In the last 3 weeks, Chattanooga Police say they've responded to an “unusual” amount of crashes on Highway 27 since a major change in the $128,000,000 widening construction project.
Jennifer Flynn with TDOT said the shift in traffic requires people to yield before entering the highway.
"There's been an increase in rear end collisions out there because people are not used to this new traffic pattern yet,” Flynn said. On July 8th TDOT entered a new phase of the project, removing the acceleration lanes which has resulted in crashes for some drivers who ignore the warning signs.
"One of the most difficult things to do is to construct a project and still keep traffic maintained as it has been before,” Flynn explained. She said many get into an “autopilot mode,” and are used to the old way of entering the highway.
Channel 3 obtained numbers that show there have been about one crash a day in the construction zone.
"The vast majority of those can be attributed to driver error within that construction zone, primarily failure to maintain due care or exercise due care or following too close,” Lt. Garrett with Chattanooga Police said.
In the first month of the change, CPD’s traffic division said there have been 17 accidents, two of them had injuries. Lt. Garrett said driver error is to blame, not construction. There’s no relief in sight, crews will do the same thing to the northbound ramps as well. It’s not ideal, but the alternative could be worse for downtown traffic.
"Would be to totally close those ramps and take away all access to the road or ramps in those areas, but we don't want to do that,” Flynn explained. In the meantime, some plan to avoid the area. "We will go out of our way not to go that way because it does seem that the traffic patterns, and the entrance and exit ramps have changed drastically and we just don't feel safe,” said Kathy Bishop.
TDOT said the project on Highway 27 is expected to be finished by July of 2019, and they say they're on schedule.