The first State Route 60 Corridor Management Committee meeting Wednesday attracted a large number of residents concerned about future construction between Cleveland Middle School and Eureka Road.
Committee Chairman Jon Sparkman, a Cleveland resident and professional engineer with Stantec in Chattanooga, said the committee’s focus is on about 18 miles of the highway between the Tennessee/Georgia line and Eureka Road.
“A lot of people were here to just to hear about the project between Westlake Drive and Eureka Road,” he said.
TDOT Project Manager Scott Medlin said the road-widening project will extend a short distance beyond the Freewill/Eureka Road intersection. The Tennessee General Assembly approved funding for the right of way.
“Before we can proceed with the right of way, we need two things to happen first,” Medlin said. “We still need the Federal Highway Administration to sign our final environmental document. And, we need to finalize the right of way plans. We’ll be working on this through the rest of this year.”
The next step would be the appraisal of about 120 affected properties.
“The earliest date bids could be let to a construction contract is sometime in 2016,” he said.
Many of the people in attendance were concerned about the impact of a future elementary school located west of Candies Creek on Georgetown Road.
“TDOT has already met with Cleveland city staff as well as city school officials and their architect about the new elementary school,” Medlin said.
“They have a set of our plans and they are drawing the new school to incorporate what the new highway width will look like.”
The five-lane road will have four 12-foot travel lanes and a continuous turn lane, 5-foot sidewalks and 10-foot wide bike lanes on both sides. The minimum right of way is 104 feet. The expansion project includes a new five-lane bridge which will be built on the upstream side of the existing bridge.
“We can actually build an entirely new bridge and switch traffic before we have to tear out the old bridge,” Medlin said.
Bradley County Commissioner Ed Elkins, whose District 1 begins at Candies Creek, said there are anxious people in the area around the school.
“Fortunately, there is ample time for planning for the new city school,” he said. “Otherwise, if they already had that school built and if they located it closer to the road before that project got started, there could be major problems. But right now, there is enough time to plan for the setbacks for the road.”
The committee was formed by an agreement between the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Bradley County, city of Cleveland and Cleveland Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. TDOT pitched the idea to city officials in July 2012.
The committee will meet quarterly in the municipal building in the foreseeable future. It is not a decision making body, but could make recommendations for the agreement signatories to consider.
The overriding goal is to promote safe and efficient operation, enhance and sustain economic development while supporting environmental conservation along Dalton Pike and Georgetown Road, as S.R. 60 is commonly known. Planning prepares for growth and anticipates problems rather than dealing with them when they become a major issue.
“Some of the (other) goals are managing and coordinate roads, expand regional mobility and preserve community character,” he said. “The strategies they are hoping to use are access management, land-use planning, and roadway design and capacity.”
Highway 60 was chosen as one of only two corridor management programs in the state. The other is State Route 109. The model was developed through grant funds from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices. The pilot program is not attached to funding, but participating agencies might have a better chance at receiving funds in the future.
“We’re just trying to address issues along the entire corridor; access management, work with developers to reduce connections to the roadway, improve safety, move traffic more efficiently and look for opportunities to plan so that future construction could be done with less impact,” Sparkman said.