TDOT and city of Chattanooga are set to begin work together this summer providing new freeway access to and from Hamilton Place Mall, TDOT officials said. (Map courtesy of TDOT)
A new reconstruction project at Chattanooga's Hamilton Place Boulevard interchange with Interstate 75 could be ready to go out to bidders by this summer, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT).
Rae Anne Bradley, a spokesperson of the state agency, described the proposed work as two projects that will be bid on together.
"We are currently acquiring the right of way, and finalizing project plans," she said in a Feb. 3 email to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "The projects will be advertised and let this summer. Construction start [times] and completion dates have not yet been determined."
TDOT's I-75/Hamilton Place Mall interchange improvement effort, with a 2022 estimated price tag of $59 million, is designed to create a more efficient full-access interchange at the crossing. Bradley declined to update or confirm the project's 2022 cost because of the state's desire to maintain the integrity of the bidding process.
Boulevard Getting Complete Makeover
The Chattanooga news source reported that Hamilton Place Boulevard currently crosses over I-75 as an on-ramp to the southbound side of the interstate and runs the length of the mall property parallel to the freeway, while connecting with Hamilton Place Mall's roads and parking lots.
The proposed design though, will completely change the appearance of the interchange.
"The new I-75 southbound access will share an exit with Shallowford Road," Bradley described. "The new ramp will go underneath the Shallowford Road bridge, over the I-75 south entrance ramp from Shallowford Road, and then cross over the interstate near the existing I-75 south entrance ramp from Hamilton Place Boulevard."
She added that the new I-75 north access "will enter the on-ramp at the intersection of Hamilton Place Boulevard and the entrance to the Mall Ring Road. The new ramp will go over the I-75 north exit ramp to Shallowford Road, underneath the Shallowford Road bridge, and then merge with the I-75 North Shallowford Road entrance ramp traffic before blending with I-75 north."
The reconstruction of the boulevard also includes three bridges, at least nine retaining walls, TDOT's intelligent transportation system capability, new lighting and one noise wall at the north end of the project along I-75 southbound to shield an apartment complex and nearby neighborhoods from traffic noise, according to the state agency.
The I-75/Hamilton Place Boulevard interchange will utilize the technology of TDOT's SmartWay system, which will employ a network of live cameras, large electronic message boards and traffic speed sensors to monitor traffic through a management center and reduce traffic congestion.
Statewide, SmartWay includes four transportation management centers, 517 cameras, 174 message signs, 1,015 roadway detection systems and 49 video detection systems in Tennessee's four largest cities: Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga
Interchange Rebuild Likely to Face Challenges
The Times Free Press noted that plan documents showed state transportation officials identified challenges and issues involved in the construction project.
Due to the interchange providing access to a major shopping area, traffic on Hamilton Place Boulevard and all ramp access to both it and Shallowford Road will need constant maintenance during the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day throughout the life of the project. To reconstruct some of the planned features of the interchange will require the temporary closure of the existing ramp from Hamilton Place Boulevard to I-75 southbound.
In addition, the Hamilton Place Mall will itself be completing a project on its parking lot and private roads to match the new configuration of the boulevard, the Times Free Press learned, with coordination between TDOT and the mall expected.
Other concerns TDOT officials addressed in project documents related to the proximity of a residential neighborhood near the work site. As a result, the agency has required that piles not be driven at night, as well as recommending periodic lane reductions and closures.
TDOT also noted the project will be next to the work on Phase II of the I-75/I-24 interchange project to complete improvements there.
"We will include language in the contract for the I-75/Hamilton Place Boulevard projects that the contractor must coordinate their work zone, including any lane closures, with the ongoing I-75/I-24 project," TDOT Region 2 Assistant Chief Engineer Joe Deering told the Chattanooga news outlet in an emailed statement. "In addition, TDOT has been coordinating with Hamilton Place Mall officials regarding planned construction on their private roads and parking lots and how to best maintain traffic flow and access during their high-volume seasons."
City Also Building Part of Interchange
Chattanooga's portion of the work links the interchange and Hamilton Place Boulevard to the mall's roads, the city's Interim Deputy Administrator of Transportation and Street Maintenance Ben Taylor said in an email to the newspaper.
"The city's project will improve Hamilton Place Boulevard from the state's work on the I-75 off-ramp to Bams Drive," he said, noting Chattanooga currently is acquiring right-of-way for the project.
Chattanooga's improvements to Hamilton Place Boulevard include building more travel lanes, turn lanes, sidewalks and vehicle detection cameras for intersection operations, Taylor said, adding there are no cost estimates yet, but the work will be paid for partly through the Transportation Improvement Program with the funding being 80 percent federal and 20 percent local.
The city's part of the interchange work will be bid along with the TDOT project, and the same contractor will coordinate the two efforts.
"[Chattanooga] is pleased to be working in partnership with TDOT to improve this connection," Taylor said. "Bidding the state's off-ramp work with the city street improvements should save money and reduce the overall length of time that traffic is disrupted. Once complete, we expect this project to reduce congestion at the Shallowford Road interchange."
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