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Interstate 124 Tennessee

 

Routing

Interstate 124 is a short north-south freeway near the central business district of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The route is known as U.S. 27, and is again fully unsigned. A recent report from William Burmaster confirms this classification change from a fully signed Interstate to that of an unsigned or hidden Interstate. He indicates that a June 2003 visit to the area revealed no Interstate 124 shields or signs on either direction of U.S. 27.1 Furthermore William received an email response from the Tennessee Dept. of Trans in regards to Interstate 124 that "Interstate 124 signs were not re-installed when the major directional interchange improvements were made some years ago." The interchange reference must pertain to the southern terminus, as it is the only major one along the 1.97-mile route.2

Interstate 124 has disappeared and reappeared on the Tennessee Official State maps since 1986. Additionally the route saw just one reassurance shield until 1999, with the addition of a second in the northbound direction. The photographs below display both the north and southbound shield that remained on the route until 2003. The 2003 Tennessee Official State Map again omits Interstate 124 from both the state map and Chattanooga city inset. The current thinking as to the deemphasization of Interstate 124 relates to the U.S. 27 freeway extension north of the U.S. 127/Signal Mountain interchange. This extension resulted in a much shorter Interstate 124 portion of the overall U.S. 27 limited access highway.

The Interstate never extended all the way to U.S. 127 (a distance of approximately five miles), even though Rand McNally maps from the 1980s mistakenly showed it extending that far north at one time. Interstate 124 ends at the approach to the Tennessee River bridge (two miles north of Interstate 24). Ironically enough, Scott Boles writes that the only section of the U.S. 27 freeway in southern Tennessee that does not meet Interstate standards is the section that is technically Interstate 124! The remaining segment north of the Tennessee River is Interstate-standard, but only retains U.S. 27.

Planned Improvements

William Burmaster adds that construction during June 2003 has resulted in deck rehabilitation for the Olgiati Bridge over the Tennessee River and improvements to the bridge approaches (Phase 1 of planned improvements to the Interstate 124/U.S. 27 corridor upgraded the 1959 bridge to Interstate standards in 2003).1 However, narrow shoulders and a tight curve south of the river remain. Additionally substandardness can be found at the U.S. 127 interchange itself, consisting of tight ramps and no side lanes allocated for merging traffic.2 Plans call for the continuing reconstruction of Interstate 124 and U.S. 27: Phase 2 will reconstruct U.S. 27 from the Tennessee River Bridge north to U.S. 127/Signal Mountain Boulevard, and Phase 3 will reconstruct U.S. 27 from Interstate 24 north to the Tennessee River Bridge. Funds for both phases are programmed in Fiscal Years 2008 and 2009.3 Completion is not likely until 2010 or later.

Future Aspirations

It is not clear if the U.S. 27 freeway (including the short Interstate 124 segment), once it is upgraded to full Interstate standards through Chattanooga, would become signed as Interstate 124. Even though Tennessee DOT internal documents refer to Interstate 124, it seems more likely that it will remain signed as U.S. 27, unless permission is granted to extend Interstate 124 further north, possibly to U.S. 127 or beyond. However, no such plans are currently in place.

It is possible that it may be considered for inclusion in the Interstate 175 corridor (if it is ever built), which was studied to connect Chattanooga with Lexington, Kentucky via U.S. 27 (rather than via U.S. 11 and U.S. 25 as Interstate 75 currently travels). The Interstate 175 proposal, which was active in the 1990s, appears dormant, even though significant sections of U.S. 27 in Tennessee are being converted to freeway standards.

History

By 1960, the section of Interstate 124 from Main Street to what is now Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was constructed and opened to traffic. The connection from Interstate 24 north to Main Street was opened thereafter, probably in December 1966 in conjunction with the completion of the adjacent section of Interstate 24 between the Georgia State Line and Junction Interstate 124.4

Southern Terminus - Interstate 24 - Chattanooga, Tennessee
Perspective from Interstate 124/U.S. 27 south
After the 4th Street interchange (Junction Tennessee Secondary 58), southbound Interstate 124 and U.S. 27 meet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard at this cloverleaf interchange. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Southbound Interstate 124 and U.S. 27 reaches Exit 1A, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard east. The next interchange is the junction with Interstate 24. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
U.S. 27 enters the final mile of Interstate 124. This photograph shows Milepost 1.00 and an Interstate 24 guide sign for the southern terminus. The upcoming interchange is not assigned an Exit number. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
View of the Interstate 124 southbound diagrammatical overhead for Interstate 24. The parent Interstate ends seven miles to the east at Interstate 75 and therefore utilizes Interstate 75 control cities. Looking down on Interstate 124 and U.S. 27 is famous Lookout Mountain to the southwest. The wooded area is home to Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
This stretch of Interstate 124/U.S. 27, which is currently four to six lanes wide, is slated for widening between 2007 and 2010. The lack of shoulders, curves, and limited sight distance will be corrected as part of this project. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Interstate 124 as it enters the Interstate 24 terminal interchange. U.S. 27 departs Interstate 124 for Interstate 24 eastbound and a two-mile overlap; note that these signs do not advise of the U.S. 27 southbound continuation. The federal highway leaves the Interstate system at Exit 180 onto Rossville Boulevard toward Rossville, Georgia. Traffic that does not access Interstate 24 east or west may continue south to U.S. 11-41-64 (Broad Street) toward Lookout Mountain. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
This perspective shows the transition ramp from southbound U.S. 27 and Interstate 124 to westbound Interstate 24 en route to the connection with Interstate 59. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
On the other side of the interchange, this photo shows the transition from southbound U.S. 27 and Interstate 124 onto eastbound Interstate 24 via the Exit 178 collector/distributor roadway. While on this ramp, the zero milepost for the U.S. 27 (Interstate 124) freeway is posted. The cloverleaf ramp to Broad Street (Exit 178) departs ahead. Beyond the ramp departure is the merge onto the Interstate 24 mainline. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/14/03).
Perspective from Interstate 24 west
About two miles east of the Interstate 24 and Interstate 124 interchange, eastbound Interstate 24 meets U.S. 27 south and Tennessee 8 north (Rossville Boulevard) at Exits 180B-A. U.S. 27 north merges onto Interstate 24 west briefly, then turns north at Exit 178 via Interstate 124 north. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
The first guide sign for Exit 178, Junction (Interstate 124)/U.S. 27 north, Market Street, and the nearby Lookout Mountain, appears about a mile west of Exit 180B. A collector-distributor roadway facilitates the traffic movements to these three directions. Exit 178 is for Interstate 124, but no shields for the designation are present along Interstate 24 related guide signage: Interstate 124 is unsigned, and U.S. 27 is the signed designation. The junction between the two Interstates is a tri-level stack interchange. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/14/03).
The only change to this sign bridge between 1999 and 2003 was moving the exit tab from center justification to right justification. At this point, the collector-distributor roadway departs from westbound Interstate 24 onto Interstate 124/U.S. 27 north and Market Street (downtown Chattanooga). Beyond Interstate 124, Interstate 24 travels westward to the northern terminus of Interstate 59 in eleven miles. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/14/03).
Use U.S. 27 (Interstate 124) north to the historic Chattanooga Choo-Choo. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Westbound Interstate 24 reaches Exit 128, Junction U.S. 27 (hidden Interstate 124) north. Three lanes are allocated for the Exit 178 collector-distributor roadway departure. This capacity is needed as the interchange complex serves all Downtown Chattanooga based traffic interests. The actual beginning of Interstate 124 is still one mile ahead via this collector-distributor road. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/14/03).
The first exit on the collector-distributor lane connects to Tennessee Secondary 58 north, Market Street. The next exit serves Tennessee Secondary 58 south, Market Street, and Junction U.S. 41. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Continuing west on the Exit 178 collector/distributor roadway, the next off-ramp connects to U.S. 41 and Tennessee Secondary 58 - Market Street to Lookout Mountain. U.S. 27 continues westward paralleling Interstate 24 to the Interstate 124 terminal interchange in 0.75 miles. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/14/03).
Perspective from Interstate 124 north
This Interstate 124 shield, which was found in the field in 1999, was located on the transition ramp from eastbound Interstate 24 to northbound U.S. 27 (Interstate 124). It was gone by 2003. The overpass here is part of the tri-level stack interchange. At this time of this photograph, this Interstate 124 stand-alone shield was only a few weeks old. It was the only one posted in the northbound direction. Photo taken by Philip Hart (11/21/99).
Once traffic merges onto U.S. 27 (Interstate 124) north, the freeway features three northbound lanes. The left two lanes transition from eastbound Interstate 24, while the right two lanes transition from westbound Interstate 24. The first exit along northbound U.S. 27 (Interstate 124) is Exit 1, Main Street. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
This is the first reassurance shield for U.S. 27 north after departing from the vicinity of the Interstate 24 stack interchange. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Northbound U.S. 27 (Interstate 124) reaches Exit 1, Main Street. The next exit along northbound is Exit 1A, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard/Downtown Chattanooga. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Perspective from Interstate 24 east
Interstate 24 eastbound straddles the Tennessee River for two miles between Exit 175/Browns Ferry Road and the Interstate 124 southern terminus at Exit 178. The freeway is quite scenic and features no exits on this stretch. Pictured here is the two mile guide sign displaying U.S. 27 north with no control city. This is a typical two-mile guide sign for an Interstate to Interstate junction. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/14/03).
The first of a pair of diagrammatical overheads for the Interstate 24 and Interstate 124/U.S. 27 northbound split. The freeway serves the downtown area of Chattanooga with three interchanges: unsigned Exit to E. Main Street; Exit 1A for Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard; Exit 1C for Fourth Street. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/14/03).
The Tennessee River and Interstate 24 diverge at the southwest approach to the Interstate 124/U.S. 27 stack interchange. Although this diagrammatical overhead is missing lane markings, two lanes are allocated for each route. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/14/03).
Approaching the southern terminus of Interstate 124/Exit 178 on eastbound Interstate 24. Again, U.S. 27 is the only route displayed. The other portion of Exit 178 serves the triplex of U.S. 11, 41, and 64 - Broad Street and departs Interstate 24 one half mile to the east. U.S. 27 southbound merges onto Interstate 24 here. Yet the pull-through panel omits that distinction. Otherwise the Interstate highway travels solo for its final seven miles to Interstate 75. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/14/03).
Similar to the configuration from westbound, a collector-distributor roadway system is in place for Exit 178 traffic movements of Interstate 24 east. A ramp to Interstate 124 will depart the c/d roadway to the left ahead. Beyond that gore point is the cloverleaf ramp is the Interstate 124/U.S. 27 southbound merge and cloverleaf ramp to Broad Street. The c/d roadway returns to Interstate 24 just west of the TN SSR 58 undercrossing at Market Street. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (07/14/03).
Northern Terminus - P.R. Olgiati Bridge over the Tennessee River - Chattanooga, Tennessee
Perspective from Interstate 124 and U.S. 27 north
Entering the final one-half mile of Interstate 124 at the Exit 1A ramp departure for Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard east. The central business district is flanked by Interstate 24 to the south, the Tennessee River to the north and west, and Central Avenue to the east. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Use Exit 1C to the Tennessee Aquarium in downtown Chattanooga. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
The final exit of Interstate 124 is Exit 1C, Fourth Street (a trumpet interchange). A former Tennessee Secondary 58 shield was removed/covered up due to decommissioning/route relocation. Today, Tennessee Secondary 58 follows Market Street throughout the downtown area. For U.S. 27, the aforementioned sharp curves are just ahead. Definitely not Interstate standard! Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Moving through the sharp curves, the four-lane Interstate 124/U.S. 27 freeway has virtually no shoulders and a very narrow median (just a guardrail) as it passes by BellSouth Park. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
After the curves, the four-lane Interstate 124/U.S. 27 freeway widens out as a new lane joins the freeway. However, Interstate 124 ends near this point, which is at the 2.00 milepost in the median, because Interstate 124 is 1.97 miles long. The Tennessee River Bridge approach begins here. The bridge was reconstructed to current Interstate standards, unlike the winding section near the ballpark. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Interstate 124 ends and U.S. 27 continues north as the freeway prepares to cross the refurbished Mayor Peter Ruldoph "Rudy" Olgiati River Bridge over the Tennessee River. This bridge is a steel deck girder, built in 1959 and expanded/refurbished in 2003.5 The upcoming exits sign for the U.S. 27 freeway northbound provides the distance to: Exit 2A, Manufacturers Road/Cherokee Boulevard; Exit 2B, Manning Street; and Exit 3A, Whitehall Road. The following interchanges on northbound U.S. 27 are Exit 3B, Dayton Road and Exit 3C, Junction U.S. 127 (signed southern terminus). These exit numbers are not signed. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Perspective from U.S. 27 north
A reassurance shield for U.S. 27 north is posted on the Mayor Peter Rudolph "Rudy" Olgiati Bridge over the Tennessee River. Maps from the 1980s showed Interstate 124 signed as far north as the U.S. 127 interchange, even though there is no photographic proof that Interstate 124 shields were posted that far north. However, this photographic series will show the U.S. 27 freeway as far north as U.S. 127. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
After crossing the Tennessee River, northbound U.S. 27 reaches Manufacturers Road/Cherokee Boulevard. The next three exits are: Manning Street, Whitehall Road, and Dayton Road. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Continuing north and climbing out of the Tennessee River Valley, northbound U.S. 27 reaches Exit 2B, Manning Street. Notably, the freeway reverts to older freeway standards, again with narrow shoulders, limited sight distance, and limited acceleration/deceleration lanes. Plans call for this section of freeway to be straightened along with the section south of the Tennessee River. Completion is expected in 2010. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
The next two exits along northbound U.S. 27 are: Whitehall Road and Dayton Road. These ramps have limited sight distance and require slow exits from the freeway. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Northbound U.S. 27 reaches Exit 3B, Dayton Road. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
The next exit along northbound U.S. 27 is Exit 3C, Junction U.S. 127 (Signal Mountain Boulevard). This marks the southern terminus of U.S. 127. As noted earlier, Interstate 124 did not travel this far north, even during the 1980s. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Northbound U.S. 27 and northbound U.S. 127 split at this freeway interchange. From here, U.S. 27 continues north as a freeway all the way to Soddy-Daisy (Junction Tennessee 111). Follow U.S. 127/Signal Mountain Boulevard north to Signal Mountain. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Perspective from U.S. 27 south
Now traveling in the opposite direction, southbound U.S. 27 enters the city of Chattanooga after the U.S. 127/Signal Mountain Boulevard interchange. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
After exit ramps for Manning Street/Whitehall Road, the next exit is for Manufacturers Road, followed by the P.R. Olgiati Bridge over the Tennessee River. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
The first exit sign to feature an exit number is Exit 1C, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. Use this exit for Children's Hospital, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and the Tennessee Aquarium. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Southbound U.S. 27 reaches the exit ramp for Manufacturers Road; the freeway prepares to cross the Tennessee River. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
After departing the Manufacturers Road interchange on U.S. 27 southbound, the freeway crosses the Tennessee River via this bridge. This sign bridge advises motorists of all three of the Interstate 124 southbound off-ramps. The bridge itself carries six lanes of travel. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
A U.S. 27 reassurance shield is posted on the Tennessee River bridge; Interstate 124 does not officially begin until reaching the south approach of the bridge. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Entering the central business district of Chattanooga on U.S. 27 southbound. Ahead is the departure of Exit 1C for Tennessee Secondary 58 (note that the route is not omitted on signs in this direction) to 4th Street. Interstate 124 begins here, even though it is not signed. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
Perspective from Interstate 124 and U.S. 27 south
After crossing the Olgiati Bridge, Interstate 124 begins; it secretly shares alignment with U.S. 27 from here south to Interstate 24. With a portion of the downtown skyline coming into view, the 2.0 milepost of U.S. 27 is posted. The official mileage of Interstate 124 is listed as 1.97. Thus this location marks the official southbound beginning. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).
On southbound Interstate 124, this was the only southbound mainline Interstate 124 reassurance shield, found immediately after the P.R. Olgiati Bridge over the Tennessee River. This would have been the first shield if Interstate 124 remained signed. This shield was located adjacent to a now-removed Exit 1C roadside guide sign for Tennessee Secondary 58 and Fourth Street. Photo taken by Jim K. Georges (05/98).
Within the Exit 1C interchange for 4th Street. This junction is a trumpet interchange with a tight cloverleaf ramp from Interstate 124/U.S. 27 southbound to Fourth Street east. 0.25 miles separate this off-ramp from the Exits 1A-B cloverleaf interchange at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. Photo taken by Alex Nitzman (06/18/05).

Sources:

  1. William Burmaster, email: "I-124" July 1, 2003
  2. William Burmaster, email: "Fwd: FW: just a question" September 10, 2003
  3. Fiscal Years 2007-2009 Transportation Improvement Program (as of 05/23/06) - under Hamilton County: Interstate 124/U.S. 27 are proposed for preliminary engineering and right of way acquisition funding for additional lanes from north of Interstate 24 to south of the Tennessee River Bridge, a distance of 1.5 miles.
  4. Chattanooga Flag Map (1960) and Map of East Tennessee Interstate Development.
  5. City of Chattanooga Mayor's Office: History of Mayors - 1951-1963 Peter Rudolph "Rudy" Olgiati. Mr. Olgiati was noted for several public works projects, including "a second tunnel through Missionary Ridge beside the McCallie Avenue Tunnel, the widening of Rossville Boulevard, completion of a third downtown bridge across the Tennessee River (named the Olgiati Bridge in 1959) and the modernization of the Lovell Field Airport."

Page Updated December 4, 2006.

 
Mileage

State Tennessee
Mileage 1.97
Cities Chattanooga
Junctions Interstate 24
Source: October 31, 2002 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
I-124 Tennessee Annual Average Daily Traffic

County From To AADT Composite
Hamilton Interstate 24 Exit 1/SSR 316 69,220
Hamilton Exit 1/SSR 316 Exit 1C/SSR 58/4th Street 65,850
Hamilton Exit 1C/SSR 58/4th Street U.S. 27 - Tennessee River 61,700
Source: Traffic Flow Maps Tennessee Roads and Streets 2002 (TDOT)

 
The overall Interstate 124 freeway as seen from Point Park on Lookout Mountain. Interstate 24 enters the photograph from the south as it straddles the Tennessee River. The stack interchange represents the southern terminus of Interstate 124, with the freeway spur snaking its way through western reaches of the downtown Chattanooga area toward the horizon. Photo taken by Eric W. Vander Yacht (12/02).
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