published Friday, May 8th, 2009

Chattanooga: Many not happy with changes on Barton Avenue


by Cliff Hightower
Audio clip

Sally Robinson

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Gillian Bolsover Cars pass bollards on Barton Avenue Thursday. A public meeting was held Thursday to discuss turning Barton Avenue into a two lane road permanently.

The $250,000 cost of replacing an outdated traffic signaling system on Barton Avenue is too much for the city to take on at this time, City Traffic Engineer John Van Winkle said.

“We have no money,” Mr. Van Winkle told a crowd of about 50 people Thursday afternoon.

An angry crowd showed up at Girls Preparatory School, most to protest changes in signaling on Barton Avenue between Veterans Bridge and Hixson Pike. The traffic signals for years have been reversible for the middle lane, used during peak hours to create a second lane for traffic coming into the city during the morning and out of the city in the afternoon.

The system was built in 1984 using parts from the 1960s, Mr. Van Winkle said.

Two weeks ago, the city put up orange barrels and decided to make the avenue two lanes with a permanent turn lane, getting rid of the reversible lane.

“I don’t like the change at all,” said Tonya Gentry, who lives in North Chattanooga. “I can’t pull out on Barton Avenue, and it’s slowed my commute by five minutes.”

Councilwoman Deborah Scott and Councilwoman Sally Robinson arranged for the public forum at GPS. They wanted to get feedback from residents and also have a chance for city officials to explain why the city made the change.

Mr. Van Winkle told audience members the cost of replacement would be too much. He also said the signals would interfere with a proposed school crossing walk being put in for Normal Park Magnet School.

He said people need to be patient until drivers take alternate routes such as Fernway Road to Dallas Road to Market Street.

“We’ll see traffic drop,” he said. “It may take a month or two.”

Meryl Searcy, who lives on Barton Avenue, said she moved to the area last year and one thing she liked were the reversible lanes. Now the traffic in the morning is unbearable, she said.

“Cars are stopped,” she said. “They’re stopped. And it doesn’t last 30 minutes, it lasts an hour and a half.”

Marty Brown, who also lives in North Chattanooga, said she likes the change. She said she now enjoys crossing into the turning lane and said people just need to get used to it.

“It’s like the change to McCallie and MLK when they went to two-way streets,” she said.

Mrs. Robinson said she and Mrs. Scott would continue to monitor feedback from residents over the next several months.

“It’s a very controversial change,” she said. “It’s a major corridor.”

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adc said...

As a North Chattanooga resident, I am extremely unhappy with this change. My understanding is that the technology, though outdated, was still functional. Yes, the system may be old, but if it is still working and we can make repairs, I feel we should have made use of it for as long as possible.

May 8, 2009 at 8:36 a.m.
thelight said...

Mr. Hightower's article is somewhat true, but it is not a complete recollection of the meeting yesterday and it doesn't tell all the reasons of why the city is investigating making the change. It is easy to bring up the money aspect and that always gets lots of citizens in a stir, but for future articles it would be nice if Mr. Hightower would try and report both sides of the story not just try and sell more newspapers. There is no mention of saftey concerns or the requests from the schools for a crosswalk. I know lots of people do not like to hear safety, but in this case it is a true concern. It would be nice if Mr Hightower would spend the time to sit down with the city and write a complete story and show all sides pros and cons. He didn't even mention the presentation that Mr Van Winkle prepared using real data for the meeting showing traffic counts as well as other items. Nor did he state that Mr Van Winkle didn't want to do this until he reviewed the track counts and other factors compiled by the city and decided that this might work so why not try something out that costs the tax payer NOTHING. It would be nice if Mr. Hightower would ask the city for the presentation and write a complete story utilzing the numbers shown last night. If we are to allow this change to run its course it might impact the driving habits of the commutors and the city has data that supports this statement in other areas of the community, maybe you could use that infomration in your next story Mr Hightower. Time will tell, and you have to give change and chance. I hear the voices of those who are against the change, but lets examine their complaints further. One I heard last night was I cross 2 lanes of traffice to merge into the lane that is backed up. Couldn't you pull into the center lane and turn on your blinker and then you will be able to merge, how difficult is that? The traffic is slowed down to a minimum speed if not stopped so what really is the safety concern from that arguement? Second the person quoted in the article states that it has added 5 minutes to her commute. 5 more mintues, hmmmm. Just this morning I took a look at Barton at 8am and traffic was flowing freely and as I am writing this note traffic is flowing freely as well. During the afternoon commute I have never seen the traffic backed up? I understand the traffic backs up around 7:30-7:45 and that is when the police officer is in front of GPS, thus slowing down the traffic and how dare we take 5 more minutes for the safety of parents and children turning into GPS? Oh yeah in school zone isn't the speed limit 15mph? It would be nice if we didn't have to make changes, but in life you do not always get what you want and wouldn't it be great if people didn't speed? In closing I want to say 2 things: 1. It would be nice if Mr Hightower would tell the complete story 2.Please give it a chance it isn't costing the city anything to try!

May 8, 2009 at 2:34 p.m.
LGolden said...

My biggest problem with the proposed change is the way that the cones are now set up to merge traffic from Frazier Avenue coming under Veterans Bridge onto Barton Avenue. For those of us who live on Barton or Jarnigan Avenues, the merge is extremely dangerous. No matter what time of the day I have attempted it, it has been nearly impossible. In order to turn left onto Baker coming up from Frazier, one must merge and begin to turn left almost simultaneously. There is no turning lane here, so it is just a matter of time before there is an accident. If it wasn't illegal I would be tempted to go out there and move the cones back myself. This is extremely dangerous and something needs to be done about it now before an accident happens. We can't afford to wait until the review is done at the end of summer. It is also a little bizarre that they are taking data on the traffic all summer when schools are out and traffic is at it's lightest. I am sure that the comments from the previous author did not take this into consideration. It seems like an awfully conveinent time to "measure traffic flow" for the group that wants this new plan to work. Lastly, I would like to hear more about this proposed crosswalk. While I would say that most people who live in North Chattanooga would like to have a way to cross Barton (it is dangerous now to try to walk with children to the Riverview park) and most Riverview people would like to be able to walk their children safely across Barton to school, it seems dangerous to just put a crosswalk in on such a busy street. Do they intend to put a light in? And if so, how do they expect to do it at Mississippi where traffic coming from downtown crests a hill and wouldn't have time to stop? Seems like they should put a pedestrian bridge over Barton Avenue and then we wouldn't have this problem. And don't tell me we can't afford it. VW is propping this town up and many of their children attend Normal Park, so it's the least we can do...

May 12, 2009 at 7:45 p.m.
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