Sidewalk work at Rossville Boulevard to end in November

Work continues Thursday, September 3, 2015 on Rossville Boulevard.

Driving north on Rossville Boulevard under the blue "Tennessee Welcomes You" sign, motorists are immediately surrounded by orange cones, yellow caution tape, torn up sidewalks and, at times, snarled traffic.

Work to rebuild sidewalks along the busy roadway started in late June on the Tennessee side of the state line, and will be completed in November, said Blythe Bailey, Chattanooga transportation administrator.

"Make it more pedestrian friendly," Bailey said, summarizing the goal of the project. "And retain some of the on-street parking and also put in some drainage facilities."

photo Jared Most works Thursday, September 3, 2015 on Rossville Boulevard.

Construction will not only redo the sidewalks and update outdated drainage, but also add trees and street lamps to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Eighty percent of the $650,000 construction cost on the Tennessee side came from grants, Bailey said.

On the Georgia side of Rossville Boulevard, sidewalk renovations are already complete, and they've been that way for a few years, Bailey said. That's another reason why Tennessee authorities wanted to spruce up their sidewalks - to keep pace with Georgia.

Darren Webb's bar, The Brew & Cue, sits in Tennessee, although only by a few feet. Construction is right outside his front door. Before the project began, the sidewalks had severe cracks with tufts of overgrown grass growing in them, he said. That was bad, but the construction has caused his business some issues, too.

People often don't know about the back entrance and think his bar is closed for renovations, Webb said.

"It's cut our business by about 20 or 25 percent," he said.

Webb said Chattanooga officials hosted a meeting about the construction and encouraged business owners to voice their concerns. Several abandoned buildings line Rossville Boulevard, and Webb thinks something needs to be done to help the area thrive.

"This area needs a renovation, so you gotta do something," he said. "Rossville's dying; I mean, it's been dead."

Next door, Charles White, owner of Tennessee Georgia Tire & Service Center, worried that the new sidewalks are going to increase his property taxes. The construction hasn't hurt White's business, but it's confused people trying to get into his parking lot.

"No doubt it's going to look better," White said. "But it's trees and sidewalks. I don't know if it's worth it."

The construction has caused increased traffic backups. Several lanes of the four- and sometimes five-lane stretch sometimes have to be closed to accommodate the work. As a result, rush-hour traffic can back up for blocks.

"The lane closures is a sort of 'pardon our progress' necessity. It's unfortunate, but hopefully the businesses are patient with the traffic snarls and disruption," Bailey said. "We got to keep a relatively safe distance between travel ways and construction workers. It's a necessity."

Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at [email protected] or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.