanooga. Our much larger neighbor to the southwest — as well as those who regularly navigate its interstate system — remember all-too-well the years and years of road construction that have dominated the city’s motoring landscape.

The multi-phased projects created long stretches of frustrating bottlenecks, but once completed the end result seemed to offset the inconveniences; well, at least in the opinion of some, including our own.

Still not convinced? Please see Exhibit B, a local project that challenged the nerves, and patience, of Cleveland motorists for seemingly months and months and months. We refer to the widening of Dalton Pike and a companion leg of the prolonged initiative which vastly improved access and egress to and from the Walmart South shopping center. The busy entrance is recognized as McGrady Drive from APD 40 to Dalton Pike and Treasury Drive from Dalton Pike to the Walmart SuperCenter. But essentially, they’re one in the same.

For so very long, bumper-to-bumper traffic tie-ups, and confusion over lane shifts that were not adequately marked, tested the patience — and the depth of Christianity — of construction-weary motorists. But times have gotten better. Most, if not all, of the orange-and-white barrels are gone, and drivers continue to struggle in learning the new lane pattern, but collectively the coming and the going of vehicles has improved.

Certainly, debate lingers among some regular users of the area, especially near the traffic signals that govern congested traffic on McGrady Drive at the neighboring APD 40 and Young Road intersections.

But still, better is better by anyone’s measure.

We say all of that to say this. Construction will begin within the next few weeks on two more significant road projects in Bradley County.

One is the long, long, long-sought reworking of the Interstate 75 Exit 20 ramps and bridge whose traffic nightmares were already grueling enough before the placement of temporary traffic signals intended to improve safety, and access, for motorists emerging from I-75. TDOT officials warned at the time the signals could worsen traffic congestion until a more permanent solution was funded. They were right.

But a completely revamped series of ramps, and the construction of an entirely new six-lane bridge, should bring hope for a brighter day among APD 40 motorists.

The second major project is the widening of Durkee Road between Benton Pike and Highway 64 (Waterlevel Highway). This is the much-needed initiative intended to improve access, and to enhance safety, for drivers headed to and from the new Whirlpool Cleveland Division plant and Factory Distribution Center — as well as for all who use the narrow, two-lane artery as a connector.

Once completed, the Durkee Road widening will benefit many, and not just Whirlpool.

For I-75 Exit 20 and for Durkee Road users, the approaching startup of construction is the good news. The bad news is the Exit 20 project — because of its complexity and sheer size — won’t be finished until about Nov. 15, 2015.

Durkee Road won’t take as long, but this is the issue: Once construction gets underway on both sites, traffic bottlenecks likely will occur, no matter how well the work strategy is implemented nor how much progress is made during off-hours.

Yes, conditions will get worse before they get better. But they will get better. Motorists are urged to keep this in mind while exercising caution — and patience — when navigating each location.

We will have more to say about both critical road projects in Wednesday’s edition.