You may have noticed a lot less splash on the interstate Thursdays morning during the rain. It's because the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is using a new process to resurface parts of the interstate highways near Chattanooga.
"If you do get a chance to drive on it in the rain you'll see a big difference," says Jennifer Flynn with TDOT's Region II office. "You can tell."
The roads are paved with a new and improved asphalt called Open Grade Friction Course, OGFC for short. It's harder than traditional asphalt,and most importantly it drains better, pushing water toward the shoulders. This reduces splashing and spraying and improves visibility.
"All of us have been on the interstate or on a road and a big tractor trailer passes you and you can't see anything for a little while. This is supposed to alleviate that problem," explains Flynn.
OGFC is used all across Tennessee, mainly on interstates. Locally it first covered I-75 near Charleston in Bradley County three years ago, most recently in Hamilton County this summer on I-24 just west of Spring Creek Road east to I-75, then continuing on I-75 to the Georgia line. You may have noticed the interstate shields painted on this stretch of the highway.
The goal is to prevent as many wrecks as possible, like the one on I-24 near Chattanooga on a rainy day back in July which cost a nine-year-old Nashville girl her life. Hydroplaning may have been the cause.
"It definitely helps prevent hydroplaning because the water is not standing on top of the asphalt," states Flynn. "So that's another benefit of OGFC."
James Sullivan, truck driver and father of two young children, logs 2000-plus miles a week making deliveries up and down the eastern United States. He says anything highway departments can do to make routes safer for himand his fellow truckers is a good thing.
"If I lose control it's a lot harder for me to gain control of the truck compared to a car. So it will definitely help out as far as improving our driving and stability," says Sullivan.
Flynn says the OGFC doesn't cost the tax payers any more than traditional asphalt, and it lasts just as long. State routes are resurfaced every 12 years, interstates every eight. The next local areas slated for the OGFC next year are on I-24 in Marion County beginning at the Tennessee River bridge, extending through Hamilton County to the Georgia state line--around a six mile stretch; also, a portion State Route 2/U.S. 11/U.S. 64 in Bradley County.