Mayor Andy Berke and Chattanooga Department of Transportation Administrator Blythe Bailey stressed the benefits of developing bike lanes at today’s North Chattanooga Summit III in the Business Development Center.
While Berke acknowledged some of the negative responses to the new bike paths, he affirmed the positive impact of these lanes. Through slowing down car traffic, these road enhancements will make pedestrian areas safer, hopefully boost foot traffic to businesses and make the city a better place in general to live, he said.
“What we’re trying to do, both on the North Shore and all across Chattanooga, is to improve quality of place to ensure we have a great lifestyle that people want to live in,” Berke said. “People love Chattanooga today, and we can’t stop the momentum that we have.”
Bailey said the CDOT received two grants from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program, and subsequent phases will continue to be developed. Overall, Bailey said he thinks these enhancements will do the city and its people good-from safety to quality of life.
Bailey said that projects like the North Market Street Project are safety initiatives that ended up becoming bike lanes, not the other way around.
“We didn’t do it because we thought you’d get from Mississippi to Frazier faster in three lanes versus four,” Bailey said. “We did it because we thought it would reduce T-bone crashes from people pulling out of, say, the Taco Mamacita parking lot.”
Bailey said these lane changes were not a whim or a thoughtless action.
“We don’t just go do these things blindly,” Bailey said. “We look very closely at the analysis, and an analysis is not something you can do on its own … We are not finished with that study. We will do a thorough before and after, and that will include a crash analysis to see that the crashes went down.”
Moving forward, Bailey said CDOT will increase local participation and open communication:
Like with Broad Street, there was a perception that the community wasn’t involved. We don’t want anyone to think they weren’t involved because, first and foremost, these projects are for the communities they serve. So we’ll do everything we can [so that] everybody has an opportunity to participate [and] know what it is we’re doing, why we’re doing it and when we’re doing it. Not everybody is going to like it, but I don’t want anybody to be able to say, “I had no idea until there was a barrel in front of my business.”
Additional protected bike lanes are scheduled to come to Martin Luther King Boulevard, Eighth Street, Bailey Avenue, Orchard Knob Avenue, Willow Street and Frazier Avenue in 2016, a CDOT official said. In 2017, proposed bike lanes will be constructed on Veterans Bridge, 20th and 23rd streets, and Chestnut Street, the official said.
The public forum hosted by the North Chattanooga Council of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce also involved presentations on the Moccasin Bend Gateway Project and form-based zoning.