Downtown motorists and two-wheeling college students are all about to get a little bit safer.
The city of Chattanooga has been awarded more than $1.4 million in grant funds over the next two years to build separated bike lanes connecting the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with the Scenic City's downtown. It's one of three grants the city accepted Friday that totaled nearly $4 million.
All three grants come from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program, which is administered here by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
The goals of the bike lane grant are to encourage more people to push pedals and to reduce the number of cars on the roadway. But it also aims to increase traffic safety and reduce emissions across the board.
The bike lane grant required a $358,235 local match and will put protected, partitioned bike lanes along six city streets around the city core including Eighth Street, Duncan Avenue, Orchard Knob Avenue, South Willow Street, Second Street and Frazier Avenue.
Chuck Cantrell, spokesman for UTC, said the new lanes will be a boon to an increasingly pedal-friendly campus.
"We are happy the city is doing this," he said.
"We have seen a huge increase of bikes on campus, and we have had to add several bike racks over the years because of it," Cantrell said. "We have a lot of students coming who don't necessarily need a car, but they need to get places faster than walking."
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said the bike lanes -- and other grants -- will add much to the city's way of life.
"Students add vibrancy to downtown, and they populate the restaurants and entertainment venues there. So businesses will benefit from this, too," Berke said.
Berke also said he expects the protected bike lanes to be attractive to developers looking to build residential housing with easy access to the city's heart.
City spokeswoman Lacie Stone said construction on the lanes is expected to begin next summer, after environmental and design work is completed and the project has been bid. The estimated completion date is December 2015, she said.
The bike lane grant will be the most visible, but the city received two other CMAQ grants as well, Berke said.
An $800,000 grant will link the city's traffic signal system with the Tennessee Department of Transportation's SmartWay system. The upgraded system will allow the city to adjust signal timing and quickly move traffic in congested areas with the click of a button. That grant required a $200,000 match.
A $1.7 million grant will create direct service routes to and from Enterprise South industrial park for the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority.
"The thing that links these grants together is our focus on quality of life for residents," Berke said.
Chattanooga was one of 11 Tennessee communities to get a slice of more than $27 million in CMAQ grants, according to TDOT Commissioner John Schroer.
"These projects are helping our transportation network operate more efficiently, while also providing better transportation options for our citizens," Schroer said in a written statement. "The result will be better air quality and reduced congestion, which improves the quality of life for Tennesseans and creates more livable communities all over the state."
Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6481.