BY THE NUMBERS
$251,695: Total cost of installing and updating lighting at Coolidge Park.
325: Total number of lights to be replaced at Coolidge Park.
20: Total number of lights being installed under Walnut Street Bridge.
Installation of lighting underneath Walnut Street Bridge will begin early next week as an attempt to alleviate problems at Coolidge Park, city officials said Tuesday.
“We’re trying to get more light under here,” said Rick Davis, of the city’s Traffic Engineering department.
The steps come just months after a group of more than 300 teens and young people gathered at Coolidge Park and shots were fired. A year earlier, almost 225 young people gathered in the park at night and shots were fired, injuring several people.
The Chattanooga City Council passed an ordinance in March that barred anyone under age 18 in the park between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by an adult.
But several council members said some of the problems needed to be addressed by better lighting.
Davis, who is helping to design the lighting, said that should be happening soon, especially in the underbelly of Walnut Street Bridge where no lighting exists.
“We want to have the whole underside of the superstructure lit up,” Davis said.
City records show 20 lights will be installed under the bridge and 325 existing lights will be retrofitted with higher wattage bulbs.
Larry Zehnder, the city’s Parks and Recreation director, said the bulbs will be light-emitting diode, or LED, lights. That will result in a cost savings for the city because they can give more light at less power, he said.
Another advantage for the technology is that all lights will be wired into the city’s network and can be increased by up to 50 percent at any time, he said.
“All of the lights in the park will be radio-controlled,” he said.
So, if there is an incident, police officers and rangers will automatically be able to up the wattage, he said.
“The lights can increase or decrease according to the need,” Zehnder said.
Dan Johnson, chief of staff for Mayor Ron Littlefield, said it could be just a first step, leading to replacing all of the street lights in the city. He said city administrators plan to monitor the lights for several months.
He said estimates show power use could be cut in half. All lights in Coolidge Park will be monitored to see how much electricity is being used.
But there are about 28,000 street lights within the city, and it would not be cheap — possibly costing $15 million to $17 million, he said. But that would be an expense drawn out over several years, he said.
“That’s going to be over a long period of time,” he said.
Cliff has worked for the Times Free Press for five years and covers Chattanooga city government. He previously covered Rhea County, as well as transportation and growth and development in Southeast Tennessee. A native of Maryville, Tenn., Cliff graduated in 2003 from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis on journalism. Before coming to Chattanooga, he was a crime reporter with Hernando Today, a supplement of The Tampa (Fla.) ...
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