State road construction projects in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama are halted for the Thanksgiving holiday as AAA forecasts 54.6 million people will take to the streets this weekend to see loved ones.
Transport officials are hoping the walkout will smooth the flow for travelers, whose numbers officials say are returning to pre-pandemic levels. In Tennessee, AAA predicts 1.2 million will take a road trip; an increase of 12,000 people from last year’s holiday and the busiest Thanksgiving since 2019, officials with the Tennessee Department of Transportation noted.
The suspension of road work begins Wednesday in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama and will last through Monday morning.
“Thanksgiving is typically the busiest holiday of the year,” said TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley in a press release.
“Pausing roadworks during this time will provide maximum capacity on our motorways and help reduce congestion, particularly during predicted peak travel days Wednesday and Sunday,” Eley said. “TDOT’s regional assistance trucks will also be on duty throughout the bank holiday weekend to assist with incidents that may occur along the highways.”
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While all lane-closure activities are suspended, crews may still be working in some construction zones, according to TDOT and the Alabama and Georgia departments of transportation. In the interests of motorist safety, there will also be permanent lane closures for some construction projects.
Drivers are reminded to be safe and respect posted speeds, especially in work zones. Also, Black Friday traffic in high-density shopping districts will be heavy for most of the day, officials note.
The largest interstate project in the Chattanooga area, according to officials, is work to improve interchanges at Interstate 24 and South Broad Street. Traffic there typically backs up every day between the interchange and Interstate 59 on the Tennessee-Georgia-Alabama southbound line and between the interchange and I-24, where it terminates at I-75, according to officials.
The backup is likely to remain in place regardless of typical daily traffic jams, but limiting activity at the intersection, which includes temporary lane closures, will help, officials said.
At the South Broad interchange, Williams Street at the underpass will remain closed and no through traffic will be allowed between West 21st Street and West 25th Street, TDOT said. Chestnut Street is closed at the I-24 underpass and will remain so until construction of the bridge there is complete.
The contractor has opened the new Broad Street exit off I-24 East and closed the existing Broad Street exit off the US 27 South exit, TDOT spokeswoman Rae-Anne Bradley said in a traffic update on work activities this week.
Traffic from US 27 South that needs to get to Broad Street must use the Williams Street exit, she said. There will be diversion signs to divert traffic from the Williams Street exit onto Broad Street. Drivers should also know that there is a new set of traffic lights at the end of the new Broad Street exit.
For travelers heading south toward or through Atlanta, congestion is likely to peak Wednesday, particularly between noon and 6 p.m., but hangovers were expected as early as Monday afternoon, according to Georgia highway officials.
The Thanksgiving travel forecast for Metro Atlanta’s interstates projects the heaviest congestion on Wednesday, officials said, then light traffic on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, though some areas near shopping malls could be congested.
Moderate traffic is expected to return on Saturday and Sunday as people make their way home, officials said.
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Road construction is halting in most parts of Alabama, according to Highway Authority spokesman Seth Burkett.
“There will be one exception that would be relevant to Chattanooga drivers,” Burkett said in a phone interview Tuesday.
One-way traffic was shifted from the northbound lanes to the southbound side of I-59, where northbound and southbound traffic splits the two lanes on that side of the freeway, he said.
“One lane will be open in each direction because while they are replacing part of the northbound road, this is a long-term closure,” Burkett said.
Drive Safe Alabama coordinator Allison Green said in a press release that drivers can do their part to ensure their passengers get to their holiday celebration safely by focusing on their responsibilities behind the wheel.