Tennessee resolution urges widening of I-75

| 5/17/2007

Several lawmakers in the Tennessee statehouse would like to see a busy stretch of Interstate 75 between Chattanooga and Knoxville widened to improve safety and reduce congestion.

In hopes of making that a reality, the House Transportation Committee approved a joint resolution – HJR435 – that urges the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Tennessee Department of Transportation to widen I-75 to six lanes from the Georgia line to west of Chattanooga. The stretch of roadway between Interstates 40 and 24 still has portions where north-south traffic is restricted to four lanes.

The effort by Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, comes as TDOT plans a study of I-75 traffic from Georgia to Kentucky. A spokeswoman for the agency said the study will begin in the fall and take a year to complete, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

The state estimates the cost to widen I-75 will be $1.64 billion. According to the state’s long-range transportation plan, help is needed to foot the bill for such projects because TDOT is facing funding deficits by 2008 and an accumulated shortfall of $2 billion by 2015

U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-TN, is onboard with the request. He told the newspaper if the state approves widening I-75, he would support finding federal funding for the project.

Supporters say something needs to happen soon before the problem of safety and congestion along the roadway gets out of hand.

State projections show traffic along I-75 near the Bradley-Hamilton county line growing from about 14,000 to 17,000 trucks daily that used the road in 2005 to 22,000 to 27,000 trucks per day in 2030.

The latest numbers showed about 56,500 cars used that stretch daily, but projections are that by 2030 the number could grow to about 108,000 cars.

The widening effort has been forwarded to the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.