Billion-Dollar Bridge Linking Soddy-Daisy To Harrison Needed, Area Politicians Agree, But May Not Be Affordable

$5 Toll Causes Some To Balk

Thursday, December 23, 2010 - by Judy Frank

A preliminary report on the feasibility of building a $1 billion toll bridge across the Tennessee River from Soddy-Daisy to Harrison – outlined during a meeting this week in Hamilton County ’s courthouse – is getting mixed reviews from area politicians.

Rep. Richard Floyd thinks it’s high time to get on with the project and authorize the estimated $300,000 in state funding needed to collect environmental data and do preliminary mapping.

“If they started building it tomorrow, it would be 2020 before the first car could drive across it,” he noted – and any delay now would push completion still further into the future.



“We don’t have $1 billion to build the bridge,” he added, “but we can come up with $300,000 to take it to the next level . . . We need to pursue this. We’re going to need that bridge.”

Hamilton County Commissioner Fred Skillern, whose district includes Soddy Daisy, is more dubious.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “We all want the bridge . . . but what they’re saying is that there would be a $5 toll for cars and a $7 toll for trucks each time they crossed it . . . Say you’re working at Volkswagen and they’re paying you $17 an hour. You’d have to work 45 minutes just to cover the cost of your tolls to get there and back.”

In contrast, the state estimates that if a similar bridge were built in Memphis, the toll there would only be $1, Commissioner Skillern noted.

The cost is far higher here, the commissioner explained, because in addition to the estimated $152 million to $276 million needed to cover land acquisition and construction costs, the state would have to create the infrastructure needed to support it.

The infrastructure would include roadway interchanges, he said, which are extremely expensive to build.

Rep. Floyd, however, said he thinks it might be possible to fund the bridge without requiring drivers to eventually cover the costs by paying tolls to cross it. One possibility, he said, is creating some kind of public-private partnership to come up with the money.

But even if the toll here winds up being $5 per car per trip, he continued, that would still be cheaper than having to drive the extra miles back and forth every time area residents needed to get from one side of the Tennessee River to the other.

“It’s about 30 miles to the next bridge to the north,” he explained, “and probably about that same distance to the south . . . Gas right now is $3 a gallon. We don’t know what it will be 10 years from now, but it doesn’t look like the price will go down.”

The truth is, Rep. Floyd said, nobody really knows how much the bridge would cost. But that uncertainty should not prevent officials from moving ahead with the project because it is so sorely needed.

Hamilton County residents would not be the only beneficiaries, he stressed. Rhea, Sequatchie and other counties throughout the region also would see benefits.

Local and state officials have been discussing the need for such a bridge since the early 1970s, but the cost was considered prohibitive.

In 2007, however, Tennessee’s General Assembly passed the Tennessee Tollway Act to fund studies of the feasibility of toll bridges in several areas across the state.

At this time, north Hamilton County and Memphis are the only two areas that remain under study, due to public opposition and lack of feasibility in other proposed locations.

Memphis – where projections are cars would be charged $1 tolls – is the only other city where TDOT is still studying the possibility of a toll bridge. Other areas were determined not to be feasible or had too much public opposition, officials said.

Rep. Jim Cobb, Republican from Rhea County, has been spearheading the project. He said $5 per trip might not sound so high by 2018 when the bridge might open.

He was among those taking part in a meeting on the project held at the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday morning.


Case Of Drug Ring Involving Child Sent To Grand Jury

Felony drug charges against four individuals who admitted to involving a child in their alleged crimes were bound over to a grand jury after a Tuesday hearing. The alleged incidents took place back in February.  According to police, narcotics detectives were watching when a green jeep pulled into the parking lot of an apartment complex on East Brainerd Road. The ... (click for more)

Arrest Made After String Of Auto Burglaries Near Munro Road

A Chattanooga man was arrested and charged with a string of auto burglaries in the Munro Road area. Witnesses said they saw three men in a white Volvo drive up and attempt to break into a vehicle in a driveway on the street.  When police located the suspect car, they also found multiple stolen items, including a gun. They also found 21-year-old Steven Coburn. According ... (click for more)

Vote No On Health Insurance Changes Affecting County Teachers

Our Hamilton County School Board will vote on insurance changes effecting both active employees and retirees, who are not on Medicare at this time.  HCEA strongly objects to changes being made at this time and urges a “No” vote.  Insurance had been frozen three years by negotiations.  Since the Educators Professional Negotiations Act was nullified by the 2011 Legislature, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Al Sharpton’s Wise Remarks

I’ll admit I paid little more than scant attention to the Monday funeral of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was shot and killed by police bullets in Ferguson, Mo., after he allegedly was involved in strong-armed robbery. There are too many tawdry details and, in my way of thinking, there is nothing under God’s sun, absolutely nothing, that gives others the right to riot, burn ... (click for more)

After String Of Injuries, Ailments Vols' Maggitt Ready To Play

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Come Sunday ,  it will have been 659 days since Curt Maggitt played a snap in a college football game, but that's not what he's concerned about. "It's four days from now," Maggitt said Wednesday. "That's what's most important. It's going to be emotional for sure. It's been a real long time since I've been out there and ran through the `T' actually suited ... (click for more)

Fulghum, Walker Power Soddy-Daisy Past Cleveland

Soddy-Daisy’s Lady Trojans shook off an up-and-down performance in last weekend’s Early Bird tournament at Oak Ridge and throttled Cleveland, 3-0, in a District 5-AAA volleyball match Tuesday at Soddy-Daisy High School. The Lady Trojans (8-4, 2-1) swept the match with set scores of 25-18, 25-22 and 25-15. Abby Walker and Karigan Fulghum combined for 30 digs and 18 kills to ... (click for more)