Story by Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- Downtown Chattanooga's Creative Discovery Museum helps children grow, by showing them how things grow.

Come Fall, their parents could get their own lesson, just trying to get there.

"Ooh, it's big," says Jennifer Flynn, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT).

"And it probably will be the most expensive project we've ever done in the Chattanooga, Region #2."

TDOT plans to widen and straighten three miles of US Highway 27 from I-24 to Signal Mountain Boulevard, spending more than $160 million in the next three to six years.

Phase 1, north of the Tennessee River, is fully-designed and funded; $75 million to widen 1.6 miles from six lanes to eight.

TDOT must build 23-28 retaining walls.

"It's just hard," Flynn says. "We'll have to build them adjacent to traffic."

Phase 2 will widen the Olgiati Bridge itself, without closing it to traffic.

Phase 3 is not in Tennessee's budget yet, but it likely will be the most complicated. It involves straightening or easing sharp curves, around downtown's heart and the Creative Discovery Museum's front door.

"Most of our visitors probably come off the 4th street exit to get here," Director Henry Schulson says.

"So access to the facility, it's very critical.">

The Museum hosts more than 200,000 children and parents a year; reason enough, Schulson says, to gussy up the 4-th street gateway.

"The city also is changing," he says.

"It's become a much more pedestrian-friendly city, and much more bicycle-friendly city."

"We (TDOT) will do the best we can to work around anything that's going on downtown," Flynn answers.

 TDOT's pledging few closures, and to do much of the trickiest work at night.

"We'll make sure people are aware of what's going on," Flynn says.

Schulson realizes the challenges aren't child's play. He's betting TDOT doesn't break faith, after it breaks asphalt.

"I hope they give community and the institutions input into the process," he says.

"And really do something of the highest quality."