Exit 25 ramps studied TDOT considers more lanes
by RICK NORTON Associate Editor
Jul 13, 2014 | 1382 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Timetables and funding aren’t yet confirmed, but the Tennessee Department of Transportation is making preliminary plans for some aggressive improvements to the congested intersections formed by the Interstate 75 Exit 25 North- and Southbound ramps at 25th Street and Georgetown Road.

Bart Borden, vice president of the Cleveland Utilities Electric Division whose departmental roles include oversight of the city’s traffic signals, said CU learned of the state plans in a recent TDOT right of way field review.

Borden, who was represented at the state transportation briefing by CU traffic coordinator Tad Bacon, made his report during a recent session of the Cleveland Board of Public Utilities.

“The project will not only expand the ramps to dual lanes, but will also provide dual left lanes onto Interstate 75 Southbound from Georgetown Road,” Borden stressed.

Borden credited TDOT, and project engineer Scott Medlin, for their interest in remedying a traffic logjam that has plagued Cleveland and Bradley County motorists in recent years, and especially since the opening of the new Cleveland Middle School on Georgetown Road.

“This is a great example of TDOT responding to the needs of our community,” Borden told CU board members. “I would like to thank TDOT, and particularly Scott Medlin, for their efforts to improve these intersections.”

Using aerial photography and sketching, Borden pointed to some of the upgrades that were discussed at the TDOT field review.

Proposed improvements along Exit 25 Southbound include:

- A new dedicated right-turn lane on Georgetown Road headed east accessing the I-75 Southbound ramp;

- Dual on-lanes on the I-75 Southbound ramp with a merger before entering I-75;

- Dual left-turn lanes on Georgetown Road headed west that will access the I-75 Southbound ramp; and

- Single left lane and single right lane on the I-75 exit ramp accessing Georgetown Road.

Proposed improvements along Exit 25 Northbound include:

- Right storage lane to be extended on Georgetown Road/25th Street headed east and accessing Georgetown Road;

- Adding a dedicated right-turn lane on Georgetown Road/25th Street headed west accessing the I-75 Northbound ramp; and

- Adding dual left-turn lanes with a single right-turn lane on the I-75 exit ramp accessing Georgetown Road/25th Street.

Cleveland Utilities’ primary role in the intersection improvements will be coordinating the traffic signal patterns, in conjunction with TDOT traffic engineers because these are state roads, as well as any potential impact on existing utility poles or power lines.

“TDOT’s got some very good plans,” Borden said. Of the construction future, he added, “... This project is going to take place,” based on information provided to Bacon during the right of way field review.

“[We’re looking at] some very good improvements here,” Borden stressed. Citing the advantages of dual turn lanes and dedicated single-turn lanes, the longtime CU administrator stressed, “[There will be] much storage improvement.”

Most Cleveland and Bradley County motorists who travel the area frequently — especially during the school season — might be standing and shouting “Hallelujah!” in unison at the news, but Borden stressed at this point the public utility has not been given any startup dates for the long-awaited project.

“... Testing is already going on,” he told the CU board, but little else is known; at least, for now.

Over the past year, CU has orchestrated a series of traffic signal timing adjustments at the I-75 ramps in conjunction with the recommendations of a 25th Street Corridor Study completed by contractor Cannon & Cannon, a traffic engineering firm from Knoxville. In that study, new traffic signal cycles up and down 25th Street were programmed in connection with time-of-day and day-of-week usage.

The corridor study’s intent was to maximize traffic flow during peak periods of travel; however, once the study was completed and new traffic signal synchronizations were implemented, CU and the corridor study’s author cautioned — to both the CU board and to the Cleveland City Council — that limited improvements can be made along 25th Street without the physical addition of new lanes for better motorist flow and intersection storage.

The study also addressed the potential addition of one traffic signal along the corridor; that is, near the congested crossover at the McDonald’s and Burger King locations. No action has been taken on this suggestion.

The I-75 ramp improvements at Exit 25 are not necessarily part of another major TDOT project along Georgetown Road that plans to widen the congested highway from two to five lanes [recognized as the State Route 60 Corridor) roughly from the interstate west to Freewill Road at Hopewell Elementary School.

Traffic along this stretch of the State Route 60 Corridor could worsen in time once the Cleveland Board of Education launches the construction of a new elementary school between CMS and Hopewell.

The I-75 ramps at Exit 25 and the 25th Street Corridor aren’t the only areas getting CU’s traffic attention. In other traffic lighting reports, Borden provided these updates:

- Completed new traffic counts at Dalton Pike and 20th Street S.E. These updated numbers are needed to resume the traffic signal design project that was started several years ago.

- Provided the city of Cleveland with three conceptual designs for a mast-arm intersection at Ocoee Street and Central Avenue. A two-pole design was favored over a single mast-arm pole. The proposal has been forwarded to TDOT for review.

- Attended a TDOT pre-construction meeting for the addition of a new traffic signal at Highway 11 and Lauderdale Memorial Highway. Construction is set to begin in July or August. Borden reported it has yet to be determined whether Bradley County or the city of Charleston will be responsible for maintaining the signal.

- Secured TDOT’s commitment to add an ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) camera at Exit 20. It will be used by CU and the city of Cleveland.

“This camera is critical to manage unexpected traffic flows at the interchange,” Borden cited.

- Updated board members on CU’s programming of 19 of 21 Opticom GPS phase selectors. The new equipment allows equipped fire trucks to preempt a traffic signal in all four directions at a point determined by zones set up in the programming software. The 19 locations include busy intersections along Keith Street, 25th Street and Paul Huff Parkway.

“When a fire truck’s emergency flashers are enabled, the equipment and software detect the approaching emergency vehicle, measure the distance and speed relative to the intersection, and determine the intended direction of travel by monitoring the vehicle’s turn-signal position,” Borden explained.

“The equipment sends a command to the traffic light controller to clear traffic in the vehicle’s direction of travel. This system can be expanded to other emergency vehicles in the future.”