Next section of Tennessee Riverwalk gets underway next month

Next section of Tennessee Riverwalk gets underway next month

August 17th, 2014 by Louie Brogdon in Local Regional News

Cyclists ride along a section of the Tennessee Riverwalk on a recent Saturday. Construction is scheduled to start in September on the next three phases of the riverside park, taking the trail from west of Ross's Landing to St. Elmo.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

Architect's drawing of the newest Riverwalk extension in from west of Ross's Landing to St. Elmo.

The long-awaited extension of the Tennessee Riverwalk that will connect downtown to St. Elmo is set to break ground next month, county officials say.

This leg of the Riverwalk, a joint project of the Chattanooga and Hamilton County governments and part of the larger Tennessee Riverpark system, has been delayed for several months because of engineering issues and property acquisitions.

But by mid-September, residents may see earth being moved, sites being prepped and concrete being laid between the Cameron Harbor development, west of Ross's Landing, and Middle Street at St. Elmo Avenue as the next three phases of the project get rolling.

Hamilton County Public Works Administrator Todd Leamon said Thursday that county officials will meet with Thomas Brothers Construction, which was awarded an $11.6 million construction contract last week, to discuss details of the construction plan.

"We'll know more about the specifics after the preconstruction meeting, whether they will start at both ends and work in or start at one site or the other," Leamon said. "But we'll start construction shortly after that -- hopefully sometime in mid-September."

The route of phases I through III will go from Cameron Harbor and through adjacent property once owned by Vulcan Materials.

From there, it will wind behind the former Alstom property across 19th Street, and traverse the perimeter of the old U.S. Pipe & Foundry property, Leamon said. The finish will be at the foot of Lookout Mountain at the Incline Railway.

Thomas Brothers Construction was one of two companies that bid on the project, county records show. P&C Construction also put in a sealed bid on the Riverwalk for $15.3 million.

Commissioners approved the lower contract last week during a regular commission meeting.

Hamilton County Commissioner Joe Graham, who represents both downtown and St. Elmo in District 6, said he's glad to see the project moving.

"Things are going a little bit slower than anticipated, but that was because of a lot of different issues. But the good thing about getting a slow start on it is the funding has become more available," Graham said.

According to the resolution, federal and state grants are covering $6.8 million of Thomas Brothers' contract. An additional $3.1 million is coming from private donations, and Chattanooga and county taxpayers will cover $872,000 each to cover the rest.

The county is pulling the money from a $90 million line of credit.

Despite the slow start, the trail is a big deal for his constituents, Graham said.

"What this means to District 6 is better quality of life -- more amenities. This is a phenomenal thing for our district and the community," he said.

Michael Walden, executive director of green'spaces in Chattanooga, shared that sentiment.

Green'spaces is a nonprofit that aims at increaseing community sustainability.

The group has nothing to do with the Riverwalk project, but Walden says it's a great move by the county and city governments.

"It's certainly something we support. Anything that encourages walking, biking and connectivity, we think is very beneficial," Walden said.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.