As the Scenic City continues to get national recognition as an outdoor sports-friendly city, Chattanooga officials have funneled funds to fix two of the bridges that runners, cyclists and walkers cross daily on their regular routes.
Chattanoogan Sarah Smith said she's been avoiding the metal-framed wooden bridges at Renaissance Park on the North Shore because the cracked and rotten boards scare her.
"This bridge is terrible. I just fell into a hole," Smith said Wednesday, pointing to the bridge that crosses the water-filtering slough at the park's east end, below the man-made hills. "It's a really runner-friendly city, but things like that are dangerous."
The City Council voted Tuesday night to fix the pedestrian bridges in Renaissance Park for $350,000 and begin the first phase of repairs on the more-than-century-old Walnut Street Bridge for $1.2 million. In line with the focus on the outdoors, the nearly $97 million capital budget the council approved on first reading also includes money for a protected bike lane on Broad Street for $220,000 and a greenway space to slow traffic for bikers and walkers on Virginia Avenue in St. Elmo for $325,000.
Built in 2005, the Renaissance pedestrian bridges and dock are starting to rot, and in several places the raised beams from a quick fix-job look like a bad patchwork quilt.
Public Works Director Lee Norris said the city will focus first on ripping up the boards and replacing the wood on the main pedestrian bridge. Depending on how much money is left, he said, he plans to fix the small wooden dock and the smaller bridge that crosses the green space.
"They definitely need some tender, loving care," Norris said.
The larger Walnut Street Bridge project will take about three years and should cost a total of $2.8 million. That's after the city hires a firm to inspect the bridge to determine safety needs such as cables, railings and lighting.
The work is expected to include replacing parts of the timber decking.
Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6659.
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...