Opinion: Clint’s Clips: Suggestion of interstate bypass revives 2005 Trenton to Soddy-Daisy proposal

Staff File Photo / Eastbound traffic backs up on Interstate 24 in January 2015, near Haletown, Tenn.
Staff File Photo / Eastbound traffic backs up on Interstate 24 in January 2015, near Haletown, Tenn.

Last raised nearly 20 years ago

Chattanooga developer Jimmy White, whose project at The Bend has been approved for tax increment financing, revived a proposal to alleviate traffic problems that had its last moment in the sun nearly 20 years ago.

At a Rotary Club meeting earlier this week, he said a Chattanooga bypass is needed and is, in fact, long overdue. A route he mentioned would go through Lookout Mountain and connect with I-59.

The bypass to which White referred gained some notice from a regional transportation planning group in 2005. A tentative route would have had its southern terminus near Trenton on I-59. It then would proceed east through a tunnel in Lookout Mountain, through Walker, Catoosa and Whitfield counties in Georgia, then turn north to pass through Collegedale and then cross the Tennessee River to connect with U.S. Highway 27 near Soddy-Daisy. It would intersect with I-75 twice, once in Catoosa County and again in rural northeast Hamilton County.

The transportation group approved spending $1.5 million to study the possibility of the 65-mile bypass, but it is not clear whether the group ever set aside the money to do so.

I-24 around Lookout Mountain was at one time scheduled to be widened starting in 2024, but it is doubtful it will start that soon. At least four other interstate projects within the Chattanooga area are expected to be ongoing next year.

Stadium's final price will be ...

We're a bit surprised anyone would throw around terms like a guaranteed maximum price when it comes to the construction of sports stadiums in an inflationary economy. But that's what planners for the proposed Chattanooga Lookouts ballpark in the South Broad District said they're approaching as they prepare to go to the bond market for financing by year's end.

You'll recall Chattanooga and Hamilton County officials in early 2022 pegged the absolute price for the park at $79 million, and not a penny more.

But with design drawings still ongoing nearly a year and a half after the absolute price commitment, and a pledge of playing in the stadium on opening day in 2025, we would be shocked if the price of the project wasn't significantly more than $79 million. Of course, it would be one thing if the price came in higher, and the additional money were solicited from team owners, the state or somewhere else, and another thing if the price came in higher, and the city and county proposed putting even more money into it.

(The price for Knoxville's minor league baseball stadium was set at $65 million in 2020 but is now $114 million and counting.)

If the latter is the case, we'll see how the public and both governmental bodies feel about that. We're not sure it'll be an easy sell, but we can imagine the pitch being that we've come so far, how can we abandon the project now?

Call me by some name

Guidance from the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which includes a mandate for all employees and contractors of the agency to use the "preferred pronouns" (corresponding to their current gender identity) of other employees is getting pushback from a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tennessee, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

The lawmakers say their bill would prohibit the government from requiring employees or contractors of HHS to use the preferred pronouns of other employees under the protections of the First Amendment.

"The protections of the First Amendment are a large part of what makes this country the greatest in the world," Ogles told The Tennessee Star. "Preserving and protecting the Constitution is the responsibility of the President and every elected leader."

A Trump-era director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights said in a message on X (formerly Twitter) that employees under the new guidance will "face firing" unless they "deny biological realities with their own words" at the workplace.

He also cited First Amendment rights in a subsequent interview with Fox News Digital, saying the new mandate violates the Constitution, adding that it forces federal employees to speak falsehoods, compels them to adopt a state-approved ideology and potentially requires them to deny their own faith.

Nevertheless, we — some might say they — don't hold out much hope for the inclusion of this in an omnibus bill.

Does it matter to parents?

Some may raise eyebrows, but 63 of the 75 private schools (84%) which accept education savings account money from the state to allow qualified students to attend are religiously affiliated, according to data released by the Tennessee Department of Education earlier this week.

Most are Christian, but the list also includes an Islamic and several Jewish schools.

In Hamilton County, 11 of the 12 schools (91.7%) which accept the education savings accounts have a religious affiliation. Only Skyuka Hall, which terms itself an "independent day school," does not.

The education savings accounts were rendered constitutional by the Tennessee Supreme Court before they were implemented in the fall of 2022.

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