UPDATE: Wilcox area businesses see traffic again after 8-month t - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Wilcox area businesses see traffic again after 8-month tunnel closure

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UPDATE: John Fiegi says he can't remember the last time he cut hair after 6 o'clock on a Monday night at VIP Cuts.

“From 10 AM-1 PM today, was a little different. Usually between 10 AM and 1 PM it's almost dead in here, but today we had a real big jump on business,” says Fiegi.

He saw fewer heads after the Wilcox Tunnel closed. John says the tunnel is like a blood vessel for his Wilcox area business. Now that's it is back open, traffic is flowing again.

READ MORE | Wilcox Tunnel repairs putting hole in area businesses

“I’ve never seen this many cars come through here. Definitely a big effect,” says Fiegi.

The tunnel closed in August. It hadn't been worked on in decades. But it opened at 2 PM Monday afternoon.

READ MORE | Wilcox Tunnel renovations to close tunnel 

The city spent more than $2 million on safety improvements, major lighting upgrades, and a new inner tunnel liner to stop water from seeping into the tunnel. 

It was supposed to open at the end of February. But that was pushed back because the city had to work out problems with contractors.

Mayor Berke says the difference is like night and day.

“It’s got incredible lighting. We’ve sealed the top and today we are opening it back up for traffic and make sure that these neighborhoods are connected again,” says Berke.

Vanessa Buckner was one of many affected by the closure.

“It was very inconvenient, as far as me traveling having to go all the way around. But it looks good. The lighting! It's lit up, I like that,” says Buckner.

To make up for revenue loss for area businesses, the city came up with a construction mitigation program that helps business owners. A $1,000 grant will be given to over 15 businesses. So far, 20 have applied for the grant.

The work isn't complete yet. The tunnel entries have been paved, but the inner roadway is concrete and the city will have to diamond grind that part of the tunnel. Officials say when that work happens, it should only take a day.

Stay with Channel 3 on-air and online for updates as they become available.


PREVIOUS STORY: Wilcox Tunnel is open to traffic Monday afternoon, after months of work. The major renovations on Wilcox Tunnel began in August of 2015. 

The renovations include safety improvements, major lighting upgrades, and a new inner tunnel liner to halt water seepage into the tunnel. 

A press release says that additional upgrades will continue throughout the year. Although the tunnel entries have been paved, the inner roadway is concrete and therefore cannot be paved. Instead, Chattanooga Department of Transportation and Public Works patched areas that needed immediate attention and will diamond-grind the concrete roadway later this year. 

In addition, an Art in Neighborhoods project will be scheduled during regular maintenance closure of the tunnel and landscaping on the outside of the tunnel will occur this fall. 

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