published Friday, December 28th, 2012

Environmental study next for Chattanooga's Central Avenue


by Cliff Hightower
Central Avenue expansion
Central Avenue expansion

Vannice Hughley hates the thought of seeing a road pass through a historic former park in downtown Chattanooga.

But she knows progress will happen and she can't change that. The president of the Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association just wishes the city would listen to the residents' concerns as a new road is built near their homes.

"Are we in on it? No," Hughley said. "Are we up on it? No. Can we do anything about it? No."

Chattanooga is set to start an environmental study in a month on extending Central Avenue to Amnicola Highway. The almost $6 million project would build a road almost a quarter-mile long and create greater access to Erlanger hospital and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Dennis Malone, assistant city engineer, said the residents will be able to voice their opinions at public meetings within the next two months.

He said any ideas they have will be part of the public record.

"They just have to bring their comments to the meeting," he said.

Hughley said one idea residents already have is to have some type of replacement for what used to be Lincoln Park. The road is set to go right through the site of what was once the only park for Chattanooga's black residents.

The park already is mostly a memory. The swimming pool has been filled in, the recreation center abandoned and the old ball fields are unused.

Hughley said local residents might like to have a walking trail and maybe even some picnic tables in the area. But she said the neighborhood association won't have an exact idea of what is wanted until members see "what's left" after the road design.

"We're trying to see what we can do," she said.

Malone said the city will include plans for a walkway and a parking lot and at some point, the plan calls for a connection between the UTC Greenway and the Riverwalk.

The environmental study will take about six months, he said, and then the city will start acquiring property.

"We hope to begin construction by spring 2014," he said.

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