As we all know, there is a major interstate modification project underway at the I-75/I-24 interchange in East Ridge. C.W. Matthews Contracting Co., Inc. is the contractor for the $132.6 million dollar modification project, which is slated for completion in late summer 2021. August, 2021, to be exact.
Per the C.W. Matthews contract with TDOT, a total of four 57-hour ramp closures are allowed throughout the duration of the project, which would be necessary to make vital connections. This past weekend, the weekend of October 23-26, 2020, was one of the four allowed weekends. The remaining three weekend closures, if necessary, will be in 2021, not this year.
From Friday evening at 9:00PM to shortly after 12:00 a.m. on Monday morning, the ramp from I-75 North to I-24 West was closed, with all traffic diverted up I-75 North to Exit 3-A (East Brainerd Rd.) where a contraflow detour was in place for access to I-24 West via I-75 South. In brief, there was a 5-mile detour to I-24 West for an entire weekend.
All local traffic on East Brainerd Rd. was shifted to one-lane (for each direction) in the westbound lanes of East Brainerd Rd., with interstate contraflow traffic separated by the concrete median on East Brainerd Rd. There was no local access to I-75 South from E. Brainerd Rd., as Southbound access from E. Brainerd Rd. was reserved for the interstate contraflow traffic.
Also, the I-75 North ramps from Ringgold Rd./U.S. 41 in East Ridge were closed through the duration of the weekend.
One would have thought Brainerd Rd., Ringgold Rd., Spring Creek Rd., S. Moore Rd., and surrounding alternates would have been parking lot parties. While they were congested at times during peak drive times, it really wasn’t much more than a typical Friday afternoon for most people.
Without proper advance warning from all players within the field of traffic incident management, including local media, I’m willing to bet the traffic queue on I-75 Northbound could have been historic in nature. It wasn’t, and here’s why…
As soon as TDOT’s Public Information Officer (PIO) published the Press Release earlier this month with all the details regarding the ramp closure to I-24 West from I-75 North, and the subsequent contraflow at East Brainerd Rd., we all came together as a team. And by “we,” I mean TDOT, GDOT, C.W. Matthews (the Contractor), law enforcement, local media, and YOU, Chattanooga!
TDOT‘s PIO, Jennifer Flynn, did an exceptional job of communicating all the details early to local media here. And there were A LOT of details.
TDOT’s Principle Engineer, Joe Deering, and C.W. Matthews, held a joint Press Conference with Media several days before the event at the TDOT Region 2 Headquarters on Volkswagen Drive.
A week in advance, Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) provided a 24/7 advance warning message (“I-24 West closed October 23-26th”) on their overhead Dynamic Message Sign along I-75 North south of the Dalton area.
TDOT provided advance warning on all of their Dynamic Message Signs throughout Hamilton County, warning of an upcoming new traffic pattern, at least a week in advance of the closure.
We even heard about Atlanta Traffic Reporters mentioning the closure for motorists traveling up I-75 North into Tennessee. Keep in mind the Atlanta and Chattanooga Markets overlap along I-75 near Bartow County, Georgia.
Local media, including our team here at Brewer Media Group, went all in with advance warning at least a week in advance.
The result: The traffic queue (backup) on I-75 North never exceeded Cloud Springs Road in Ringgold, Georgia, which is standard afternoon volume traffic. People avoided the area which kept traffic volume down. And by the way, Chattanooga ranks #1 among all metropolitan cities in the volume of freight moving by truck!
East Brainerd Rd. traffic was moderate at best during peak drive times.
When you have a chance, check out an article in the Atlanta AJC, pinned by a veteran radio/tv traffic reporter earlier this month, which discusses a situation where proper advance warning was not in place. It speaks to the importance of proper advance warning. You can find that at http://bit.ly/3e0RE6W
By the way, shortly after 12:00 a.m. this morning, Monday, October 26, 2020, TDOT re-opened the new flyover ramp from I-75 North to I-24 West. They tell us they were able to re-open the ramp a few hours earlier than expected, and the first vehicle traveled the new flyover ramp around 12:30 a.m.
The ramp from I-24 Eastbound to I-75 North is also a new flyover ramp now. And for motorists who travel I-75 South to I-75 South, you will travel underneath the new flyover ramp….until the project completion in August, 2021.
We hope you will let us know how you found out about the interstate modification project closures, and if there is anything we can do better next time.