McDonald residents Bentley and Joanna Duncan met with city, county and TDOT officials Thursday afternoon in the Bradley County Courthouse to explore options to keep Harriman Road closed from a local interstate connector road.
The proposal is to connect Stone Lake and Harriman roads.
The South LIC is needed to connect the proposed Spring Branch Industrial Park to APD 40 and Interstate 75. The LIC project is being funded 50 percent by TDOT, with both Cleveland and Bradley County funding 25 percent each for the local share.
Until Thursday, TDOT officials have said Harriman Road could not be closed to through traffic because local interstate connectors have to connect to a local road and traffic could not be restricted.
TDOT officials finally agreed the city and county could restrict industrial and commercial traffic from Harriman Road, which feeds into Bancroft Road.
“That was the only good point that came out of the meeting,” Bentley said. “The state said ‘No’ because there was too much money invested in research and development of the road to this point. Subsequently, the lack of planning and involvement with the community has left residents trying to protect their rural lifestyle.”
Teresa Estes and Kip Mayton of TDOT Local Programs advised Cleveland could not close the LIC road if the local governments wanted state funding for this project. However, there are a number of options such as highway signage, markings, and other traffic-calming techniques that could be implemented by the local governments to strongly encourage truck traffic to use the LIC road to access APD 40 and I-75.
According to TDOT spokesperson Jennifer Flynn, “The meeting evolved into more of a local planning and zoning development concerns meeting between the concerned citizens and the local government representatives.
“Unless we hear otherwise from the both local governments, TDOT will continue with the development of the SR-311 APD 40 interchange project as it is currently designed,” she said.
She said all representatives with TDOT remain available to answer any concerns or questions the public might have. Flynn described the 1 1/2-hour meeting as amicable.
Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Economic Development Doug Berry said, during a meeting of the Economic Development Council, the local interstate connector is ready to be let for bids.
“It’s really a matter of TDOT saying, ‘Go,’” Berry said.
He said there seemed to be some satisfaction in hearing why the decisions were made to link the LIC to Harriman Road.
“The state heard first hand those concerns and seemed to be more sensitive to us having a little more control over how to reduce traffic that goes to Harriman Road,” Berry said. “It has always been our position that trucks, tractor-trailers and commercial traffic would not be traveling Harriman Road to Bancroft and that it follows the interstate network.”
He said a truck turnaround is included in the contingency funds in the budget. The turnaround would give trucks a place to turn around rather than continuing on Harriman Road to Bancroft.
Bradley County Commissioner Robert Rominger said he felt better about supporting the interstate connector. While Harriman Road will not be closed to through traffic, there will be signage, the truck turnaround, steep grades and narrow roads to discourage through traffic.
“I felt like there was communication,” he said. “We didn’t know where TDOT was [positioned] and they pretty much said it’s a local decision.
“I felt it was a positive meeting and I did hear Matt say it wasn’t exactly what he wanted, but he did feel better about it.”
Bentley said the meeting was not about trying to stop the development of the proposed 343-acre industrial park on the former Bob Zeige farm, but to minimize the impact of the local interstate connector on the McDonald community.
“We hope this meeting will bring awareness to all those concerned that there must be proper planning and notification so the types of concerns can be addressed before it is too late,” he said. “We appreciate the effort involved in the road development, but in a year, TDOT will be working on a new project and we will be left with the aftermath.”