Frazier redesign will reduce lanes, add pathway for pedestrians and cyclists, city announces

Staff Photo by Ben Sessoms / A boarded-up storefront is the gift shop hit when a Florida driver killed two pedestrians and crashed into a store in November. Signs posted on the boards, pictured Feb. 29, advocate for more pedestrian-friendly streets and memorialize the victims.
Staff Photo by Ben Sessoms / A boarded-up storefront is the gift shop hit when a Florida driver killed two pedestrians and crashed into a store in November. Signs posted on the boards, pictured Feb. 29, advocate for more pedestrian-friendly streets and memorialize the victims.

Months after a deadly crash on Frazier Avenue that killed two pedestrians — a mother and her infant son — the city of Chattanooga has announced plans to reduce the number of lanes on the roadway and add a dedicated lane for pedestrians, cyclists and wheelchair users.

Currently, Frazier has four traffic lanes, two in each direction. The new design will have one lane in each direction with a turning lane in the middle.

Construction of the redesign is expected to begin later this spring, according to a news release from the city.

Given that most of redesign will consist of repainting the roadway, the project will be funded through the city's current public works budget and will not require approval from the Chattanooga City Council.

Mayor Tim Kelly said in a statement that a separated lane for pedestrians and others will accommodate those dining and shopping in the area.

"By adding a multimodal protected lane, we will give pedestrians, cyclists and Chattanoogans with disabilities a new shared space to get around, adjacent to the stores along Frazier," the statement said.

The city did not specify what kind of protection the lane would have, but that term generally means a curb or raised median to separate vehicle traffic from bicycles and pedestrians.

(READ MORE: Advocates call for safety after 2 pedestrians killed in Chattanooga)

The redesign from the city follows a study conducted in December that gauged data with a temporary two-lane traffic pattern. Following the November crash, the city permanently reduced the speed limit on Frazier to 25 mph.

City Council Vice Chair Jenny Hill, whose district includes Frazier, said in a phone interview it's important to remember why the changes are coming to fruition — the lost lives of Ana Posso Rodriguez, 41, and her son, Jonathan Devia, 1.

"I do want to make sure that — as we look forward with happy anticipation the implementation of this new traffic pattern — that we are mindful of the tragic loss of life in November that catalyzed this fast action," Hill said. "It's sad that we got to a place where Ana Posso Rodriguez and Jonathan Devia lost their lives."

Redesign details

The city first unveiled two options to redesign Frazier in February. The primary difference between the two was one would include bike lanes while the other would exclude them.

The city ultimately opted for an alteration of the former. The redesign will include the separated lane that accommodates both pedestrians and cyclists.

"The mayor and the administration's been very clear that they were trying to improve safety for pedestrians," Dan Reuter, executive director of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, said in a phone interview.

Jonathan Poole, head of the traffic safety committee at the North Shore Neighborhood association, said in a phone interview he was happy to see the city go with the mixed-use lane.

"Creating space for cyclists and for people on wheels was a requirement, just based on watching what happens down there, especially on a busy weekend," Poole said.

The redesign also includes a new crosswalk at 345 Frazier Ave. near the intersection with Tremont Street. The crosswalk creates more pedestrian access to a parking garage in the area.

"I'm really excited about that and impressed with the city for coming up with that idea because that was one of the big concerns of merchants," Poole said, commenting on the parking infrastructure in the Frazier area. "We want the merchants to have the customers they need to succeed and to thrive."

(READ MORE: With streets built mostly for cars, some want Chattanooga to make way for pedestrians)

Public feedback

Prior to the city's redesign announcement Tuesday, a public survey was conducted during the first two weeks of March to determine what the public wanted in a new Frazier design.

According to the city's statement, survey participants showed a preference for a protected multimodal lane along Frazier.

"We heard through the surveys, through public comments," Reuter said. "There was broad consensus."

Hill said the public engagement used with the Frazier redesign will be used to address other roadways in the city.

"The thing that I really want us to take from this Frazier Avenue redesign experience is the process that we are creating for public engagement and input around how we lay out our streets," Hill said. "Streets are our public domain. They are public property."

Poole said he was encouraged by the city's process in redesigning Frazier.

"They selected a plan that reflected my understanding of citizens' input," Poole said. "They ended up going with what we saw here in Chattanooga in terms of our survey responses."

November crash

Randy Vega, 44, of Tampa, Florida, was the driver in November's crash that killed Rodriguez and Devia.

His case was bound over to a grand jury in January. Vega has been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault, driving under the influence and reckless endangerment.

Patrick McGinty, a second driver involved in the crash and local to the area, has not been charged and was under investigation in January.

Octavio Devia Paz, husband to Rodriguez and father of Devia, was injured in the crash and hospitalized for several weeks. He has since been released from the hospital.

Contact Ben Sessoms at bsessoms@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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