published Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Central Avenue extension to change downtown Chattanooga traffic patterns

  • photo
    Plans are under way for an extension of Central Avenue to Riverside Drive. The roadway is slated to begin construction in the summer of 2012. Central Avenue (seen at upper left) would continue northward to Riverside Drive.
    Photo by Tracey Trumbull.
    enlarge photo

A long-planned extension of Central Avenue to Amnicola Highway finally may become a reality in 2012, Chattanooga officials say.

Heavy construction should begin by summer, and the $5.9 million project could be done by the end of 2012, said Dan Thornton, manager of real property for Chattanooga.

The extension, which is 80 percent federally funded and 20 percent funded by the city, “is a great deal for the city,” Thornton said.

The idea is to draw cars away from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and over to Amnicola Highway on a road extension that will run north past Erlanger hospital, crossing Citico Creek.

“If you put a shovel in the ground summer next year, it’s going to relieve a lot of traffic,” he said.

Richard Brown, vice chancellor of finance and operations at UTC, said the project would help transform the campus into a more pedestrian-friendly area and help planners upgrade the property.

It also helps motorists avoid the awkward right turn from Third Street to Riverfront Parkway, forcing drivers to quickly bear left before turning right, he said.

“We’re excited about this connector, given the fact that it diverts an awful lot of traffic away from the heart of the university,” Brown said. “It also creates a nice, viable traffic flow for all residents of the city.”

As UTC builds more residence halls in the near future, fewer cars on the road could make certain properties more viable for student living that weren’t an option before, he said.

“In our master plan, we are looking at a lot of possibilities in that area,” Brown said.

The Central Avenue extension is the first phase of a multiyear plan that includes widening the road from end to end, pulling cars from other arteries and allowing easy access to Interstate 24, according to Melissa Taylor, director for strategic long-range planning at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency.

“This is the first piece of a bigger project,” Taylor said.

After the first $5.9 million extension is complete, planners want to widen the road from Third Street to Interstate 24, which would cost an additional $30 million. In its final phase, the city will increase the road width all the way to the Georgia state line, which is projected to cost $39.9 million, Taylor said.

“Part of the problem with transportation projects sometimes is that the idea or proposal is very large, and it can sometimes make it difficult to implement the project because of the cost,” she said. “So one of the things to come out of this study was to identify the segments and break the project into the pieces.”

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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nucanuck said...

This new plan is a part of the most logical north-south corridor plan from many years back. The original included connecting Hixon Pike with Cental Avenue all the way to the Georgia line where Georgia was anxious to connect with a major new road project. That would have diverted the St Elmo thru traffic, making that whole neighborhood far more desireable and would have stimulated growth in both states along the new route.

Members of the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club opposed and blocked the plan because it touched the western edge of their golf course. That resulted in the awkward placement of the Veterans Bridge that remains a glaring planning error to this very day.

This revamped plan will help resolve some poor previous traffic engineering, but it will remain a shame that the Veterans Bridge couldn't have been better placed by experts instead of special interests.

November 5, 2011 at 1:50 a.m.
holdout said...

The streets around that area always seemed to be an unthought out mishmash to me. Drive behind someone from out of town and you get a demonstration of how poorly planned it is. Three cheers and a tiger!

November 5, 2011 at 8:05 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

thanks nucanuck!

November 5, 2011 at 9:18 a.m.
littlebrains said...

GREAT IDEA!!! problem is you desire to have a major artery is a hopeless mess of small lane widths major messes with left turn arrows all caused by the POOR foresight of changing one way traffic on both mccallie and bailey the big "lie" we will not reduce the total lanes into town doing this-- how many lanes is mccallie thru utc now? try driving to utc from us 27 down 4th st in the mornings always major gridlock--- and even more when the riverfront is closed which seems to be almost every weekend-- someone with some forethought and BRAINS needs to redesign traffic flow into and out of downtown-- or is it that what i was told years ago is true?? they dont want you to have easy access out they want you to stay and spend more???

November 5, 2011 at 5:34 p.m.
u4icmusic said...

There are houses on both sides of Central Avenue, so I don't know how they can widen the road without buying out the houses.

November 5, 2011 at 9:14 p.m.
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