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.

Avery Charged In Attack With Chair Leg At Moccasin Bend That Left Man In Critical Condition

An arrest has been made in the aggravated assault Thursday at the Moccasin Bend Mental Health facility that left 38-year-old Kevin Green in critical condition. He was struck in the head with a chair leg, police said. Leviticus Avery, 37, has been charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault. He is an inmate at the Hamilton County Jail. ... (click for more)

Police Say Mullis Was Involved In Incident In Which Woman Was Shot Outside Hixson Walmart

Anthony Lee Mullis, 21, is facing several charges including attempted aggravated robbery on Sept. 28.       In that incident, the victim was found at the Hixson Walmart with a gunshot wound to her hip.   She stated that she had agreed to meet with the defendant in the parking lot to buy some “Roxys” or Oxycodone, but that when she ... (click for more)

The Facts About Jail

Since Roy had such a positive reaction to Jeffrey Cross's wonderful (and wonderfully civil--how refreshing) email response to his column on the bike lanes, allow me to speak on the subject of the jail.  First off, Roy's right about some things:  It is overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed.  This is no secret, it's in the Grand Jury report every term.  Here's ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: We Must Learn To Tell

On July 4th of this year, FBI agents – acting on a tip -- arrested Alexander Ciccolo, a 23-year-old with known mental problems, as he carried a duffle bag full of automatic attack weapons. Moments before, he had bought the illegal firearms from an undercover informant outside of Boston. As agents later scoured his apartment, they found bomb-making equipment including a pressure ... (click for more)

Boyd-Buchanan Sloshes Past Meigs, 28-7, For 7th Win

Boyd-Buchanan’s Cooper Hodge ran for two touchdowns and threw for another on Friday, leading the top-ranked and undefeated Boyd-Buchanan Buccaneers to a 28-7 Region 3-2A football victory over visiting Meigs County at a rain-soaked David L. Boyd Field. The game was delayed in the second quarter by lightning and heavy rain at 8:18 p.m. and resumed more than an hour later. The ... (click for more)

No. 6 Chattanooga Hosts Furman Saturday

The No. 6 Chattanooga Mocs return to Southern Conference action this weekend, hosting the Furman Paladins.  Game time is set for 1:04 p.m. (E.D.T.) on Saturday, Oct. 10, at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn.   The Mocs are boasting their highest FCS ranking in school history.  UTC carries a 3-1 overall record and a 1-0 mark in SoCon action into this weekend's ... (click for more)