Lincoln Park residents oppose Chattanooga plan to extend Central Avenue

Lincoln Park residents oppose Chattanooga plan to extend Central Avenue

March 19th, 2013 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Mary Graham, a resident who has lived in the Lincoln Park neighborhood for about 20 years, talks Monday at her home in Chattanooga about the possible effects on the neighborhood of extending Central Avenue to Amnicola Highway. Graham and some other Lincoln Park residents oppose the plan because they say it would compromise safety and quality of life.

Mary Graham, a resident who has lived in...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Planned extension of Central Avenue

Planned extension of Central Avenue

Photo by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

Eighty-one-year-old Mary Graham has lived in the same home in historic Lincoln Park for more than 20 years. That quiet environment, she and other neighborhood residents fear, is threatened by a road city officials want to build through it.

"All of that noise right on my step," Graham said Monday. "That's what I'm looking at."

Graham is one of several Lincoln Park residents opposed to plans for a $6 million project to extend Central Avenue to Riverside Drive. Residents are concerned the project, which would cross Blackford Street, will cut land from their neighborhood and put big rigs and other traffic through it.

City officials say the connection will mean less traffic around the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, shorter travel times to Erlanger hospital and increased economic development potential.

The city has held one public meeting with Lincoln Park residents about the project that's been in the making for at least three years.

The goal isn't for residents to say if they want the Central Avenue extension but to help the city determine the community impact it will have, City Engineer Bill Payne said.

"It's not necessarily a question of 'do you want this or not,'" he said.

Another informational meeting will be scheduled near the second half of this year. And there will be a design meeting in early 2014, Payne said.

He estimates it will be late 2015 before any construction begins.

Plans for the Central Avenue extension are included in the city's current long-range transportation plan and in the three-year transportation improvement program, he said.

The City Council this year approved hiring a consultant to help the city get through the state and federal transportation department's environmental review and performance design process for the connector.

There are no engineering drawings, and nothing will go out for bid until the review process is complete, Payne said.

City Councilwoman Pam Ladd said the Central Avenue extension could improve business development in surrounding areas.

"You've got some potential for some economic development down there around the Third Street intersection. You've got Erlanger that has some pretty sophisticated designs, UTC needs more dorms and they may need to extend their campus toward Fort Wood and Third Street," Ladd said. "It would be great to have that connection coming from the interstate."

Fort Wood Neighborhood Association residents also oppose the extension and are working to develop an alternative plan.

Lincoln Park residents who have invested decades in the community say they disapprove of the work and wish they had more input on the city's plans.

Vannice Hughley, president of the Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association, said her group formed to protect the community from encroaching hospital development.

Forty years ago Lincoln Park was more than twice the size it is now. It included more surrounding homes, an Olympic-size swimming pool and a playground. Blacks weren't allowed in Warner Park, so people came from all over Chattanooga and throughout the region to play at Lincoln Park.

But the hospital kept building into the community, and Lincoln Park began to decline after integration when blacks could visit other parks, Hughley said.

She said the city should help residents preserve the portion of the historic park that's left.

"The whole idea is the problem," Hughley said. "You're taking an African-American park and going through it to Amnicola Highway. All of these plans were made without our input."