2000 News Releases

 

2000 News Releases

May

HELP Kicks Off in Memphis

HELP KICKS OFF IN MEMPHIS AND CHATTANOOGA

UT BRIDGE/STATE ROUTE 450 PLANS FINALIZED

DETOURS SET FOR WEEKEND I-24 BRIDGE WORK

SINGLE DAY CLOSURE AVOIDS 16 WEEKENDS OF BACKUPS

I-65 GOES WEST TO RELIEVE CONGESTION

 


HELP Kicks Off in Memphis

The Tennessee Department of Transportation today launched a new program to fight urban congestion in Memphis.  In an event today at the Sheriff’s Academy, Transportation Commissioner Bruce Saltsman gave HELP program operators the keys to their “lime-yellow” vehicles and directed them to begin their routes on the urban interstate in Memphis to help keep traffic moving.

“The HELP program will be a successful tool in easing congestion in Memphis by getting disabled and stalled vehicles off the highway as soon as possible,” said Saltsman.

Local officials from the fire and police departments joined Saltsman today for the event.

The program’s major function is to keep lanes open and roadways clear.  Operators will patrol interstates between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. weekdays.  When they encounter a problem, they notify the proper authorities, assist the motorist in need then clear the scene as quickly as possible.

The trucks are four-wheel drive and come equipped with push bumpers, top-mounted arrow boards, emergency work lights, air compressors and others tools and emergency response equipment.  Operators can perform a variety of functions from pushing a stalled car off the roadway to changing a flat tire.

“One minute of lane blockage means five minutes of delay for motorists,” said Saltsman.  “Congestion is frustrating to motorists and it’s dangerous. About 25% of all accidents are secondary.  That means they occur after an initial accident.  So keeping roadways clear saves time and money but more importantly, it saves lives.”

The project is being funded with federal funds that are specifically set up to deal with congestion mitigation and air quality issues.

The HELP program is part of a larger vision to better manage the urban highway system.  “We cannot build our way out of congestion.  We must find other options,” said Saltsman.  “Among them are program like HELP, the use of intelligent transportation systems, and increased public transit opportunities. The HELP program is only one aspect of a much larger concept.”

The HELP program began in Nashville and Knoxville last summer.  Chattanooga’s HELP program will kickoff on Thursday.  In the last eleven months, HELP has operated with few glitches therefore, only minor adjustments in the area of training and equipment have been made to the program. However, TDOT officials say the biggest surprise is the partnership created between state and local government.

“We’ve seen an incredible partnership between TDOT, local law enforcement and emergency responders. The program has proved to be a much greater help to law enforcement agencies than we anticipated.  Our goal is to add resources to deal with minor incidents and assist responders dealing with more serious crashes, “ said Saltsman.

In addition to giving the nine HELP operators and two supervisors their vehicle keys,  Saltsman and Winston Gaffron, region director for TDOT, gave the group certificates of completion of the extensive 9-week training course including first aid, recognition of hazardous materials and auto mechanics.

“The caliber of personnel we have been able to hire and train has been impressive.  The nine week training program these men and women participated in have prepared them for just about any situation they encounter on our highway system,” said Gaffron.

The “lime-yellow” trucks hit the roads for the first time today soon to become a familiar sight to Memphis commuters.  


HELP kicks off in Chattanooga

The Tennessee Department of Transportation today launched a new program to fight urban congestion in Chattanooga. In an event today at TDOT’s region office on Cromwell Road, Transportation Commissioner Bruce Saltsman gave HELP program operators the keys to their "lime-yellow" vehicles and directed them to begin their routes on the urban interstate in Chattanooga to help keep traffic moving.

"The HELP program will be a successful tool in easing congestion in Chattanooga by getting disabled and stalled vehicles off the highway as soon as possible," said Saltsman.

Local officials from the fire and police departments joined Saltsman today for the event.

The program’s major function is to keep lanes open and roadways clear. Operators will patrol interstates between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. weekdays. When they encounter a problem, they notify the proper authorities, assist the motorist in need then clear the scene as quickly as possible.

The trucks are four-wheel drive and come equipped with push bumpers, top-mounted arrow boards, emergency work lights, air compressors and others tools and emergency response equipment. Operators can perform a variety of functions from pushing a stalled car off the roadway to changing a flat tire.

"One minute of lane blockage means five minutes of delay for motorists," said Saltsman. "Congestion is frustrating to motorists and it’s dangerous. About 25% of all accidents are secondary. That means they occur after an initial accident. So keeping roadways clear saves time and money but more importantly, it saves lives."

The project is being funded with federal funds.

The HELP program is part of a larger vision to better manage the urban highway system. "We cannot build our way out of congestion. We must find other options," said Saltsman. "Among them are program like HELP, the use of intelligent transportation systems, and increased public transit opportunities. The HELP program is only one aspect of a much larger concept."

The HELP program began in Nashville and Knoxville last summer. The HELP program was launched in Memphis on Tuesday. In the last eleven months, HELP has operated with few glitches therefore, only minor adjustments in the area of training and equipment have been made to the program. However, TDOT officials say the biggest surprise is the partnership created between state and local government.

"We’ve seen an incredible partnership between TDOT, local law enforcement and emergency responders. The program has proved to be a much greater help to law enforcement agencies than we anticipated. Our goal is to add resources to deal with minor incidents and assist responders dealing with more serious crashes, " said Saltsman.

In addition to giving the six HELP operators and two supervisors their vehicle keys, Saltsman and Bob Brown, region director for TDOT, gave the group certificates of completion of the extensive 9-week training course including first aid, recognition of hazardous materials and auto mechanics.

"The caliber of personnel we have been able to hire and train is impressive. The nine week training program these men and women participated in have prepared them for just about any situation they encounter on our highway system," said Brown.

The "lime-yellow" trucks hit the roads for the first time today soon to become a familiar sight to Chattanooga commuters.


UT BRIDGE/STATE ROUTE 450 PLANS FINALIZED

Transportation Commissioner Bruce Saltsman and University of Tennessee President J. Wade Gilley have announced final plans for the construction of State Route 450 connecting the University’s main campus and agriculture campus.

"These final plans have incorporated input from students, faculty, UT administration and local and state government received at a public hearing in March, " said Commissioner Saltsman. "We believe these plans respond to public input and provide a good facility that meets the growing needs of the UT campus and the Knoxville community at large."

Many changes were suggested by those attending the March 16, 2000 public hearing on the UT campus.

"When completed, the project will provide a connection between the main campus and agricultural campus, an extension of the existing greenway system, and an aesthetically-pleasing solution influenced by input from students, faculty, University administration, and city and state government," said President Gilley.

The route, including a 600-foot bridge, will provide for improved pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular circulation between the main campus and the agricultural campus and includes improvements to Center Drive from Neyland Drive and connecting it to Volunteer Boulevard at Andy Holt Avenue. A paved greenway separate from Center Drive will run along its north side between Chapman Drive and the greenway on Neyland Drive. Also, a greenway connector will be made to the Third Creek Greenway.

At the March public hearing, the bridge was of significant interest to many attending. The final plans for the bridge call for the following features:

  • A bicycle lane on each side
  • A 12 foot pedestrian greenway on the north side
  • Four (4) traffic lanes that are 12 feet wide
  • The bridge will be faced with stone or other decorative texture to enhance its appearance.
  • Lighting for the roadway and bridge will be provided.
  • Upon completion, the University will landscape the bridge greenway with planters and benches.

Construction should begin early this fall and last for 18-24 months. There will be one period of approximately four months when Volunteer Boulevard will be closed, however, this closure will not occur during football season, officials say.


DETOURS SET FOR WEEKEND I-24 BRIDGE WORK

NASHVILLE----Detours have been established for the weekend bridge work on I-24 at the Briley Parkway interchange.

On Saturday, motorists will experience long traffic delays as I-24 is reduced to one lane for final demolition preparations on the Briley Parkway and Thompson Lane bridges.

"We urge motorists to avoid this area of I-24 all weekend. If they don’t they will be caught in very long delays," said Jim Jeffers, director of the Middle Tennessee area for the Department of Transportation.

At 3:00 a.m., Sunday, I-24 will be completely closed in both directions so that pavement protection can be placed on all lanes under the bridges to be demolished. At daylight, one of the Thompson Lane bridges will be demolished followed by one of the Briley Parkway bridges. It is anticipated that all roads except I-24 should be reopened within 30-45 minutes of demolition. By noon Sunday, enough debris should be removed to get I-24 opened to one lane traffic.

"Our purpose in taking these bridges down quickly through demolition, is to avoid many weekend and nightime closures over the next several months by sawing them down," said Jeffers.

The two Briley Parkway bridges and the twin Thompson Lane bridges are being replaced to make way for widening I-24 from I-440 to Haywood Lane. Once the bridges are replaced with new structures, traffic will be switched to the new bridges and the second set of bridges will be demolished and replaced late this year.

Detours have been established at Briley Parkway to connect motorists to I-40. The eastbound detour uses I-440, Nolensville Road and Briley Parkway to connect motorists back to I-24. In addition, nine message boards have been placed at locations extending back to state route 840 to alert motorists of the I-24 closure. Metro police officers will also be used a key points on the detour routes to keep traffic moving.

The bridge demolition means Briley Parkway at I-24, normally four lanes, will have two-lane traffic at the bridge for several months. Even though Thompson Lane is four lanes, traffic has been operating on two lanes for several weeks and will continue on two lanes until new bridges are constructed.



Detours and Schedules for I-24 Bridge Work
As of May 10, 2000

 

May 13, Saturday

6 a.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday – Contractor will finish preparations. Single lane traffic on I-24 all day. Long delays will occur.

May 14, Sunday

3:00 a.m. – I-24 closed and traffic detoured as final pavement protection is placed on I-24 under bridges.
5:30 to 5:45 a.m.- One of the Thompson Lane twin bridges will be demolished.
5:45 to 6 a.m.– One of the Briley Parkway twin bridges will be demolished.
6:30 a.m.– Briley Parkway and Thompson Lane will reopen.
6 a.m. to 12 noon– I-24 remains closed as debris is removed. One lane open by noon.
Remainder of Sunday - Debris removal continues on I-24.


Single Day Closure Avoids 16 Weekends of Backups

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has approved the request of the contractor to demolish two bridges at Briley Parkway and Thompson Lane in a single day, May 14, thus avoiding sixteen weekends of single lane traffic on the I-24 widening project.

"By allowing the takedown and clean-up of the bridges on one day, we’ve reduced the time it would have taken to remove the bridges and avoided a major inconvenience to I-24 motorists over 16 consecutive weekends," said Jim Jeffers, TDOT’s region director.

Interstate 24 will be closed early Sunday morning to finalize demolition preparations. The actual demolition will occur at about 6 a.m.

The two Briley Parkway bridges and the twin Thompson Lane bridges are being replaced to make way for widening I-24 from I-440 to Haywood Lane. Once the two demolished structures are rebuilt and widened, traffic will be switched and the second set of bridges will be demolished and replaced, late this year.

To get approval from TDOT, the prime contractor, Lojac, Inc, and bridge contractor Ray Bell Construction agreed to the following terms.

  • Establish and post detours for stopped traffic on I-24
  • Nine message boards at various locations that extend out past state route 840 to alert motorists
  • I-24 must be back open to one lane traffic in each direction no later than noon on Sunday or the contractor must pay liquidation costs
  • Metro Police officers will be used at key points on detour routes to keep traffic moving

TDOT traffic engineers say Sunday mornings have the lowest traffic volume. Even though May 14 is Mother’s Day, traffic is not expected to increase significantly.

Officials with the contractor have said May 14 was the only date possible since the demolition expert was not available again until late July. Both the contractor and the state agreed waiting until late summer to begin the bridgework would put the I-24 project significantly behind schedule.

"We are pleased with the progress made on this project in just two months. It’s moving along extremely well and we’re confident it will stay on track for completion in June, 2002," said Jeffers.

In addressing the issue of Opry Mills traffic during their opening weekend, state traffic engineers say they do not believe it will result in any serious traffic issues since the demolition will occur at 6:00 a.m. Sunday. Briley Parkway, the route to Opry Mills, should be reopened within 30 minutes of demolition.

The two bridges slated for demolition will be taken down within 15 minutes of each other, then TDOT bridge inspectors will immediately inspect surrounding structures to assure no damage. Once inspections are complete, Briley Parkway, Thompson Lane and neighborhood streets will be reopened. It will take several hours to clear debris from I-24 resulting in a closure until noon.

The contractor will begin working this weekend on final preparation for the bridge demolition on May 14. Motorists will experience closures in the Briley Parkway area of I-24 all day Saturday, May 7.

TDOT is working with the American Automobile Association and the Tennessee Truckers Association to provide information to motorists. I-24 Detour Map for Sunday May 14, 2000 only.


I-65 GOES WEST TO RELIEVE CONGESTION

           The Tennessee Department of Transportation says the contractor has started work on a project that will improve safety and provide congestion relief for interstate travelers in downtown Nashville.

            Interstate 65 is being re-designated to travel along I-40 on the west side of the city, rather than the east side.  In the same plan, I-265 will be eliminated as a Nashville interstate designation and renumbered as I-65. 

            “We are always trying to find low cost ways to improve our urban interstate system without continued widening projects, “ said Transportation Commissioner Bruce Saltsman.  “This plan allows us to divert non-local traffic away from local chokepoints in a cost efficient manner to improve safety.”

            The decision to re-designate I-65 along the I-40 inner loop was made in an effort to relieve the daily traffic backups which occur during morning and afternoon rush hour at the Second and Fourth Avenue interchange.

            Under the current interstate designation, motorists traveling on I-65 and I-40 cross each other in the short half-mile section between the I-40/I-65 interchange and the Silliman Evans Bridge.  This “traffic weave” along the Second and Fourth Avenue on and off ramps brings peak hour traffic to a standstill on a daily basis, said Saltsman.

            “When this section of interstate opened in 1973, the volume of traffic was low enough to accommodate the weaving,” said Saltsman.  “However, our traffic counts show that today over 121,000 vehicles daily go through this area resulting in it becoming one of our most congested locations in Nashville.”

            TDOT officials say the accident rate for this short section is four times the statewide average for urban interstates in Tennessee with over 330 crashes in the past three years.

            “We recognize this is not a cure-all for congestion, but by re-designating I-65 to the west, we anticipate that up to 25% of traffic using I-65 will be diverted, “said Bill Moore, TDOT’s Chief Engineer.  “The result of this diversion will be improved efficiency and safety in the area surrounding the Second and Fourth Avenue interchange.”

            The diversion of additional traffic to the I-40 inner loop is expected to have an impact on its operations, however TDOT officials say there is adequate capacity available to handle the increased demand.

            “The biggest change for local motorists will be positive.  There will be less gridlock on the southeast side of the inner loop,” said Commissioner Saltsman.

            In recent years with the increase in traffic through the Nashville area, Moore says TDOT has addressed several chokepoints through interchange improvements or widening projects.  Those include projects such as the I-65 widening project and the Harding Place interchange, the work on each end of I-440 and the work currently on I-24.  All were needed to address system bottlenecks.

            Based on 1997 data, a chokepoint through the I-24/65/Trinity Lane interchange north of Nashville was recently identified as one of the worst in the nation by a national highway user group.  A widening project in 1998 greatly reduced the congestion through the I-24/65/Trinity Lane area.

            Saltsman said TDOT continues to implement alternatives to widening and adding more lanes in the downtown area including the newly created HELP program to remove disabled vehicles from the interstate and plans for an intelligent transportation system that would alert motorists to traffic tie-ups.

            “When we have an opportunity to address a problem on our system by a simple change in signage, that is the route we want to go,” said Saltsman.

            While the impact on traffic flow in Nashville will be significant, the price tag will not be.  The cost for all sign changes, including the renumbering of exit signs, mile markers and emergency reference markers, is $337,000.  The new signage should be in place by October 30th.

            The Tennessee Department of Transportation received approval from the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials and the Federal Highway Administration to go ahead with the change.  TDOT will be working closely with local officials and with the tourism, travel and trucking industries to assure the transition is a smooth one.