Chattanooga eyes $2.8 million upgrade for Walnut Street Bridge

Chattanooga eyes $2.8 million upgrade for Walnut Street Bridge

July 1st, 2014 by Joy Lukachick Smith in Local Regional News


Other projects in Mayor Berke's proposed capital budget include:

Renaissance Park Pedestrian Bridge: $350,000

Broad Street protected bike lanes: $220,000

Virginia Avenue bike lane and green way: $325,000

Fishermen work the water in the Tennessee River near the Walnut Street Bridge on Sunday.

Fishermen work the water in the Tennessee River...

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

Twenty years after saving the Walnut Street Bridge, community leaders say the 2,376-foot-long connector from the North Shore to downtown needs to be repainted, its rotting boards replaced and lights fixed.

Mayor Andy Berke's 2015 proposed capital budget includes nearly $3 million over the next three years to do just that.

The 123-year-old bridge, used today exclusively by pedestrians, spans the Tennessee River and is considered one of the crown jewels in the Scenic City's riverfront renaissance.

Even as the City Council takes its first glimpse at the 2015 capital budget today, the city has already requested bids for a firm to inspect the bridge to determine safety needs, such things as cables, railing, deck and lighting. Work is expected to include replacing much of the bridge's timber.

"The most pressing need is the lighting; it needs to be safe. Then the painting, then the deck," said Garnet Chapin, a local leader who helped revitalize the bridge. "I'm happy the Berke administration sees a need there and is making some plans to maintain it to the level it should be maintained."

Berke's capital budget also includes $4 million to prepare the former Tubman public housing site for economic development, $1.4 million for the Central Avenue extension and $1 million to revitalize 10 acres of land at the former Charles Bell School and turn the land into a park for the community of Alton Park.

The rehabilitation planned for the Walnut Street Bridge won't be the first such work since the bridge reopened in 1993.

In 2009, the city replaced about 708 feet of timber on the Walnut Street Bridge.

City officials said an inspector will do a top-to-bottom investigation of the bridge for the next year to determine the scope of the work, with renovations expected to begin between late fall of 2015 or early spring of 2016. Repairs are expected to take about four months, said city spokeswoman Lacie Stone.

But the city doesn't anticipate closing the entire bridge. Instead, repairs will be performed on one-half while the other half remains open.

"The whole bridge won't ever be closed," said Brent Goldberg, the mayor's deputy chief operating officer.

The land that could be turned into a park for Alton Park was formerly a brownfield.

As part of a 2008 deal, the city turned over the land to Hamilton County to apply for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to clean the site. A vacant building was bulldozed several years ago and the site cleared, said Councilman Chris Anderson, who said he's been working on this project since before he was elected. Now the county will turn the land back over to the city to build a park.

If the City Council approves the capital budget, Anderson said, he plans to host community meetings to determine what kind of park the community wants. Those ideas could range from sports fields to a playground.

"This is on the same scale as Renaissance or Coolidge Park," Anderson said. "This is something desperately needed for Alton Park."

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at or 423-757-6659.