Highway 27 project making progress, concerning drivers - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Highway 27 project making progress, concerning drivers

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

It's been a traffic headache for drivers through Chattanooga for the last year and a half. TDOT is working to straighten and widen Highway 27 leading into downtown.

The $104M  project is almost to the halfway point, but of course, with progress comes changes. Road crews have now taken over the north and south hillsides along Highway 27. Some drivers complain its becoming more dangerous.

The 1.6 mile stretch of Highway 27 has already transformed a lot since work began in January 2012. Lanes have shifted, on and off ramps have closed, and now the large retaining walls on the south side are complete. The tallest one stands 50 feet high.

That's part of what TDOT officials say makes this project the most expensive in this region's history. Work has just begun on the north side walls.

"There are a lot of tie-backs in the walls that hold the earth and they keep it from moving," TDOT Spokesperson Jennifer Flynn said.

But, many drivers say they don't feel safe navigating through the curves, and traffic so close to the gigantic walls.
 
"It's narrow. It's scary," driver Minda Papson said.

"Does not exactly make you feel safe up there because the lanes are pretty much filled and not very much wider then your truck," driver Robert Vipond said.

"There's always crazy drivers out there so you have to watch out for them and then you have to watch out for that big tall wall," driver John Johnson said.

In the first month of construction, we saw several accidents there, including a four car pile up. Recent accident numbers were not available Friday, but TDOT officials say they seem to be going down. Some drivers who travel it several times a day, say they are getting used to it.

"First time I went through it, it kind of bothered me because that wall is so close to you but I kind of got over that," driver Alex Roberts said.

Others say they avoid it altogether, and go through town.

"I know there's been a lot of concern and some people have nicknamed that 'the canyon on Chattanooga,'" Flynn said.

But, TDOT officials say once the project is complete, cars will not drive so close to the walls. There will be three to four lanes, plus a shoulder.

"Anybody with claustrophobia should feel a lot better by the time the project is complete," Flynn said.

There will be continued lanes shifting, though, so the best advice is just to go slow and pay attention to the signs.

TDOT officials say despite all the rain we've gotten this summer, they're still on schedule to have the entire project complete by December 2014.

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